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McSally addresses coronavirus bailout bill on Senate floor

Watch and read Senator's comments here.

Full text of Sen. Martha McSally's (R-AZ) comments on the Senate floor on Tuesday, March 24, 2020:

"Madame President, we are at war. Unlike enemies I fought against in uniform, this enemy is invisible. But it is just as deadly.

Earlier today, the World Health Organization cautioned that the U.S. could be the next epicenter of this coronavirus pandemic. The Surgeon General sounded the alarm that things will get drastically worse this week. And economists are warning of a prolonged economic downturn that will devastate the country financially in ways unseen since the Great Depression.

As of right now, more than 600 Americans have died from the coronavirus. In Arizona, our Governor announced this morning that the death toll from the outbreak is up to five. In the past four days, we’ve seen more than a 200 percent increase in the number of cases in my state. These aren’t just numbers, they are people. Our hearts and prayers are with the grieving families who lost their loved ones and those fighting for their lives right now.

The nation has embarked on a massive effort to flatten the curve of the coronavirus to protect the vulnerable, buy time, and ensure our health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed.  These aggressive steps will save lives, but this path creates another calamity of massive economic hardship unlike anything we have experienced. We are telling people to stay home and not work. The financial devastation is wide and deep. Arizonans are stepping up to do their part to save the vulnerable, but working people deserve relief. And their needs are urgent.

I was home in Arizona a week ago Sunday and saw a neighbor—a single mom with three kids. She owns a food truck and told me her income just went to zero with all events canceled. “What am I supposed to do?” she asked me with her son by her side at the grocery store.  I told her I was heading back to DC to pass legislation to get her cash fast for her rent and food, plus additional support for her small business.

She was scared. I can’t imagine the fear that must be gripping all Arizona parents just like her who must provide for their families in the face of an open-ended economic lockdown.

That same day, I ordered takeout at my favorite local restaurant. There was hardly anyone there when it is usually packed, and this was before the governor’s order to shut down eating in dining rooms. This is a family owned small restaurant where they poured their savings, hearts, and lives into building this local success story. I asked how they were coping and they said they were deeply concerned. “What are we supposed to do?” they asked. I told them to hang in there and that relief was on the way.

More fear, in the eyes of people whose only sin is to have worked hard and played by the rules in pursuit of their American dream.

I walked to the gate in the airport terminal where I usually hug the woman who shines shoes.  We kept our distance, but I asked how the virus impacted her. She said she only had one client that day and things were grinding to a halt. “What am I supposed to do?” I heard again.

I took her number and told her relief was on the way soon. This morning, she’s waking up to no relief bill and a news story that airlines have plans to shut down altogether. It is a nightmare with no end in sight for so many like her.

On the plane back to Washington DC, I texted the woman who grooms my dog, Boomer, to ask how the virus was impacting her business. She told me it was slowing down, but that she wasn’t feeling well. I urged her to go home immediately and stay away from people. She said she couldn’t because she has bills to pay.

What is she supposed to do? I pleaded with her to go home and said relief was on the way soon.

Later that day, I heard from a doctor who asked me to send a message of encouragement to the health care workers serving on the front lines at the VA. “We’re gonna need it,” he said. “It’s coming.”  He shared with me their concerns about their patients and families. “We want to do the best we can against an unknown enemy in darkness,” he said. He went on to share that he was most impressed by the nurses and support staff, like the housekeepers who do their job in a petri dish, still smiling but terrified inside. I put a short video together to thank these heroes and told him that relief was on the way soon.

Over the past 8 days, I have heard countless stories similar to these from Arizonans across the state. The situation is dire. And it is urgent. These are real people who are suffering real harm from this pandemic. Relief must be delivered post-haste – bold and swift.

Time and time and time again, every Senator in this chamber has promised a constituent: relief is on the way. Soon. But the actions by some members of this chamber have resulted in broken promises to the American people. By blocking advancement of the relief package that was drafted by Senators of both parties, Democratic leadership has ushered in one of the saddest chapters in American history.

Though I’ve only been in the Senate for a little over a year, I can say it has lived up to its reputation as a place where nothing happens fast. But with a sense of urgency, Republican and Democrat Senators have been working ‘round the clock to build a comprehensive relief package.

We worked on this with the goal of keeping employees connected to employers to the max extent possible. And we strengthened unemployment benefits for those laid off. Working Arizonans need cash to pay for rent and food, small businesses need to be rescued from closing forever, our economy needs to be stopped from collapsing, and our hospitals need resources now to meet the coming tsunami.

If passed, this package will send $3400 in cash to every family of four making under $150,000 a year.  It will give small businesses money they don’t have to pay back to keep workers on payroll and pay other overhead costs like rent. Those businesses are in danger of closing down in the next week or two and won’t be around to provide jobs again when this virus is defeated. We must urgently act to keep them afloat.

The legislation also allows larger employers, who provide jobs to people in each of our states, to take out loans to keep people on the payroll as revenues plummet. Take Petsmart and Best Western hotels, both headquartered in Arizona.  These businesses, and others like them, provide jobs for our neighbors, and those are at risk too.

For our frontline warriors in this pandemic fight, our initial bipartisan framework provides $75B to hospitals, more than $1B for Indian Health Services, $20B for veterans’ health care, $11B to develop treatments and vaccines, and $1.7B for the strategic national stockpile for essential equipment like masks, test kits, and ventilators.

We also significantly increased unemployment benefits. Currently in Arizona, unemployment is $250 a week. We increased that to $850 per week while expanding eligibility for those who are self-employed, independent contractors, part-time workers, and gig economy workers, like Uber and Lyft drivers.

All of that – that’s what Democrats blocked. And for what? So they can throw money at liberal pet projects that have nothing to do with treating the health and economic fallouts of the coronavirus. Nothing whatsoever.

Relief was on the way. It was all but a done deal.

And then Nancy Pelosi flew across the country and she and Chuck Schumer decided to blow it all up for their unrelated ideological wish list. People are dying, people are running out of money, and they’re looking to us to provide strong relief now. But that doesn’t seem to matter to them.

We said relief was on the way. And now it isn’t.

I was presiding over this chamber Sunday night when Chuck Schumer waltzed in here and objected to opening up the Senate early on Monday, instead forcing us to wait until noon. He gave a theatrical speech filled with flat out lies, saying we had set “an artificial deadline” to pass this bill.

An artificial deadline for who? The following day was the deadliest day in the United States' fight against COVID-19 with more than 100 new deaths reported and people in Arizona are losing their jobs every single day!

While the Senator from New York may not worry about where his next meal is coming from, the people I talk to everyday in Arizona do. In fact, they are more than worried – they are afraid.

People are dying and the Democrat leaders think this is an opportunity to score political points and grab power.   It’s despicable. It’s infuriating. It’s immoral.  And it must stop.

This is an unprecedented challenge for our country, but I am confident we will prevail.  Just like other severe crises in our history, this pandemic is bringing out the best of America and Arizona. 

I am inspired every day by stories of Arizonans who are stepping up to serve others and put their own concerns and fears aside.  During this crisis, our country is not divided. Our states are not divided. Our communities are not divided. Instead, Arizonans are being selfless and serving others. Young people are delivering groceries to the elderly.  Healthy people are volunteering at food banks and donating blood. Neighbors are pitching in to provide childcare for essential healthcare workers. Faith communities are delivering care packages to the vulnerable and first responders.  They are rising to the occasion because that is what we do.

So here in the Senate, what are we supposed to do? Follow their example. Rise to the occasion. Put selfish motives aside. Stop with the opportunism. Stop with the ideological wish list. And start voting “yes” immediately to get relief to Americans and Arizonans now."

Arizona News / Coronavirus / Top Stories / Yuma County

Lisa Sturgis

Lisa Sturgis recently returned to KYMA as its Digital Content Director, but she has a long history with the Desert Southwest.

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