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Thune: Next Coronavirus Relief Funding Package Prioritizes Kids, Jobs, and Health Care

“I hope my other Democrat colleagues here in the Senate are ready to look beyond partisan liberal wish lists and focus on negotiating a relief package that addresses the real priorities we’re facing – helping kids and parents, getting Americans back to work, and providing the health care resources n

July 22, 2020

Washington — 

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the next coronavirus relief funding bill that Republicans plan to introduce in the near future, which will prioritize kids, jobs, and health care. Thune emphasized the importance of targeting this relief effort and prioritizing the most prevalent needs, since every dollar of additional spending will be borrowed and need to be paid back by future generations.

 Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech

Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:

“Mr. President, before I begin, I would like to take a moment to honor Congressman John Lewis, who died on Friday.

“A leader of the Civil Rights movement, he was one of the 13 original Freedom Riders and an organizer of the 1963 March on Washington.

“He was a man of conscience, conviction, and supreme courage.

“‘When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to do something,’ he would say.

“John Lewis did something.

“Confronted by the great sin of segregation, John Lewis put himself front and center in the fight.

“He organized sit-ins. 

“He led demonstrations.

“He marched for freedom.

“And he paid for his convictions with his blood.

“A man who espoused non-violence, he suffered incredible brutality at the hands of both police officers and civilian mobs. 

“He was attacked and beaten an untold number of times.

“During a march in Selma, Alabama – on a day that lives in infamy – a police officer fractured John Lewis’s skull, leaving him with a scar that he carried to the end of his life.

“Yet John Lewis was unbowed.

“No matter how many times he was attacked or what he suffered, he got up again and rejoined the fight.

“His death, Mr. President, is a great loss.

“But John Lewis will live on, in the annals of American heroes.

“May we all have his courage in fighting for the right.

“Mr. President, so far, Congress has provided $2.4 trillion to fight the coronavirus.

“Over the past couple of months here in the Senate, we’ve been closely tracking the implementation of this money and working with the administration on disbursement.

“In June alone, we held 30 hearings in the Senate on COVID-related issues.

“All of this has helped us identify the priorities that need to shape our next bill – which we’re hoping to pass in the next couple of weeks.

“And those priorities are kids, jobs, and health care.

“First, kids.

“Getting kids back in schools safely needs to be a priority.

“Being able to attend school in person is important for students’ academic development and for their social and emotional wellbeing.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated, and I quote, “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

“Now, not every school may be able to fully reopen this fall, but we need to make sure those schools that can reopen have the resources they need to reopen safely.

“That’s why the legislation Republicans are drafting here in the Senate will provide more than $100 billion to schools to help ensure they have what they need to safely welcome students back to class.

“While our first priority in getting kids back to school is ensuring their academic and social wellbeing, getting students back in schools is also important for families’ economic health.

“There are a lot of parents in this country who can’t afford to have one parent stay home to homeschool.

“And we need to ensure that those parents have access to schools and childcare wherever possible so that they can keep or return to their jobs.

“Enabling Americans to return to work is key to our economic recovery.

“Currently, there are more than 17 million unemployed Americans.

“While this is a significant improvement from where we were two months ago, that number is still much too high.

“And we have to do everything we can to get these Americans back on the job, receiving a regular paycheck.

“That’s why the legislation we’re drafting will provide incentives for businesses to hire and retain workers.

“It will provide a refundable tax credit for Main Street businesses for the protective equipment and cleaning supplies they need to keep their employees and customers safe and encourage Americans to return to their businesses.

“And it will provide another round of assistance to small businesses, with a focus on those that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

“We also expect to issue another round of direct payments to hardworking Americans to help them get back on their feet and stimulate the economy.

“The third bucket of our coronavirus response is, of course, health care.

“We have to keep ensuring our health care professionals have the resources needed to treat patients, develop new treatments, and find a vaccine to tame this virus once and for all.

“And the coronavirus legislation we’re drafting will address all three of those priorities.

“Our legislation will also include another important priority that will protect jobs, schools, businesses, and health care workers, and that is liability protections.

“No matter how many precautions schools and businesses take, there is no way for them to completely eliminate all risk of employees, students, or customers contracting the virus.

“But an army of trial lawyers is waiting to levy lawsuits against even the most careful schools and businesses.

“Mr. President, there is absolutely no question that schools and businesses should be liable for gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

“But businesses and schools that are taking every reasonable precaution to protect employees and students should not have to worry about facing lawsuits for virus transmission that they could not have prevented.

“And health care workers giving their all on the front lines to treat coronavirus patients should not have to worry that their efforts will be rewarded with lawsuits.

“Mr. President, I would like to think that we can put a bipartisan bill together and get it to the president’s desk in the next couple of weeks.

“Republicans are ready and willing to work with Democrats to get this done.

“We will introduce our draft shortly, and be ready to negotiate with Democrats to arrive at a final bill – the same process we followed with the CARES Act, our largest coronavirus relief bill to date.

“But this will only work if Democrats are willing to come to the table and negotiate on a reasonable bill.

“My Democrat colleagues sometimes behave as if government money is drawn from a magical pot of gold that will never run out.

“But it’s not.

“Every dollar of the coronavirus funding we’ve provided so far has been borrowed money, and every dollar we appropriate in the Phase IV bill we’re drafting will likely be borrowed money as well.

“Now, it’s money we need to borrow.

“But we need to remember that it’s borrowed money and that the bill for that money will eventually come due.

“The more we drive up our debt, the greater the threat to the health of our economy – not to mention to the economic future of today’s younger workers. 

“We have an obligation to them to limit our borrowing to what is absolutely necessary to fight this virus. 

“The Democrat leader has come down to the floor the past couple of days and suggested that the HEROES Act – a $3 trillion coronavirus bill the House passed – is, and I quote, “a good product to start with,” unquote, when it comes to a Phase IV coronavirus relief bill.

“Mr. President, that is ludicrous.

“The bill the Democrat leader is promoting – the bill he thinks is a good starting point for coronavirus legislation – is a bill that mentions the word “cannabis” more often than it mentions the word “job.”

“Let me just repeat that, Mr. President.

“The bill the Democrat leader thinks is a good starting point for coronavirus relief legislation mentions the word “cannabis” more often than it mentions the word “job.”

“While the Democrat leader is certainly welcome to disagree with me, I don’t think diversity studies in the cannabis industry have a major role to play in defeating this virus or getting Americans back to work.

“Nor does federalizing election law – another “priority” Democrats included in their bill.

“Mr. President, despite its $3 trillion price tag, the bill the Democrat leader is endorsing fails to meet one of the most basic requirements of any coronavirus relief bill – providing a meaningful plan for getting Americans back to work. 

“And it’s disappointing to hear the Democrat leader promoting such an unserious piece of legislation at a time when we should be devoting all our efforts to getting a bipartisan bill to the president. 

“I hope my other Democrat colleagues here in the Senate are ready to look beyond partisan wish lists and focus on negotiating a relief package that addresses the real priorities we’re facing – helping kids and parents, getting Americans back to work, and providing the health care resources needed to fight this virus.

“Republicans are ready to come to the table.

“I urge Democrats to join us.”