Washington, D.C. – Today, in remarks on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), pressed Senate Republicans to end their months-long delay and work with Democrats on legislation that offers meaningful relief for students, families and workers.
“The parents and families I’m hearing from are under such immense pressure right now. My question to Republican leaders is why, when things are already so hard, are you determined to make them harder for people who are already struggling so much?” said Senator Murray.
“We owe every worker and family—including immigrant families, so many of whom are on the front lines of this fight—relief that reflects the depth of this crisis and helps them get back on their feet … Relief to help kids learn safely, and keep families in their homes with food on the table, until we can get through this. Relief that helps us come back stronger as a nation,” continued Senator Murray. “It’s not too much to ask. In fact, it is what we’re supposed to be here to do. And it is what I and Democrats are going to keep fighting for.”
In her remarks, Senator Murray spoke out against the Republican policy that aims to bully schools into reopening in person regardless of safety and highlighted the need for the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act (CCCERA), to provide schools with the resources they need to follow public health experts’ guidance and keep students learning in the fall, whether that’s in-person, distance learning, or both.
Additionally, Senator Murray emphasized the need for the next coronavirus relief package to fully stabilize the child care sector, make testing and contact tracing fast, free and everywhere, require an end-to-end comprehensive plan to ensure safe, effective vaccines are cost free and widely available, provide relief to jobless workers, keep workers safe and protect their civil rights, address the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black, Latinx, and Tribal communities, and provide relief for state, local, and Tribal governments.
Senator Murray’s full remarks are below, as prepared for delivery:
“Thank you. M. President, the last six months have been among our country’s most trying and painful in recent history.
“Nearly 160,000 Americans have lost their lives—more than enough people to fill Seattle’s Century Link stadium, twice. 4.7 million Americans have been infected.
“Everywhere, nationwide, we see the economic consequences of this virus: millions of people losing their jobs and their health care, millions more at risk of losing their homes, food lines a mile long.
“And all of this as our country begins long overdue work to grapple not just with police brutality against Black people and communities of color, but also with the racial injustice embedded in our laws and policies, which has caused COVID-19 to have vastly disproportionate impacts on those very same communities.
“M. President, since my home state of Washington was hit hard very early, back in February, I’ve been ringing alarm bells day in, day out about the need for the Trump Administration, and this Republican-controlled Senate, to act with urgency, listen to public health experts, follow the science, and put the health and safety of workers and families above any political consideration.
“So you can imagine my frustration that for months—as Democrats urged Republicans to work with us on additional relief, and passed legislation to do so in the House, Republicans have refused.
“As we got closer and closer to laid-off workers seeing dramatic cuts in unemployment benefits, as we got closer to the expiration of the eviction moratorium, we heard that the Senate Republican leader was ‘in favor’ of states just going bankrupt. That was April.
“We heard that Senate Republicans didn’t feel any urgency to act. That was May.
“Now, it’s August and with this virus still raging, Senate Republican leaders finally produced a so-called relief package that grants corporations a “get out of jail free card” if their employees or customers get sick, guts jobless benefits, and rolls back critical civil rights protections for workers—including communities of color, LGBTQIA+ people, women, older Americans, and people with disabilities.
“A package that fails to keep our child care sector stabilized for more than a month, provide the significant funding we need to finally make testing and contact tracing fast, free and everywhere, require the type of end-to-end comprehensive plan we need to make sure safe, effective vaccines are cost free and widely available.
“And, one which won’t help the millions who have lost health insurance coverage during the crisis, or help people suffering from the virus afford treatment, does nothing to address the disproportionate impact of this virus on Black, Latinx, Tribal communities, and other communities of color, and provides zero relief for state, local, and Tribal governments, which is an absolute necessity for my state and others.
“As if that’s not enough, M. President, one of the centerpieces of this bill is a demand, tweeted out by the President of the United States, which I, as a former preschool teacher, a mom, and a grandmother, find especially insidious and harmful.
“This is the Republican policy to try to force schools to reopen for in-person learning, regardless of what public health experts recommend.
“This policy is a lose-lose-lose: it threatens the health and safety of students, families, educators and communities, it would, in particular, pressure high-needs school districts to reopen in person despite the risk, and it could spread this virus further and longer.
“Many school districts are already rejecting this policy and planning for distance learning in the fall.
“So we’ve got to do everything we can to make distance learning as high-quality as possible for every student.
“Because let me be clear: no student’s education, regardless of where it takes place, should falter because the President wants to pretend this virus has gone away, or because Republicans in the Senate are unwilling to stand up to him.
“If a school cannot safely reopen in person, they need the resources to ensure every student and educator has access to a computer, to internet, and to other equipment necessary to learn outside of a traditional classroom.
“So, what we need to do is pass the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act, which provides K-12 schools with $175 billion to ensure schools can continue to educate students in whatever way is safest, makes additional investments in stabilizing our child care and higher education systems, which are facing financial crises, and helps ensure students of all ages who are disproportionately impacted by this virus are supported through all they’re facing.
“I know there are some who will say the investments we’re proposing are too much. What I’d say to them, as a former chair of the Budget Committee, is budgets are a statement of our values and priorities.
“And I believe one of our top priorities—at all times, but especially in a pandemic—should be making sure students, families, and educators don’t have to choose between safety and quality public education.
“M. President, the parents and families I’m hearing from are under such immense pressure right now.
“My question to Republican leaders is why, when things are already so hard, are you determined to make them harder for people who are already struggling so much?
“M. President, this question is personal for me for so many reasons—one of which is because when I was growing up, my family fell on hard times.
“My dad, a WWII veteran, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and could no longer work. That meant my mom, who had stayed home to raise our family, had to take care of him while also working to support our family.
“Her job didn’t pay enough to support me and my six brothers and sisters—or cover the growing medical bills. For several months, we relied on food stamps.
“But then, my mom got federal support to go back to school, and got a better job. My siblings and I got grants and student loans to go to college.
“The point is, I know things could have gone a different way for us had the government just said ‘you’re on your own.’
“And right now, families across the country have fallen on incredibly hard times. They are worried and scared because so far, ‘you’re on your own’ is largely what this Republican-controlled Senate and this Administration have said.
“M. President, we owe every worker and family—including immigrant families, so many of whom are on the front lines of this fight—relief that reflects the depth of this crisis and helps them get back on their feet, like mine was able to.
“Relief to help kids learn safely, and keep families in their homes with food on the table, until we can get through this. Relief that helps us come back stronger as a nation.
“It’s not too much to ask. In fact, it is what we’re supposed to be here to do. And it is what I and Democrats are going to keep fighting for.