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Sen. Cruz to Senate Democrats on COVID-19 Response: ‘Rise Above Petty Partisan Games’

Sen. Cruz: Democratic leadership willing to hold the American people hostage for unrelated political, partisan objectives

March 23, 2020

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202-228-7561

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following the Senate Democrats' decision to play partisan games and block the Senate's third bipartisan emergency coronavirus package, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today delivered remarks on the Senate floor where he called on his colleagues to address this public health crisis and deliver real relief for the American people.

WATCH: Cruz: "This Is a Time of Crisis, Not a Time to Play Partisan Games."

ON DEMOCRATS' BLOCKING CONSIDERATION OF THE THIRD EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS PACKAGE:

"This is a time of extraordinary crisis for our nation. In this time of crisis, I call upon each of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to rise above. Rise above petty partisanship. Rise above the bickering that so often consumes Washington. Rise above and put first the priorities of the millions of Americans who are hurting.

"There is a time for political disagreements. There is a time for policy disagreements. I am no stranger to robust political and policy disagreements. But we are in the midst of a global pandemic. People are dying. People are suffering.

"Last night when the Senate voted on whether to move forward with emergency relief legislation for the millions of people being devastated by the economic disaster we're seeing as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, every single Democrat in this body voted to block consideration of this bill.

"Now for those of you at home who are not pouring over a Senate procedural matter, what does it mean to vote to block consideration? It doesn't mean they voted against the bill. It means they voted against even starting to take it up."

ON DEMOCRATS' EXPLOITATION OF THE CRISIS TO ADVANCE THEIR IDEOLOGICAL PRIORITIES:

"If [Senate Democrats] have reasonable concerns, they're welcome to raise them. By the way, this bill was drafted with the participation of nearly a dozen Senate Democrats who are actively part of the task forces submitting suggestions. In fact, one of the suggestions the Democrats submitted during the drafting was plus up those unemployment insurance numbers and they got agreement.

"This was drafted in a bipartisan manner. What happened? I got to tell you, yesterday, Sunday, most of us thought we were going to move to this. But then Nancy Pelosi decided it was time to play politics. Decided to throw a grenade into the whole process. And she had a list of demands, over 1,000 page bill that she drops out of nowhere. And the demands she's pushing, I ask you do these have anything to do with the coronavirus epidemic?

"A number of people have cited the famed quote from Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.' Sadly, we're seeing the embodiment of that cynical approach right now. [...]

"What are they pushing for? Changing the emission standards on airplanes. Mr. President, what the hell do the emission standards on airplanes have to do with thousands of people dying and millions of people out of work in the coronavirus epidemic? Don't treat this bill like a partisan Christmas. [...]

"The Democrats are pushing wind and solar tax credits. Mr. President, what in the hell does a windmill have to do with this crisis? Other than there's some Democratic lobbyists getting fat and rich and they're willing to extort a crisis to try to advance their political agenda.

"Mandates on corporate board diversity. [...] They want to mandate effectively, quotas on boards of directors. Mr. President, what in the hell does that have to do with this crisis?

"The Pelosi wish list wants to restructure the debt for the Post Office. Mr. President last I checked, look our postal workers, they go through wind and rain and snow, but they haven't been laid off."

ON CURBING THE PANDEMIC AND GIVING REAL RELIEF FOR THE AMERICAN PEOPLE:

"I am going to close this the way I started. By calling on Democrats, calling on Republicans: rise above petty partisan games. The Democratic leaders are playing these games. To every one of you Democrats, listen to the men and women in your states. Don't give in to the games. Most of the Democratic Senators say they don't even know what their side wants. But it's just their leadership that's willing to hold the American people hostage for unrelated political partisan objectives."

The full remarks may be viewed here. Earlier this month, Sen. Cruz voted in favor of the Senate's first and second coronavirus relief packages to assist in the United States' response to COVID-19.

For more information and additional resources, visit www.cruz.senate.gov/coronavirus/.

Sen Cruz: "Mr. President, this is a time of extraordinary crisis for our nation. In this time of crisis, I call upon each of our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to rise above. Rise above petty partisanship. Rise above the bickering that so often consumes Washington. Rise above and put first the priorities of the millions of Americans who are hurting.

"There is a time for political disagreements. There is a time for policy disagreements. I am no stranger to robust political and policy disagreements. But we are in the midst of a global pandemic. People are dying. People are suffering.

"Last night, when the Senate voted on whether to move forward with emergency relief legislation for the millions of people being devastated by the economic disaster we're seeing as a result of the coronavirus epidemic, every single Democrat in this body voted to block consideration of this bill.

"Now for those of you at home who are not pouring over a Senate procedural matter, what does it mean to vote to block consideration? It doesn't mean they voted against the bill. It means they voted against even starting to take it up.

"The New York Times headline moments afterwards said, ‘Democrats block $1.7 trillion stimulus bill.' Of course that headline had the fault of being accurate and so within minutes the New York Times changed it to ‘Democrats block $1.7 trillion stimulus bill, citing worker concerns.' That was headline number two. But then apparently the partisan leanings in the New York Times were too strong for that, and so they revised it a third time to say, ‘Partisan division halts discussion of the bill.'

"No, it wasn't a partisan division. It was one party - the Democratic Party saying to this chamber and the American people, ‘Hell no. We won't even take this up and discuss it.' At a time of crisis, at a time when people are dying, that's wrong. That's shameful.

"When we awakened this morning following the Democrats' obstruction, worldwide, there were 372,563 reported cases of the coronavirus. In the hours since then, just today, there have been an additional 23,352 cases reported today. While the Democrats are blocking the bill 23,000 new cases today.

"In the United States, when we started this morning, there were 35,224 cases this morning. Right now, as of the latest numbers, there are 41,708 cases in the United States today. That means we've had an additional 6,484 cases today, while the Democrats are blockading.

"And by the way where are the Democrats? C-SPAN doesn't show this whole chamber often, but it'd be nice if they did because that entire side of the chamber is empty. They're not showing up for work. They're not doing their job.

"In Texas this morning, there had been 668 cases. As of right now, there are 722 - 54 more cases today while the Democrats are blocking consideration of this bill.

"How about deaths? As we look at this crisis, there are people right now gasping for breath. You and I, we have friends who have been diagnosed with this disease. We've read stories, we've talked to people who have struggled under it.

"I heard from one individual, who is hospitalized right now, that breathing felt like a belt strapped across his chest. That he could barely breathe.

"As of [now], worldwide, there have been 16,381 deaths. This morning it was only 15,308. That means today, while the Democrats have been blocking this bill, 1,073 additional people died.

"In the United States, as of this morning, there were 471 deaths reported due to coronavirus. As of right now it's 573. That means today 102 Americans died while the Democrats were blocking consideration of this bill.

"In Texas, as of this morning, there had been eight deaths. Now there are nine. One Texan died while half this chamber refused to show up and do their job.

"Now this morning when we voted again, we saw the first signs of cracks as one Democrat, Senator from Alabama, who had voted ‘no' yesterday decided this morning, ‘well, maybe we should take up the bill.' One. One Democrat. Where are the rest? There are a lot of Democrats who like to hold themselves out as moderate Democrats. Where are they?

"Right now what the Democratic leadership is doing is they're playing games. They're playing games in a way that is irresponsible.

"This bill has a lot of important elements for a lot of people that are hurting. You've got, not only the people who are hospitalized, the people who are suffering, but you've also got economic devastation as we have much of this country ground to a halt. We've got people who work in restaurants, waiters, waitresses, bellboys, who haven't gone to work in over a week. [...]

"I've spoken to business owner after business owner after business owner for the last week. One hotel owner described how he currently had six percent occupancy rates. You can't keep a hotel running with six percent occupancy rates. I talked to one hotel owner who described how he had made 5,000 layoffs in the last week. Another hotel owner had made 6,000 layoffs in the past week. I talked to an oil and gas business owner who had laid off 5,000 workers in the past week. I talked to another oil and gas owner who laid off 5,000 workers in the last week.

"You know today, I'm thinking about people like my friends at Republic Country Club. Now Republic Country Club is a bit of a misnomer. It's a barbecue joint outside of Houston. It's owned by my friend, Michael Berry. It is often the venue of country western concerts. The venue sometimes for comedy shows. I went and took my dad to [see] ‘Larry the Cable Guy' at Republic Country Club. I've had multiple election night parties at Republic Country Club. It's a big ole honky tonk. You've never seen so many confused national reporters as they walked in and looked around and didn't know what to make of the place.

"Father's Day, a year ago, I did a Father's Day party at Republic Country Club. My dad [and I], we roasted up two whole pigs. The cook staff at the barbecue place, they made them up and we had a big party [and] invited people there. It's a Cuban tradition to roast a whole pig. Why am I telling you about Republic Country Club?

"Because yesterday, which happened to be my father's 81 birthday, yesterday at Republic Country Club announced they're closing their doors. Yesterday, Michael Berry sent out a tweet telling first responders, telling police officers, and firefighters, and everyone on the frontline, he said, ‘Drive by Republic Country Club today, March 23. Drive by during the day and we'll give you a free barbecue. We're going to cook everything we have and we're just going to give it away in to go. You can't come in, but we're going to give you to go boxes.' And he went on to say they're emptying out all the liquor from the store room and from behind the bar, they're giving it to the employees because the employees are all being laid off. And he said he didn't know if they'll open again.

"Now tell you those employees, the bartenders, the bouncers, many of them are veterans. Many of them are big guys covered with tats. They're salt of the earth. Right now, they don't know where their rent check is coming from next week.

"That's happening all across this country. That's happening not just at one barbecue place in Houston. That's happening at bars. It's happening at nail salons. It's happening at movie theaters. I love Sunday night to go with a buddy of mine and go watch a movie. Movie theaters are shut down all over this country. Retail stores, people laid off. Nobody's going to the mall right now.

"The people who are hurting, they're scared. They don't know, number one, if they're going to get sick. But number two, they don't know how they're going to make ends meet.

"This is a time of crisis and we ought to be coming together. This bill that we were moving to, I don't necessarily agree with every word of it. But there are a number of elements in this bill that are designed to provide real help to people who are hurting.

"One element of this bill is to give cash, an immediate check for $1,200 to every person in this country, every adult in this country earning under $75,000 a year. $2,400 for every couple earning under $150,000 a year plus $500 for every child they have got. And you want to talk about real relief? For people that are scared they're saying, ‘What do I do next?' Those are checks that are coming in the mail.

"What have the Democrats said? ‘No hold the checks.' Right now, those checks aren't coming and they aren't coming for one reason because the Senate Democrats are blocking taking up that bill.

"In many circumstances that would not be the right policy outcome to just send checks to people. But at a time of crisis, where you need people just to be able to make it to tomorrow, putting some resources in their hands makes a big difference.

"Another element of this bill that is being blocked by Senate Democrats is $350 billion in emergency loans to small businesses. To small businesses like Republic Country Club. To small businesses like restaurants and bars. To small businesses like nail salons and barber shops and movie theaters and dress shops and hardware stores. Small businesses that are, right now, putting up the sign saying closed for coronavirus.

"Now those emergency loans are designed to be given with the condition that they keep their employees on payroll. A lot of these small business owners want to keep their employees on payroll. But they don't have the cash. Under the terms of this bill those loans are forgiven if they keep their employees on payroll.

"By the way, the Democratic talking point is, ‘Oh, this is just cash to businesses.' Tell that to the owner of the barbershop who takes an emergency loan to not fire all of her employees. That loan, under the terms of it, is forgiven if employees stay on the payroll. The Democrats are blocking that right now.

"What about unemployment insurance? The job numbers coming out shortly I expect to be massive in terms of the job losses. I think we'll see north of two to three million people who have lost their jobs and the numbers are getting worse. Every phone call I have is with more and more people that are losing their jobs.

"It is bad. It will come back. But it is bad right now. We need emergency support to get people through this dark time. This bill had $250 billion for additional unemployment insurance. What did that mean? That's an additional $600 per week for an additional 13 weeks.

"If you're one of the waitresses right now who's just been told your job's gone away and you apply for unemployment insurance if this bill passes, you get an extra $600 immediately. But you know what, you don't right now because Senate Democrats are blocking this.

"Now, if they have reasonable concerns, they're welcome to raise them. By the way, this bill was drafted with the participation of nearly a dozen Senate Democrats who are actively part of the task forces submitting suggestions. In fact, one of the suggestions the Democrats submitted during the drafting was plus up those unemployment insurance numbers. And they got agreement. This was drafted in a bipartisan manner.

"What happened? I got to tell you, yesterday, Sunday, most of us thought we were going to move to this. But then Nancy Pelosi decided it was time to play politics. Decided to throw a grenade into the whole process. And she had a list of demands, an over 1,000 page bill that she drops out of nowhere. And the demands she's pushing, I ask you, do these have anything to do with the coronavirus epidemic?

"A number of people have cited the famed quote from Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste.' Sadly, we're seeing the embodiment of that cynical approach right now. [...]

"What are they pushing for? Changing the emission standards on airplanes. Mr. President, what the hell do the emission standards on airplanes have to do with thousands of people dying and millions of people out of work in the coronavirus epidemic? Don't treat this bill like a partisan Christmas.

"By the way, Republicans, we've got things we would like to advance too. Things I believe in deeply. Do you want to talk about what I'd like to do? I'd like to abolish the IRS. I've campaigned on that all over the country and I'm going to continue fighting for that. But Mr. President, I'm not standing here with an amendment saying as part of this emergency relief, let's abolish the IRS. There's a place for that political and policy discussion.

"The Democrats are pushing wind and solar tax credits. Mr. President, what in the hell does a windmill have to do with this crisis? Other than there's some Democratic lobbyist getting fat and rich and they're willing to extort a crisis to try to advance their political agenda.

"Mandates on corporate board diversity. These are Democrats that want a social engineer. I actually have a lot of problems with corporate boards. I think we have far too many corporate boards that are docile and do what management wants. That's a serious problem. A lot of discussion about stock buybacks, I'll tell you what I get concerned about stock buybacks is when you have compensation agreements in place that the executives get rich if they get a short term boost in share price and it ends up hurting the shareholders. So I'd love to see actually more vigorous boards of directors that make sure that you're not creating incentives to game the stock price. That's a reasonable question. But they want to mandate effectively, quotas on boards of directors. Mr. President, what in the hell does that have to do with this crisis?

"The Pelosi wish list wants to restructure the debt for the Post Office. Mr. President last I checked, look our postal workers, they go through wind and rain and snow, but they haven't been laid off.

"I call upon both sides: don't play games with this. This crisis isn't going to end tomorrow. It's not going to end the next day. It's going to last for a considerable time. It's going to require adults to step up and lead. On the pandemic, we need to follow the science. We need to listen to the doctors. We need to listen to the physicians. We need to do the steps that we're taking to keep people safe. On the economy, we need to give immediate relief to people who are hurting. And we need to make sure a liquidity crisis doesn't become a solvency crisis.

"You know it's interesting, many of the Democrats are saying they don't want corporate bailouts. I agree with them. I am passionately opposed to corporate bailouts. One of the things I was gratefully relieved about how this bill was structured, is that it's structured as loans and not condition free grants. And it's structured primarily so that it's not picking favored companies that happen to have big lobbying presence in Washington.

"What does it mean to not have a liquidity crisis become a solvency crisis? Let's take for example the airlines. I've spoken with just about every major airline CEO in the past two weeks. The airlines are losing billions of dollars every month. Now they didn't cause that problem. Unlike the financial crisis in 2008, this crisis was not caused by misconduct of one industry or another. It's not the airlines fault that the federal government has shut down flights to Asia and to Europe. That's not their fault. It's not the owner of the restaurant downtown Houston's fault [that] the city of Houston has shut down the restaurant. That's not the small business owners fault.

"Now what we don't want is when the bills come due for all of those businesses, for them to have to sell their assets at a fire sale. We don't want the restaurant owner who has a pizzeria who saved to buy this fantastic pizza oven, to have to sell the pizza oven for pennies on the dollar because a liquidity crisis has become a solvency crisis. We don't want our U.S. airlines to have to put up a garage sale effectively to sell all their airplanes because they're going bankrupt in the midst of a crisis.

"We want to come out of this with a strong robust commercial airline sector. We want to come back out of this with the small businesses thriving. We want to come out of this with a thriving energy sector. We want to come out of this with jobs.

"And so, Mr. President I am going to close this the way I started. By calling on Democrats, calling on Republicans: rise above petty partisan games. The Democratic leaders are playing these games. To every one of you Democrats, listen to the men and women in your states. Don't give in to the games. Most of the Democratic Senators say they don't even know what their side wants. But it's just their leadership that's willing to hold the American people hostage for unrelated political partisan objectives. And by the way, one of the reasons I think Senate Democrats are so willing to engage in this, is they expect the media to be utterly complicit in their cynical gamesmanship.

"So as we stand here this afternoon, it is not only the Democratic side of the chamber that is empty, but as I look up to the press, nobody's there. There's not a single reporter sitting in the chamber. Actually, there's nobody sitting in the chamber, so they may have closed the chamber. In which case, that may have been an unfair assault. But it's not an unfair assault to say that the New York Times is changing their headline to give political cover for the games of the Senate Democrats.

"This is a time of crisis. It's not a time to play games. It's a time to rise above. It's a time to stand for the American men and women. It's a time to stand for jobs. It's a time to help protect people's lives."

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