U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed recent progress with multiple COVID vaccines, and he recognized the efforts of private sector companies, Congress, and the administration for expediting vaccine developments. Thune also emphasized that Republicans are prepared to pass additional targeted and fiscally responsible COVID relief legislation to provide assistance to American families and businesses. He urged his Democrat colleagues to put politics aside and help deliver relief for the American people.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, for the second Monday in a row, we received tremendous news about the prospects for a COVID vaccine.
“Last week, Pfizer announced that the initial results of its COVID vaccine showed a greater than 90 percent rate of effectiveness.
“And yesterday, Moderna announced that its COVID vaccine is showing a similarly high effectiveness rate, raising the possibility that not one but two COVID vaccines may be available in the very near future.
“This success is a tribute to the innovative power of the private sector and the efforts of Congress and the Trump administration to expedite the development of COVID vaccines.
“Operation Warp Speed has helped fund development of Moderna’s vaccine and will help fund distribution of both Moderna’s and Pfizer’s products.
“And while vaccine trials and development continue, so does research into new COVID treatments.
“Drugmaker Eli Lilly just received emergency use authorization for an antibody drug that will be used to treat COVID in patients with mild or moderate illness.
“Another company, Regeneron, has also filed for emergency use authorization for a potential antibody treatment.
“And there are a lot of other clinical trials going on right now for COVID vaccines and therapeutics, meaning there may be more good news to come.
“Meanwhile, we’re also strengthening domestic production of personal protective equipment for medical personnel and other essential workers.
“3M, which manufactures N95 masks, received two contracts under the Defense Production Act to expand N95 production.
“I recently visited the 3M plant in Aberdeen, South Dakota, to celebrate the opening of the plant’s new N95 manufacturing lines.
“These new lines will help 3M’s N95 production increase from 22 million to more than 95 million respirators per month.
“That’s critical progress on the PPE front – not to mention the jobs that are being created.
“On the economic front, the good news continues.
“The October jobs report showed yet another reduction in the unemployment rate, and revealed that the economy created more than 600,000 jobs in October.
“While we definitely have a ways to go to get back to where we need to be, the speed and strength of our recovery is encouraging.
“And it’s a testament to the strength of our economy before the virus hit.
“Thanks to Republican tax relief and regulatory reform, our economy was thriving before the coronavirus descended, and that economic strength provided the groundwork for a strong recovery.
“Republican-led coronavirus initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program have also helped keep the economy going during the virus.
“More than 5 million small businesses – including more than 23,000 in South Dakota – have taken advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program’s forgivable loans to help keep their businesses operating and their employees on the payroll.
“Of course, Mr. President, while there’s much to be hopeful about, the virus is still very much with us, and cases are surging.
“My home state of South Dakota has been hit hard, as have many other areas of the country.
“While we wait for final approval of vaccines, it’s essential that we keep following best practices and do what we can to slow the virus’s spread – like social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands frequently, avoiding large gatherings, and more.
“And while the money Congress has already invested in COVID relief has gone a long way toward meeting the country’s needs, we should pass additional, targeted relief to help Americans weather the rest of the pandemic.
“Senate Republicans have introduced additional COVID relief legislation that would provide the hardest-hit small businesses with a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, help schools and colleges operate safely, and provide additional health care resources to fight the virus.
“Our legislation would also provide for an additional $300 per week – over and above regular unemployment benefits – for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
“I’m very pleased that our legislation includes an additional $20 billion in funding to allow the Department of Agriculture to continue to assist ag producers and processors.
“We’ve also made sure to include liability protections for schools and businesses that are doing their best to protect others from the virus.
“Predatory trial lawyers are already lining up to exploit the COVID crisis for financial gain.
“We need to protect our economic recovery by ensuring that schools and businesses – and medical professionals – aren’t subjected to frivolous lawsuits for coronavirus infections that were beyond their control.
“Mr. President, I’d love to be able to say that Republicans will pass our coronavirus bill in the next couple of weeks.
“But unfortunately that depends on my Democrat colleagues.
“And the Democrat leadership hasn’t shown much inclination to work with Republicans.
“In fact, it has shown the opposite.
“Speaker Pelosi spent more than three months – three months – supposedly negotiating a coronavirus relief package that never arrived.
“Because Democrats refused to put a reasonable offer on the table.
“Members of the speaker’s own party pleaded with her to arrive at an agreement, but the speaker wouldn’t listen.
“And she’s still not listening.
“Despite the fact that her party lost a number of seats in the House in the election, the speaker – and the Democrat leader in the Senate – are still refusing to come to the table to work with Republicans.
“In fact, the speaker and the leader have doubled down on their unreasonable demands.
“Mr. President, I get that Democrat leaders would like to be able to design their own coronavirus bill, with no input from anyone else.
“But that’s not what happens in divided government.
“In divided government, both sides have to compromise in order to pass legislation.
“Republicans know that.
“And we are willing to compromise to get relief into the hands of the American people.
“But Democrats aren’t.
“Even as the coronavirus surges around the country, Democrats continue to insist on their way or the highway.
“It’s hard not to think that the Democrat leadership is more interested in exploiting this crisis for political gain than in actually getting relief to Americans.
“Mr. President, we could have another COVID relief bill ready for passage tomorrow if Democrats would just come to the table.
“It’s inexcusable that they haven’t.
“But Republicans aren’t giving up.
“We will continue to invite our Democrat colleagues to work with us to develop compromise legislation.
“And I hope that at least some of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle will decide that a pandemic is not the time to play politics and will work with us to deliver a bill.”