09/10/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/10/2020 09:02
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday regarding the coronavirus relief package being considered this week. Gardner encouraged his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote for the package in order to provide much-needed relief to the American people.
NOTE: Click here or the picture above to download Senator Gardner's remarks.
'The American people expect us to do our jobs. The American people have the chance to see this Congress work not in a bipartisan fashion tomorrow, but in a nonpartisan fashion,' said Senator Gardner. 'I hope that my colleagues will stop the partisanship, stop the gamesmanship, stop the power hungry approach to politics. Put it aside for the American people. Do what's right for the American people. Vote yes on delivering this critically important relief for our country, so that we can stand united as our country has stood for months - united to get through this together.
Remarks as delivered:
Thank you, Mr. President.
Over the past several weeks, I've had the opportunity to visit with Colorado families and businesses across the four corners of our great state talking about the challenges that Colorado faces when it comes to our economy as a result of the pandemic, talking about the health challenges that have been created for our state and so many of us around the world when it comes to the pandemic, and the work that needs to be done. And the work this Congress needs to do to come together, to stop the partisanship, to stop the fighting, to stop the arguing, and actually develop real solutions for the people of this country.
Congress has done that time and time again over the past several months. If you go back to March 6th, the passage of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was signed into law that day, that was the first action that this chamber took when it came to coronavirus response.
March 18th, a couple weeks later, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that was passed and signed into law on the 18th of March. These were unanimous bills, many times unanimous consent, but had the support of every Republican and every Democrat. The work that we were doing was so evident that we needed to do it immediately.
March 27th, as economies were shutting down, as restaurants were closing, as hotels were closing, Congress passed the CARES Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, signed into law on March 27th. And this is when you started to see some of the partisanship that was developing as that bill's passage was delayed here in the Senate.
But nonetheless it passed, delivering trillions of dollars, trillions of dollars, in support for the American people. Support for unemployment benefits, creating new categories of help for people who had seen their jobs eliminated, themselves furloughed, or their hours reduced. Support for farmers and ranchers, support for a vaccine, support for education, mass transit, telemedicine, and beyond.
Trillions of dollars. Almost a year's worth of appropriations, a year's worth of funding, in one bill to help make sure that we were meeting the needs of the American people.
The actions that we take can be focused, at least the way I see it, through three primary lenses. Number one, what we are doing to make sure we are stopping the spread and flattening the curve of coronavirus.
Number two, making sure that we're helping individuals who are in need, who are worried about how they're going to meet their rent payments, how they're going to make their mortgage. Making sure that they're going to be OK.
The third filter, the third lens of actions that we need to take, we go back to our businesses, making sure that they're able to keep people employed, making sure that they keep their doors open, making sure our economy can snap back to its full strength and even stronger than ever once the health pandemic is over.
We passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act on April 24th to provide additional dollars into the Paycheck Protection Program. We passed legislation that would extend the Paycheck Protection Program into August that changed the way some of the payments were able to be made within that and what expenses could be utilized within that time frame.
We passed the Great American Outdoors Act, which will create thousands of jobs across the state of Colorado, F100,000 jobs across this country.
And we continue to do more work. There is no Alpha and Omega legislation when it comes to coronavirus. There is no one single package of legislation that we can walk away from, spike the football, and say that our job is done here. We've passed one bill, two bills, three bills, four bills, and we will continue to do more.
Because the American people need it, and the American people need that support.
I met with a restaurant owner in Pueblo, Colorado who talked about the restrictions that they're facing at their restaurant. They can only have 50 people in their restaurant, regardless of social distancing they can only have 50 people in their restaurant. They have a bar in the restaurant, but because they are a restaurant, they can only have 50 people. Now the bar down the road can have 100 people in it because they're a bar, but the restaurant can only have 50 people in it because they're a restaurant, even though they have a bar.
And so they're trying to figure out and understand the regulations, the guidances that they are under, making sure that their customers are safe, making sure that their employees can be paid, making sure that they survive this and get through this.
That's what the Paycheck Protection Program represents. That's what the help that we've passed with unemployment benefits means. To help people get through this so that we can get back on our feet as a country.
I met with farmers in Eastern Colorado who were struggling to find help, who couldn't find the labor that they needed, who saw challenges to their prices before coronavirus, saw challenges because of coronavirus to their supply chains and what was happening to the markets. The CARES Act provided aid and relief to many in agriculture across the state of Colorado, but there's more work to be done.
I met with schools across the state of Colorado who are trying to open, who are trying to find the best way to keep their students safe and their teachers safe, and make sure that they can stay open. Some were doing online learning, some were doing in-person learning, all of them were trying to figure it out.
The CARES Act and other pieces of legislation that we passed provided billions of dollars for our educational institutions from kindergarten to 12th grade and on up through higher education. Billions and billions of dollars, but more work needs to be done.
My wife turned to me a couple of weeks ago before our three children started school and said, 'It's time for spring break to end.' Our kids have been out since spring break in March and just a week ago they did start, but there are people and families across the state of Colorado who are unsure about whether their classes will continue in person. Maybe they never got that far.
And so we have to make sure that we're providing help with childcare, making sure that families have a place they can take their kids while they go to work. In a country where more and more families have both parents in the workplace, it's very difficult to continue that job, to do it effectively, when you don't have childcare.
And we have both a supply problem, where we don't have enough places for families to take their kids, and we have a demand challenge, where we have people who need to take their kids to day care because their schools aren't open. The CARES Act and other legislation that we passed addressed that need, but there's more work yet to do.
I've heard from my colleagues across the aisle that they support the Paycheck Protection Program and that they support funding for businesses so that they can keep people employed. So that businesses can hire people and get them returned to work, because we made a decision that it's better to have people on the job and at the workplace than in the unemployment insurance office, so we passed the Paycheck Protection Program.
And look at these numbers in Colorado. We have a total loan amount of over $10 billion that went to Colorado alone, to help make sure that businesses were staying open, that they could keep people on payroll, that they could survive the orders to shut down that came from mayors, and the states, and the President.
We did it out of love for our community, to make sure that we can stop the spread, flatten the curve, and get through this together. But we have an obligation as a result to make sure that our economy comes back and that we help those businesses and individuals through this, to make sure our nation gets back on its feet.
The legislation that we passed has done part of that. If you look back to May 15th, you think about an economy that had lost 20.5 million jobs. The unemployment rate as of May 15th was 14.7 percent. Today, just a week ago, it's at 8.4 percent, with more work that needs to be done.
I've heard from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle a need to support childcare, a need to support education, a need to support our efforts to get a vaccine, our need to support efforts to continue research, our need to support the post office.
I've heard from our colleagues on the other side of the aisle our need to make sure that we have unemployment benefits that continue for the American people, and I completely agree.
We should make sure the Paycheck Protection Program continues. We should make improvements to the Paycheck Protection Program. Make sure we improve the Paycheck Protection Program so that it benefits more businesses, so that unrepresented communities have better access to the Paycheck Protection Program, that we can get more people involved in unbanked and underbanked communities, nontraditional lenders into those communities so they can get the Paycheck Protection Program out to them so that we can save more jobs and put people to work.
I completely agree. Let's work together, and let's pass that.
There are people who aren't as fortunate. There are people who have lost their jobs. There are people who have seen their hours reduced, and they are terrified about how they are going to make ends meet, about what they're going to do for their job and their family. The bills don't stop. They keep coming, and they have to be paid.
We should help them, we should pass unemployment insurance benefits, we should pass unemployment benefits to help the American people. Let's vote on that, let's do that, let's make it happen. We should help people who need childcare, let's make sure we're funding childcare.
Let's pass it. Let's pass it tomorrow. Let's pass it tomorrow to provide billions of dollars for childcare services. We don't have to wait, we can pass it now.
We should provide additional assistance to our farmers and ranchers. You know thank goodness that we have the ability to produce our food in the United States. Imagine what would happen if we were reliant for 70 percent of our food on somebody else like China.
We've seen what happens in this country when we're reliant on China for our medications, for our personal protective equipment. Imagine if we relied on our food to the same extent coming from somewhere else. We're blessed that we have farmers and ranchers who wake up each and every day and work hard to put food on our table.
But they're struggling right now, so let's help them. We don't have to wait for another week or another month. We should pass it, we can vote on it tomorrow - $20 billion for our farmers and ranchers
We should continue our work on vaccines. I had the chance to stop at the University of Colorado to visit with Dr. Tom Campbell to learn about the trial that's taking place at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Campus. They're working with the Moderna vaccine there, making sure that it goes to those who need it, to give the best representative sample of how we can get the vaccine to succeed, to work, and into our community.
But we need more help, we need more work, we need more research and development dollars. Let's vote on $31 billion for activities like vaccine development and distribution. Let's make that happen now. $16 billion for testing and related containment efforts, let's build up a personal protective equipment stockpile once again, we know we need it. Let's vote on that, let's vote on that tomorrow. $16 billion, let's pass it.
$105 billion, that's more than the House of Representatives passed, $105 billion for education for K-12, for higher ed. We've heard the need from our teachers, we've heard the need from our colleges. Let's pass that tomorrow in the bill that we're going to be voting on to provide that help. We don't have to debate, we don't have to delay, we can pass it tomorrow.
And yes, the post office. I live in rural Colorado and my grandfather was a rural letter carrier. I remember as a child traveling with him on county roads out in Yuma County, delivering mail. Let's provide $10 billion to the Postal Service to make sure they have the resources they need, because it matters in rural Colorado. We can pass that tomorrow, we're going to have a chance to vote on it tomorrow. Let's pass it, let's make it happen, let's get it done.
Now, everything here that we're voting on tomorrow - $105 billion to support students' safe return to in-person learning and educational opportunities, that's in the bill that we're going to be voting on tomorrow. $105 billion, that's more than the House of Representatives had asked for. $16 billion for testing and related containment efforts, that's in the bill, let's vote on that tomorrow. $31 billion for activities like vaccine development and distribution, $20 billion in farm assistance, $15 billion to support childcare services, changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that will allow for a second loan.
I met with restaurateurs across Colorado and Denver who said the Paycheck Protection Program is what kept them in business. I met with Mother Pearl in Colorado Springs, a Cajun restaurant, where they said, 'This saved us.' But they're still struggling, they're not up to full capacity yet, so let's give them a chance to get a second loan through the Paycheck Protection Program so they can bring their employees back, keep their employees employed and paid, and get their doors open and through this.
Let's simplify the loan forgiveness application process so that people who have a $150,000 or less have certainty and clarity about what is going to happen to that loan. If you look at Colorado, the vast majority of the loans that represent $10.5 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loans, 95,000 loans, were below $150,000. 95,000 businesses could have certainty that their loan is forgiven. Let's pass that, let's pass that tomorrow. That's in the bill.
Enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 per week. The state could contribute an additional one hundred dollars up to $400 per week, lasting through December at the end of this year. We can pass that tomorrow. It's in the bill.
$10 billion in assistance to the post office. It's in the bill.
Now, every single point that we have made here is supported by my colleagues. They want money for education. We're giving more money to education than the House of Representatives passed. They want dollars for testing. They want dollars for vaccine and distribution. They want dollars in help and support for farm assistance. They want dollars for childcare. They want dollars for the Paycheck Protection Program. They want to keep businesses open, and people employed, and people hired.
They want to help people and businesses have more certainty in how their loans are going to be handled. They want additional unemployment benefits for the American people, and they want help for the post office. There's not a single person who's come to the floor and said, 'I oppose money for higher education.'
They haven't done that because they agree. They agree with this. They agree with the testing and the research and the vaccines. They agree with support for childcare. They agree that we need to do it.
Now, maybe somebody wants more. We've passed one, two, three, four, five, six. - this could be the fifth, sixth, or seventh bill depending on how you count the various pieces of legislation that have gone toward coronavirus relief.
We will do more and we should do more. But why on earth would you vote no tomorrow and tell the people of this country to go pound sand because you didn't get everything you wanted? Tell the people who are on unemployment benefits that need it now that, 'I'm sorry, I didn't get a tax deduction for wealthy people in California or New York, so you're not getting yours.'
Why would you tell the people who need the dollars and education to support our kids and our teachers, 'I'm sorry, you're not getting yours because somebody has got a nice house in Los Angeles that needs a tax cut. Why would you tell businesses that they may not be able to keep their doors open because that house in Manhattan is really nice and I want to make sure that they keep their big house tax deduction?
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle would have you believe that the American people can wait. They can wait for unemployment benefits. They can wait for more help for businesses. They would have you believe that they don't need to vote yes on this, even though they agree with it.
The American people expect us to do our jobs. The American people have the chance to see this Congress work not in a bipartisan fashion tomorrow, but in a nonpartisan fashion. Getting back to the very beginning of the work we did together to pass legislation to benefit and help the American people who acted out of love to stop their economies because they wanted to stop the spread of coronavirus. They shut their businesses, their hotels emptied out, all because they were complying with efforts to socially distance to end this pandemic.
We have a chance tomorrow to vote on a bill that will provide unemployment benefits, that will help people in farm and ranch communities, that will provide them with billions of dollars in aid. But they're saying no, because they didn't get everything. Their theory seems to be, 'If I can't get everything I want, you don't get anything, period.'
Is that the message the American people are gonna get tomorrow? That it's their way or the highway? 'You're not going to get the help that everybody agrees on, because I just didn't get everything that I thought they should.'
Our family business is a farm equipment dealership and I've talked about it many times on this floor. I've never seen somebody come into that dealership and say, 'My Tractor's broken, I'd like a Republican to fix it. Or, 'My planter needs repaired, could you please find a Democrat to fix it?'
That's not the way people come into the store in our economy and do business. They don't go into Target or Wal-Mart that way. They don't go into that restaurant in Pueblo or Colorado Springs or Denver and say, 'Could you serve me the Republican meal today please, made by a Democrat cook?'
They expect us to get the job done.
There are some in this chamber who argue that, 'We just delay a little bit longer, delay a little bit longer, we'll put a big, big, big package together.'
Vote tomorrow, bring amendments, have the debate. Don't hide behind closed doors and argue that if we just hold out a little bit longer then maybe my tax cuts will come for that house, that mansion in Beverly Hills, that place in the Hamptons, because that's what they are doing. That's what they're doing to the American people.
They are saying that, 'Even though we agree, because we didn't get our way, no one gets their help.' No one gets the help they need, because they didn't get their way on everything.
Tomorrow's vote isn't a final vote by any means, and even if it were, there's more work to be done. We would have additional pieces of legislation that we will continue to provide relief with, but tomorrow is the beginning of the debate. It's the first step in making sure that we have that for the American people and they're going to say no? They're going to vote no? They're afraid to debate? They won't even bring amendments?
The Paycheck Protection Program has saved millions of jobs around the country. We have a chance to extend it, to make it work for more people. Unemployment insurance has expired. Look, we worked over August to make sure that we had an extension of unemployment insurance for the people and unemployment benefits for the people of Colorado and this country. Payroll tax breaks, help with rent over the last several weeks, but we need to act to extend it. We have a chance to vote on it tomorrow.
Vote yes, and we can provide that relief. Vote no, and you're telling the American people that politics is more important than policy, and that's wrong. If this chamber is interested, if this body is interested in results and policy, they'll vote yes to provide this relief that everybody agrees to.
Look, the politics of pandering and partisanship, some people find too intriguing, inviting, and alluring. The American people find it sickening.
Vote yes. Get on this bill. Bring your amendments. Have the debate. But let the American people know that relief is on the way.
Or vote no, and continue this shameless charade of people who posture about helping the American people but are simply interested in an electoral outcome.
Because this vote is going to tell us a lot about people tomorrow. This vote is going to tell us about people who are interested in finding that way to relief for the American people.
The opportunity is here. Or is it going to be simply a chance to ride yet one more grandstand, yet one more finger wagging, tongue wagging opportunity for the American people to see how embarrassing the debate has become.
Mr. President, the people of Colorado are strong, they're resilient, they're optimistic. They see optimism in every vale and valley, as they work to climb that next peak. But they need partners and help. And tomorrow we have a chance to vote to provide that help.
Do not be fooled by arguments that this doesn't do enough, because we can do more and we will do more.
But let's start with the unemployment benefits now. Let's start with the business help now to keep people employed. Let's start with the vaccines and the research now. Let's start with the help for education now, without delay.
Tomorrow I hope the outcome is a surprise, and I hope that we will see people come together in a way that we saw at the beginning of this debate. There's always more to be done.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that a letter that I wrote on April 16th with my colleague, Senator Bennet and Governor Polis asking for more to be done, be entered into the record.
In this letter we talked about a need for state and local funding, half a trillion dollars for state and local funding. We talked about other programs including additional benefits for food nutrition. I still support that. I'm still fighting for that. I still want to do those things we listed in this letter, but I'm not going to let that stop me from voting yes tomorrow.
Because the American people need it. So I hope that my colleagues will stop the partisanship, stop the gamesmanship, stop the power hungry approach to politics. Put it aside for the American people. Do what's right for the American people. Vote yes on delivering this critically important relief for our country, so that we can stand united as our country has stood for months - united to get through this together.
Mr. President, in the weeks before the economy shut down and we could no longer go to church in person, we were reviewing a passage in the Bible that said, 'Out of our struggles and tribulations comes perseverance, and out of that perseverance is built character, and out of that character comes hope.'
We can provide that hope tomorrow. The American people deserve nothing less.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.