Senator Scott Delivers Coronavirus Speech on Senate Floor
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) delivered a floor speech explaining the dire needs of the American people during the coronavirus outbreak:
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Thank you Mr. President. Mr. President, today I rise to speak about the fact that for the past two weeks – especially the past two weeks – they have been incredibly difficult times for South Carolinians and for Americans throughout the country.
As we always do, our American family has shown resilience, and so many are working to lift up those in need. I think about the folks who are going through drive-thrus and leaving tips. I’ve heard stories throughout South Carolina – and I’m sure it’s true throughout America – of folks paying for groceries for the single moms and for those in need behind them. I’ve heard of restaurants in South Carolina from the Halls food chain who are providing meals for single parents as well as for the homeless. There are so many positive stories coming out today and yesterday about the will of the American family to pull together during these incredibly unprecedented and challenging times.
We have also learned a lot about social distancing and how to keep our restaurants open when folks are not allowed to go in. Schools have had to close down and shift to only online learning environments, taxing both parents, as I understand, and teachers. Many workers have been furloughed or laid off. I can tell you, Mr. President – I’m sure it’s true in North Carolina, but it’s certainly true in South Carolina – that so many of our restaurant owners (I’ve been on calls with hundreds of them) are talking about shuttering their entire operations. Last Thursday and last Friday saw one restaurant with several different locations – I think it was six locations – laid off 900 employees, all going to the unemployment line. Another restaurant chain – a small six or seven locations – another thousand employees. In Myrtle Beach South Carolina, one of the meccas of tourism in the nation: restaurant after restaurant after restaurant, hotel after hotel, laying off parts of their family, workers who have become family members over a decade or two of working at the same place, serving amazing people. Today without work. Today without the paycheck that gives them the glue not only to keep their families together, but to keep their finances together.
Mr. President, small businesses are scrambling. I’ve run three different small businesses. I know the pain of not signing the front of a paycheck for yourself, of not being able to sign the back of that same paycheck for yourself because you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure your employees get to cash their paychecks. I understand the turmoil in the heart of the employee and the employer who simply don’t have the resources they had just a couple of weeks ago. And even worse Mr. President – it’s because they did not did nothing wrong that they find themselves completely and totally exasperated, unable to comprehend and understand how – outside of their own control – they no longer have the resources necessary to take care of their own family.
Mr. President, we find ourselves in unprecedented times. But in these times I’m reminded of the entire group of heroes that show up every single day. And typically we’re only talking about the law-enforcement community and first responders, but today we have to add to the list of American heroes those folks who are clerks in grocery stores, filling the shelves over and over again. We have to add to that list, Mr. President, those folks who are helping in the take-out delivery so folks can have a hot meal when they go home. We undoubtedly keep in mind the true American heroes of our healthcare workers, the doctors, the nurses, and – as my mother has been for 45 years – the nurse’s assistants showing up in hospital environments, putting their lives on the line for fellow Americans, folks they don’t even know. They do so because it is not just a job. It’s not just their duty. It’s their call. It’s their mission. And Mr. President, we are blessed to live in a nation where every day people understand what it seems that we do not in this chamber. That is what makes the last three days so incredibly frustrating.
On Saturday, Mr. President, it looked like this was all about over. We were so close to a deal – so close that Senator Schumer himself said on TV he was very pleased with negotiations, and he spoke about how bipartisan the negotiations were. Then, the Speaker of the House returned to town, and the tide of bipartisanship seemed to be coming to an end. We were making real progress, and the bill text was even released for absolutely no reason.
The Speaker’s passion for partisan hogwash started causing the type of delays that doesn’t simply cripple our economy, but it imperils our healthcare response to people who are infected by the coronavirus. It imperils our response to the healthcare workers who are providing the response. It compromises our ability to respond with the PPE or, said differently, the material and the equipment and the uniforms necessary to protect the healthcare worker.
I honestly cannot believe we are still here, not having already passed legislation that would make such a big difference in the lives of so many. Instead, we had to waste time explaining to the Speaker and to some of our friends on the other side that airline fuel emission is not important in this legislation. We can debate that at another time; if you want the airline industry to be carbon neutral by 2025, let’s have that debate. But let’s not have it when people are desperately searching for help.
We may need to debate the importance of same-day registration and early voting, but let’s not hold up hundreds – I’m sorry, a trillion plus dollars – from the hands of people who can’t take care of their family because of the strong desire to use this crisis to achieve partisan ends.
We all should be interested in diversity, but let’s not hold up assistance from families because some folks, like the Speaker, want to use this legislation as a way to bring diversity to boards. Listen, that is not the place for this debate. This conversation should be a conversation about our healthcare workers, about those infected, about those impacted – not about partisan, political games.
Imagine that. Wasting time on 1,119 pages of the Speaker’s political priorities. Thankfully, the American people are smarter and more resilient than those folks in Congress. The American people may be concerned. They may feel the sense of uncertainty about how long –weeks or months – this will play out, but they know what we need: immediate help for workers, for small businesses, and for healthcare professionals.
That is why, in this legislation, we fund hospitals. More than $70 billion for hospitals are being held up right now. More than $20 billion for veterans, held up right now. Tens of billions of dollars for vaccines, billions of doctors for the CDC, billions of dollars for FEMA, billions of dollars in block grants for the states, billions of dollars – tens of billions of dollars – of emergency assistance for public transportation so you can get there. Held up. What are they blocking? Well they’re blocking hundreds of billions of dollars in unemployment relief. Let me say it differently. In South Carolina, the maximum benefit for unemployment is $326 a week. If you’re making 30 bucks an hour or $60,000 a year, $5,000 a month, $1,250 a week, the maximum benefit currently is $326 in South Carolina. It’s $327 in Tennessee. In our legislation, no less than 600 additional dollars would flow to the unemployed. But not just the traditional unemployed as we have always defined it, but we have expanded the definition of unemployment for who would be eligible to include the 1099, or the person working for themselves, because we want to make sure that the average person in this nation who has taken the risk and taken the chance to do something they have always dreamed of doing, and they are working for themselves, that if this crisis has caused you to lose your paycheck and you are self-employed, we – in a bipartisan fashion – wove together legislation that takes you into consideration.
So instead of giving the $326 in South Carolina the $327 in Tennessee, you receive more than 600 additional dollars on top of that because we know the crisis that you are in is not of your own making. We provide direct payments in this bill – very controversial, very debatable, but here it is: a minimum of up to $75,000 in individual income and $150,000 in household income. Two parents working, 75 and 75. You can get up to $1200 per working adult and $500 for the children. That’s $3000 almost, held up in a partisan debate.
As a small business owner, knowing how hard it is to keep the employees when business is ripped out of your hand and you did nothing wrong, this legislation provides loans to keep your employees on the payroll, if that is something that makes sense. And if you use the funds that you borrow to keep your employees on the payroll, it becomes more of a grant than a loan. That’s a good thing because it’s far cheaper for your employer to keep you on the payroll than it is to gamble at the unemployment insurance line.
So I am thankful to the American people because they have provided us everything. They have provided us examples of hope, reasons to be optimistic, the picture of strength and tenacity and toughness, and most importantly, in the midst of crisis they’ve provided us a picture of unity. People helping people. That’s the part of the story that we haven’t heard a lot about. People helping people. So as this charade finally comes to a close, hopefully by the time we go to sleep tonight, I want to tell my folks back home in South Carolina and the doctors in Washington state, the nurses in New York City, and the restaurant owner in Myrtle Beach one thing. Thank you. Thank you for showing us all what it means to be an American, especially during unprecedented times. Thank you for reminding those blinded by politics in Washington what the actual goal really is. I know America will not simply survive; America will, in fact, thrive in the aftermath of this crisis. I know it because I know many, many Americans, and that’s what we do. God has blessed the United States of America. Let us be a blessing to each other and get this done.