Durbin: Republicans' Priority In Coronavirus Legislation Is Clear - Corporations Over Struggling Families

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today slammed Senate Republicans’ and President Donald Trump’s proposed partisan coronavirus response legislation and their dithering and delay, which allowed the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit to expire last week.  Republicans finally released their proposal last week – ten weeks after the House passed the Heroes Act

Nationwide, as many as 30 million Americans are relying on enhanced unemployment benefits to put food on the table and pay for rent and health care.  Since the beginning of March, around 1.7 million unemployment claims have been filed in Illinois, which is nearly ten times the number of claims processed during the same period one year ago.  As of July 11, more than 800,000 Illinoisans were claiming some form of unemployment benefits.

“This week marks the third month since Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats passed a rescue package.  For three months, their effort, called the Heroes Act, has been sitting on the desk of Senator McConnell.  Initially, he said I don’t feel ‘a sense of urgency’ to address this issue.  Then he went on to say we haven’t spent all the money we appropriated the first round.  Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until seven days ago that the Senate Republicans kind of made a proposal,” Durbin said.  “The Republican approach would cut the unemployment benefit check from the federal government from $600 a week to $200 a week – a $400 cut.  It would then require states to put in place a complex system of 70 percent wage replacement… if states can’t implement this program and instead the flat cash payment goes from $600 to $200 for month after month after month, trust me, the lines at the food pantries will be longer than ever.”

Durbin also criticized Republicans’ plan to give corporations federal liability immunity from lawsuits related to the pandemic.  Their bill would upend state laws, give businesses incentive to cut corners, jeopardize the safety of frontline workers and families, and risk further spread of the virus. 

“The bill does nothing to protect workers, improve safety standards, or give businesses any incentive to take the proper precautions,” Durbin said.  “The federal government has deferred to the States on nearly every aspect of COVID response.  As the President said, leave it to your Governor, leave it to your Mayor – from testing to procuring PPE, from mask policies to stay-at-home orders.  There’s no reason why the federal government now wants to step in [and impose immunity] at the expense of workers, at the expense of customers.  I urge my colleagues to oppose the Republican corporate immunity bill.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.