Washington, D.C.—From the Senate floor this afternoon, U.S. Senator Susan Collins strongly condemned the partisan delay tactics that are blocking the Senate from advancing an emergency economic package. The legislation is urgently needed to assist Americans who have lost their jobs, help prevent lay offs, and keep small businesses from going under as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a member of the Small Business Task Force, Senator Collins has worked closely with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on a $350 billion measure to provide relief to small businesses that has been included in the Phase 3 legislative package. The Keeping Workers Paid and Employed Act would provide federally guaranteed emergency loans to small businesses that are experiencing a sharp drop in revenue due to COVID-19. These loans would be forgiven so long as employers keep their workers employed and paid.
Senator Collins’ full remarks are below:
Mr. President, we are in the midst of a crisis in our country, a crisis caused by the coronavirus. I cannot believe that the answer to this crisis as we move to address the economic consequences that are so severe for the people of this country—that the answer from our friends on the other side of the aisle is delay, delay, delay. No sense of urgency, no hurry.
I will tell you Mr. President, I've had the honor to serve in this body for many years, Never, never have I seen Republicans and Democrats fail to come together when confronted with a crisis. We did so after 9/11. We did so with the financial meltdown in 2008. Here we are facing an enemy that is invisible, but equally devastating to the health of our people and to the health of our economy. And yet, unbelievably, the Democratic leader objected to my even being able to speak this morning – is that what we've come to? The Democratic leader objected to our convening at 9 o'clock this morning so that we could begin working in earnest – is that what we've come to?
The fact is we have been working on a bipartisan effort through task force with both Republicans and Democrats making very good progress and putting together a comprehensive package, the third package that we have dealt with. This one is to address and prevent the economic devastation that is being caused by this virus. We don't have another day. We don't have another hour. We don't have another minute to delay acting. I have talked with businesses all over my state, small mom and pop businesses like a diner, a third-generation diner operated by the Simones family in Lewiston, Maine. For the first time ever, they have had to close their doors.
As Linda Simones told me through tears yesterday, this is the first time ever we have been unemployed. Our son is unemployed. Our friends who have worked with us at this diner for years are unemployed.
And we have a very good plan that we have worked in a bipartisan way. Marco Rubio and I on the Republican side. Ben Cardin and Jeanne Shaheen in very good faith on the Democratic side, that would help these small businesses and keep their employees paid. Keep their employees getting paychecks. How can that possibly be controversial? How can any of us want to see millions of Americans lose their paychecks, their health insurance, their contributions to their retirement plans?
We have a package that's part of this broader legislation. As the Majority Leader pointed out just yesterday, had we invoked cloture, that's not the end of the process. There still could have been 30 hours for us to refine this package. And keep in mind, every single one of these task forces have been bipartisan. Do we agree on everything? Of course not. But surely, surely in this time of extreme crisis for our country, when people are getting sick, when people are dying from the coronavirus, when we are facing unemployment rates which could go as high as 20 percent, according to the Treasury Secretary, surely, we ought to be able to pull together and work quickly to respond to the needs of the American people.
Mr. President, I cannot believe the objections to proceeding to this package. Is this package perfect? No, but that's why negotiations are still going on. But don't we want to act quickly to provide relief to the American workers? This is disgraceful. We do not have time. Time is not on our side. Let's get the job done for the American people.