Weekly Democratic Address
July 31, 2020
Hello, I’m Senator Ron Wyden from the wonderful state of Oregon.
I’ve talked a lot recently with Oregonians who are walking an economic tightrope every day, having lost jobs or hours at work during the pandemic, trying to figure out a way to make rent, pay groceries, medical bills and car insurance. But one conversation in particular has really stuck with me.
I was speaking with a mom in Portland. She knew that supercharged unemployment benefits that we pushed so hard to achieve – the $600 weekly boost that was passed in the CARES Act – she knew those benefits were set to expire at the end of July. She told me that for her money was already awful tight, and with benefits expiring, she didn’t know how much food she could afford to buy for August. She said that she’d already started telling her kids they might have to eat less.
Imagine for a moment how difficult it’s got to be for a parent to have that conversation with her kids. And she’s just now dealing, alone, with that kind of hardship.
Supercharged unemployment benefits have been an economic lifeline for 30 million Americans during this pandemic. Democrats have been calling on Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans for months to work with us to extend the benefits to keep all these families in a position to make rent, pay for groceries. Republicans, on the other hand, just sat on their hands throughout the spring and the summer. And now because of them, benefits are going to lapse.
When Republicans finally brought forward a plan this week, they began by slashing this vital lifeline by two thirds – costing workers $400 per week. And then incredibly, they made it even worse, and they did so in the midst of the biggest unemployment crisis since the Great Depression. They’re calling for complicated new regulations that according to those who are expert at the state level, the Republican ideas would make it impossible to get benefits out anytime soon. This is just out-and-out sabotage, just throwing sand in the gears.
And Republicans are inflicting all of this pain on the economy and the unemployed, just when we’re getting reports that the economy is cratering. If Republicans get to slash unemployment benefits drastically when our economy is in freefall, the Republicans will be taking away one of the best tools for economic relief for our working families that can keep a struggling economy afloat.
And furthermore, while the Republicans shortchange the unemployed, Republicans’ have a priority to protect the multinational corporations from COVID-19. What they want to do is protect them from lawsuits with a federal liability shield. And on top of that, the Senate Republicans are proposing new money for defense contractors, new taxpayer subsidies for corporate power lunches, and a sweetheart real estate development deal that would benefit the Trump Hotel. They’re even trying to create a backdoor for cuts to earned Medicare and Social Security benefits.
The bottom line is what Republicans are proposing is heartless and it’s just unthinkable. There is no time to waste on these kinds of partisan proposals. Supercharged unemployment benefits are going to lapse, and then all of the Americans who lost work through no fault of their own could face eviction, could go hungry, may not be able to fill their prescriptions and their message to us is clear. It’s time to renew these benefits and help the unemployed now. And I know I speak for all my Democratic colleagues when I say that we’re going to keep working and working around the clock to get folks the help they need from sea to shining sea.
Thanks, everybody, for watching, and I wish everyone the best.