Durbin to McConnell: Bring the Bipartisan Emergency COVID Relief Legislation to the Floor for a Vote this Week

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring the $748 billion, bipartisan COVID-19 emergency relief legislation to the floor for a vote this week.  Durbin was part of the bipartisan group that unveiled the emergency relief package yesterday, which includes funding for unemployment insurance, small businesses, vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing, health care providers, housing and education assistance, and more. 

“Ten of us—five Democrats, five Republicans—as well as House members decided three weeks ago that enough was enough.  We need to show some leadership and try to work out a compromise between us for another COVID relief package,” Durbin said.  “It has been nine months since we passed what is known at the CARES Act on the floor of the Senate—96-0.  Overwhelmingly, unanimous, bipartisan decision to spend about $3 trillion not only to fight the pandemic, but to restore our economy… we thought that the threat of the pandemic would soon ebb away, but it did not.  It wasn’t gone in six months.  It isn’t gone today.  In fact, in some places in America, it’s worse now than ever… so this group of ten have been meeting for three weeks… we did produce a work product and one that I think is worthy of consideration immediately on the floor of the Senate.”

Durbin also discussed the two measures that were not included in the $748 billion package—funding for state and local governments and Republicans’ priority of corporate liability immunity. 

“There were two items that were not included in the base consensus bill because we couldn’t reach a consensus on them.  State and local government assistance I support completely.  I know what the cities, my counties, and what my state have gone through.  They need our help.”

Durbin continued, “And finally, the issue of liability and immunity from liability.  This is one raised by Senator McConnell for months.  He basically said that nothing is moving until he gets a provision, which I find objectionable, originally offered by Senator Cornyn.  Here’s what it comes down to: should people be able to go to court if they believe they have been harmed or members of their family have died as a result of the wrongdoing by people during this COVID-19 pandemic… we should leave the possibility open that those responsible for their actions need to be held accountable in court.” 

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. 

If enacted, the $748 billion bipartisan COVID-19 emergency relief legislation would include the following priorities for Illinois:

  • Extend unemployment benefits for 16 weeks, including for about 145,000 Illinoisans claiming Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and 231,000 Illinoisans claiming Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation;
  • Provide assistance for small businesses, including a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for hardest-hit businesses;
  • Extend the eviction moratorium through January 31, 2021, and provide emergency rental assistance to help keep families in their homes, at a time when one-fifth of Illinois renters report being behind on rent payments; 
  • Provide funding for hospitals and clinics for testing and to quickly and fairly distribute vaccines, including approximately $500 million to Illinois for testing and vaccine distribution and $1.5 billion for Illinois hospitals and health providers;
  • Provides $82 billion nationwide for education, including $54 billion for K-12 and $20 billion for higher education;
  • Extends federal student loan forbearance from the current expiration date of January 31, 2021, through April 30, 2021;
  • Provides $10 billion nationwide in much needed support to the struggling child care sector;
  • Address hunger by increasing SNAP benefits for nearly two million individuals in Illinois, and by providing funding for food banks and senior nutrition programs, which serve more than 1.5 million people in Illinois.
  • Provide hundreds of millions in funding for Illinois transit agencies;
  • Provide millions in funding for Illinois airports;
  • Provide more than $1 billion in funding for Amtrak to prevent further furloughs and service reductions;
  • Provide millions in payroll support to protect the jobs of thousands of Illinois airline workers; and,
  • Provide funding to help struggling Illinois bus companies keep their workers on the job.

The package also includes $300 million in funding for the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps to implement Durbin’s bipartisan legislation—Strengthening America’s Healthcare Workforce Act—which addresses health workforce shortages and racial and ethnic health disparities by increasing the number of doctors and nurses, including from underrepresented populations, providing care in underserved urban and rural communities.