MURPHY: IT'S BEEN NEARLY TWO MONTHS SINCE THE HOUSE PASSED LEGISLATION TO KEEP PEOPLE ALIVE, AND MITCH MCCONNELL HAS DONE NOTHING

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats, took to the U.S. Senate floor to slam Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s inaction on a COVID-19 relief package and to highlight the need for state and local assistance, and demanded a vote on COVID-19 related legislation that has been sitting on McConnell’s desk for nearly two months. Senate Republicans objected to the request.

On the Trump administration’s failure to respond to COVID-19, Murphy said: “Let me tell you how the bailout has worked. When COVID hit this country, and people were dying from a disease that we didn't have a vaccine for, as emergency rooms all over the country were being overwhelmed – the federal government and the Trump administration did nothing. They did nothing. They didn't stand up a national testing program. They didn't stand up a national trace and quarantine system. They didn't let the CDC do their job and issue national guidelines around how to close businesses and schools. They didn't lead, proposing legislation before Congress to tackle the costs of this response…And so here's how the bailout works: the states have bailed out the federal government by stepping up to the plate and being the primary responders to this epidemic. Hospitals and local public health systems have bailed out the federal government who did nothing to stop this virus. That's how the bailout has worked. And all states are asking for is to help pay for the expense of confronting this virus.”

On the responsibility of states to respond to the virus, Murphy said: “We're asking for help to keep people alive all throughout this country. Because states and municipalities are the ones that are conducting the response – because the Trump administration has refused to do it. And it's an expensive response. And so if you want to keep people alive, then you have to help us pay for that expense. You’ve got to help us pay for that expense, because our revenues are cratering as the economy has been shut down. Our expenses are spiraling as we have been left holding the bag.”

On the Senate sitting on legislation to provide funding for states, Murphy said: “It becomes this downward spiral, in which, as the federal government refuses to help states pay for the virus response and the states can no longer effectively stand up a response effort, the virus wins. And that is one of the reasons that you are seeing the virus spread in places like Florida or like Texas –because we don't have the infrastructure in place. The Trump administration refused to build it. And now we are refusing to help states build it. 45 days it's been since the House passed their legislation helping states to keep people alive.”

Murphy has been outspoken about ensuring state and local governments have resources to aid their response to COVID-19 as well as funding for testing, contact tracing, education, and business assistance.

Full transcript of Murphy’s remarks are below:

“Thank you, Mr. President.

“Let me tell you how the bailout has worked. When COVID hit this country, and people were dying from a disease that we didn't have a vaccine for, as emergency rooms all over the country were being overwhelmed – the federal government and the Trump administration did nothing. They did nothing. They didn't stand up a national testing program. They didn't stand up a national trace and quarantine system. They didn't let the CDC do their job and issue national guidelines around how to close businesses and schools. They didn't lead, proposing legislation before Congress to tackle the costs of this response.

“President Trump put in place a feckless travel restriction that still allowed tens of thousands of people to get here from the countries that were infected, and then the federal government gave up. It did nothing. It left the entirety of the response to the states. And so here's how the bailout works: the states have bailed out the federal government by stepping up to the plate and being the primary responders to this epidemic.

“Hospitals and local public health systems have bailed out the federal government who did nothing to stop this virus. That's how the bailout has worked. And all states are asking for is to help pay for the expense of confronting this virus.

“If a bailout equals saving lives, then I'm for a bailout. Because without help from the federal government, people are going to die. States that have to balance their federal budgets are not going to be able to erect the kind of anti-pandemic infrastructure that will save lives.

“And my colleague from Florida has left, but let's also just be honest about the accounting here, because he had a chart up about Florida bailing out New York. If you want to do a deal in which Connecticut and New York and New Jersey get to keep all of the revenue that we send to the federal government, that we get a guarantee for every dollar we send to Washington we get a dollar back, we are all in.

“I don't think that my friend from Florida would take that deal, because every single year, on average, a Connecticut citizen gives $4,000 more to the federal government than that Connecticut citizen gets back. The average New York citizen gives on average $1,700 dollars more to the federal government than they give back. Now that's because we are wealthier states. And you know what? While we fight to try to get as much of that revenue back to our state as possible. We understand that because citizens in our states have done a little bit better, that we should help pay for the health care of people in Florida. We should help pay for the education of poor kids in Florida. And so we grouse about the amount of taxes we pay, but we understand the deal, in which because we've done a little bit better, we're going to help states that need a little bit more help. But on average year, the average Florida recipient gets $2,700 more in federal assistance than they give. That sounds like a bailout on an annual basis, repeating year after year.

“And so what we are asking here is for some help to save lives. We're not asking to give out surplus checks to our constituents. We're asking for help to keep people alive all throughout this country. Because states and municipalities are the ones that are conducting the response – because the Trump administration has refused to do it. And it's an expensive response. And so if you want to keep people alive, then you have to help us pay for that expense. You’ve got to help us pay for that expense.

“Because our revenues are cratering as the economy has been shut down. Our expenses are spiraling as we have been left holding the bag. And so when that happens, you can only do two things, if you're a state that has to balance your budget as Connecticut is every year. We either can raise taxes. And think about that –  raising taxes in the middle of an economy in meltdown – or we can lay people off. Now already, across this country, 1.5 million state and local workers have been laid off. And there are more to come. Many of them will be in the public health field, the very people that we need to be able to identify where the virus exists, trace the contacts, quarantine people to keep others safe. Those are the people who are going to be laid off.

“It becomes this downward spiral, in which, as the federal government refuses to help states pay for the virus response and the states can no longer effectively stand up a response effort, the virus wins. And that is one of the reasons that you are seeing the virus spread in places like Florida or like Texas – because we don't have the infrastructure in place. The Trump administration refused to build it. And now we are refusing to help states build it.

“45 days it's been since the House passed their legislation helping states to keep people alive. Now, I was on this floor as my Republican colleagues were literally jumping from their seats when Senate Democrats were insisting that we take an extra day or two to pass the CARES Act to get it right. Jumping out of their seats with a sense of urgency. Well, the virus is back on the march again. The economy is in worse shape today than it was in March. It's been 45 days since the House sent us legislation to keep people alive, and we've done nothing.

“And my colleagues, I want to leave you with just one picture, really two pictures side by side from my state. And just ask yourself after thinking about this, visualizing this, if this is really the world that you want to choose to live in through your inaction.

“We have our share of billionaires in Connecticut. They're important to us, they pay a decent amount of taxes to the state of Connecticut, they contribute philanthropically. But they have done very, very well over the course of the pandemic. A survey just came out that showed over half of those that count themselves as billionaires in Connecticut had dramatically increased their net worth since this pandemic began. In fact, of all billionaires in Connecticut, they had increased their total wealth by about $2 billion – $2 billion. Now that's driven in part by a stock market that has priced in all of the Trump administration's support for corporations. It's because of a stock market that has also priced in the mass extinction of lots of small businesses that will accrue to the benefit of those corporations. But I want you to think about the richest Americans over the course of the last several months having seen their nest egg grow. They can afford more. They can pass down more wealth to their children – even with 20% of Americans unemployed.

“Okay, put that next to this visual. Jen Sherman lives in my state, has a son, a 14-year-old named Gavin. And he is a special education student with a host of learning challenges. He hasn't been in school since March. And he needs school because at school are his professionals, are his counselors, are his therapists. School is where his routine is. And Jen says, ‘My kid is falling apart in front of my eyes. It is making me physically ill watching him be out of school for going on four months. He's just deteriorating on me. His mental health is concerning. It's the unknown. He has so many questions we can't answer.’

“And so, Jen is getting ready to send Gavin, who's already broken down, back to school. And as she is readying to send him back to school, school districts across the state of Connecticut are talking about laying off the very professionals that will help Gavin get back to that routine. Surveys suggest that if we don't pass another emergency response package for states, 10% of teachers could be laid off. And you know who's going to come first – it's going to be those paraprofessional, it's going to be those counselors that build support services around the most vulnerable kids. And so as corporations and billionaires have done better and better, kids like Gavin, low-income families across this country, the masses of the unemployed, are suffering – are suffering and won't be able to get back to normal unless we beat this virus. And we can't beat it if we don't help states and municipalities with the work that needs to be done.

“It's been 45 days since we watched the House pass legislation that could save lives and allow us to stand up a true national effort to beat this virus once and for all. And I would plead to my colleagues to not go home for a two-week vacation without passing legislation to help us stand up the state and local response to COVID-19. 

“I yield the floor.”

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