WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Tuesday took to the U.S. Senate floor to highlight the dire need for bigger stimulus checks to help American families struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, and called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues to help pass legislation to deliver $2,000 direct payment to working Americans.
“Millions of families all across this nation, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, have had their hours dramatically cut back. They had no savings, because work doesn’t pay in this country anymore. They spent everything they earned, each month. And so when the economy collapsed, virtually overnight, in the spring, they got desperate—really fast,” Murphy said.
Murphy continued: “The only thing that stands between the American people and a $2,000 emergency survival check is 52 Senate Republicans. You got it? Understand? There’s a bill pending right now before the Senate that gives $2,000 to ordinary Americans. Yes, it costs a lot of money. And maybe, down the line, we’ll have to ask the billionaires to pay for it. But the bill is here right now. The legislative session expires in five days. President Trump says he’ll sign it. And all that matters right now is what these 52 people decide. The House passed the bill with lots of Democratic and Republican support. The President supports the idea. The only thing that can stop $2,000 payments to struggling Americans right now is 52 Senate Republicans.”
“Some things in Washington aren’t that simple—but this is,” Murphy concluded.
A full transcript of Murphy’s remarks can be found below:
“America has 600 billionaires.
“Now, a billion dollars doesn’t sound like a lot of money these days. President Trump just signed a bill begrudgingly that has $900 billion in it. But trust me, a billion dollars is still a whole lot of money. It’s actually so much money that it’s really hard to find words to describe what it looks like. But let me try.
“If you’re, for instance, one of the half a million Americans who make the minimum wage in this nation, and you’re lucky enough to work 40 hours a week, guess how many years you would have to work in order to get a billion dollars? 500 years? 1,000 years? 10,000 years? No, you’re not even close. If you make minimum wage in America today, you would need to work for 75,000 years in order to make a billion dollars. 75,000 years. Neanderthals were roaming the earth 75,000 years ago. Those guys, if they made minimum wage, would have to work up until present day every single day, and that is, of course, if they didn’t spend a dime of the money they made, in order to accrue a billion dollars.
“A billion dollars is a bananas amount of money. And there are 600 people in America today who make at least that amount of money, or have that amount of money to their name. That’s crazy. With a billion dollars, you are leading a life that frankly none of us can really imagine. You’ve got private planes, you’ve got yachts, you’ve got household staffs in the dozens. You’ve got enough money to make sure that your children and your grandchildren, and your great-grandchildren and your great-great-grandchildren never have to work a day of their lives. Generations of your offspring can just live lives of indolent luxury, without a care if they so choose.
“You know where I was two days before Thanksgiving this year? I was at Hamden Middle School, in my state. To help hand out free food for the unemployed, the poor, and the disabled ahead of a long holiday weekend. Those long weekends can be really hard. Especially the ones that fall at the end of the month, when the SNAP benefits have long run out. I got there as darkness fell, but right at the beginning of the event. And I noticed that down the hill from the round-about at the school where they were handing out the food there was a usually empty parking lot. And that night, at that moment, at the beginning of the event, that parking lot was lit up by hundreds of sets of headlights, hundreds of cars just sitting there idling in that parking lot.
“I asked the organizer of the event what was going on in the parking lot. Was that some other event happening that evening? Why all the cars?
“He told me ‘The cars started pulling into that lot hours ago. They got wind we were handing out food and they got here early to make sure that they didn’t get left out. We have enough food for 300 people, and there were 300 cars in that lot before I even got here.’
“That is what has happened during this pandemic. Millions of families all across this nation, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, have had their hours dramatically cut back. They had no savings, because work doesn’t pay in this country anymore. They spent everything they earned, each month. And so when the economy collapsed, virtually overnight, in the spring, they got desperate—really fast.
“And I want you to think about what it’s really like—on an hour to hour basis—when you don’t have enough money for food for your family. The decisions you have to make every single day are practically animalistic. Do you make your kids go hungry during the day, when they need the most energy, or do you skimp on dinner and force your kids to go to bed with hunger pangs? There are hundreds of thousands of mothers and fathers who, right now, as I am speaking, are making that decision today. That’s the reality of this pandemic.
“But here’s another reality. Those 600 billionaires in this country? As it turns out, as a group, they lost nothing—nothing—during this pandemic. No, exactly the opposite. They got richer. The wealthiest 600 Americans, collectively, added $1 trillion dollars to their bank accounts. Let me say it again, the richest 600 Americans gained $1 trillion over the course of 2020.
“And let’s be clear, that’s not money that grew in their money tree orchards. Yeah, we’re printing some more money these days, but wealth isn’t far away from a zero sum game still. And so when we allow for 600 people in the country to control 50% of the nation’s wealth, that’s coming out of your pocket.
“600 people, in a country of 328 million, isn’t a lot of people. But you know what’s a smaller number than 600? 52.
“There are 52 Republicans in this chamber. 52 people who are going to have a decision to make about what do in a country where millions are literally starving, as we speak, while 600 billionaires count the $1 trillion dollars in additional wealth that they have accumulated during the period of national calamity.
“The question before these 52 Senate Republicans is simple. It’s simple: should we give $2,000 to low and middle income Americans, right now, to help them survive this crisis? That’s the decision Senate Republicans have to make, right now. Time is running out. 600 billionaires got $1 trillion richer this year, and the question before Senate Republicans is this: are you willing to spend an amount equal to just half of that windfall to America’s billionaires, to help 160 million Americans?
“Because right now, the 52 Senate Republicans serving in this chamber are the only thing standing in the way of $2,000 being sent to 160 million of our neediest citizens. The House passed the bill authorizing the checks in a big bipartisan vote. It is hard to get two-thirds of the House of Representatives to agree on what time it is. But two-thirds of the House of Representatives voted for the $2,000 checks.
“President Trump supports the $2,000 checks. So he’ll sign the bill if the Senate sends it to him. We can vote on the House bill today. Like, in a matter of hours if Senate Republicans agree.
“So why isn’t this happening? Why didn't Senator McConnell announce the schedule for the vote on a $2,000 checks bill? Why didn't he agree to Senator Schumer's request to bring it up for an immediate vote?
“Now a lot of Republicans are saying they object to the payments because it costs too much. And it’s going to add too much to the deficit. Well frankly, spare me the fake righteous indignation about the deficit all of a sudden. Three years ago, these same deficit hawk Republicans passed a tax cut bill that before the pandemic hit, had already added over $200 billion to the annual deficit. And that was a tax cut where 80% of the benefits went to the richest 1% of Americans. Warren Buffet wrote in his note to investors last year that the deficit-financed tax cuts earned his empire $29 billion overnight. That windfall, Buffet noted, ‘did not come from anything we accomplished at Berkshire.’ So it’s funny—deficits just didn’t matter to the 52 when it was tax cuts to the 600 richest people in America.
“But even if this Congress wasn’t ending in five days, and we had time to figure out how to pay for it, you know how we can’t pay for it? Cutting foreign aid. President Trump has been talking a lot about foreign aid in the last week. Now, the money we spend on foreign aid, all supported by Republicans and Democrats over the years, all of it smart investments in our nation’s security, that actually wasn’t in the COVID relief package. It was in the annual budget, as it always is. It just so happens that this year, the COVID relief package and the annual budget were passed together.
“But just for argument’s sake, let’s say Trump got his way and every single dollar of foreign aid was cut out of the budget. Would that pay for the $2,000 checks? Not even close. President Trump apparently has an oversized impression of how much money we spend on foreign aid. Because our annual foreign aid spending doesn’t even equal 10% of the cost of a one-time $2,000 payment to low and middle income citizens.
“There's also some speculation that Senator McConnell is going to join together the $2,000 payments with other much more controversial measures, much more complicated measures, like the reform of our internet liability laws. That is an invitation for this entire effort to fall apart. The House has finished voting. They have passed the $2,000 payment bill and sent it to us. They are not interested in taking up anything else. If we start adding poison pills to the $2,000 payment bill, that is just another way of telling the American people that this body doesn't support $2,000 payments.
“Listen, being a billionaire must be crazy. I make a lot of money as a Senator, but even I would have to work 7,500 years before my earnings equaled a billion dollars. You know what was happening 7,500 years ago? The Stone Age.
“There isn’t a good reason to oppose giving Americans who aren’t billionaires a measly $2,000 check to help them put food on the table for their kids in this middle of this once-in-a-lifetime crisis. There isn’t a good reason to choose to make moms and dads all across this country decide which two meals they’ll feed their kids each day, because three meals is not an option. $2,000 doesn’t put dinner on the table every night, but man, going to bed hungry when you’re eleven, it sucks. And even dealing with it every other night, instead of every single night—no kid is going to turn that down.
“There are 52 of you. And in the next 24 to 48 hours, you get to decide. Do you protect the billionaires? Or do you choose to feed that eleven year old kid?
“The only thing that stands between the American people and a $2,000 emergency survival check is 52 Senate Republicans. You got it? Understand? There’s a bill pending right now before the Senate that gives $2,000 to ordinary Americans. Yes, it costs a lot of money. And maybe, down the line, we’ll have to ask the billionaires to pay for it. But the bill is here right now. The legislative session expires in five days. President Trump says he’ll sign it. And all that matters right now is what these 52 people decide. The House passed the bill with lots of Democratic and Republican support. The President supports the idea. The only thing that can stop $2,000 payments to struggling Americans right now is 52 Senate Republicans.
“Some things in Washington aren’t that simple—but this is. I yield the floor.”