WASHINGTON, D.C.— Republican Whip and Ranking Member of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise (R-La.) opened the Select Subcommittee’s first public hearing by advocating for the subcommittee to return to Washington, D.C. to hold in-person hearings focused on safely getting America back to work and holding China accountable.
Whip Scalise dialed into the virtual hearing from the United States Capitol and blasted Democrats for harassing steelworkers, welders, and truck drivers in the subcommittee’sfirst official action. Scalise also pointed out that the burden of stay-at-home orders falls most heavily on those who can least afford a lengthy reopening and urged the subcommittee to focus on the logistics of reopening America.
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for holding this briefing on a very important topic—how do we safely and smartly reopen the country and help people get back to work. The good news is that a vast majority of states have already started to show us how we can safely reopen. Unfortunately, the fact that the House is still not back in session runs counter to the very message that we can safely reopen. This subcommittee, along with the rest of Congress, should be back here in Washington for this briefing. Our job is to help show America that we have begun a path to safely and smartly resuming normal life. A virtual briefing unnecessarily sends the wrong message. Congress should be leading the way—we should not be the last to come back.
“This Subcommittee has 12 members. There are literally dozens of empty hearing rooms on Capitol Hill that today could safely hold this briefing. With just 12 members, we can achieve model social distancing without difficulty.
“In fact, let me show you. I am here at the Capitol and we’ve set up this room for all 12 members—as you can see, there is ample space—with social distancing more than six feet apart for each member.
“And because we can do this briefing in person, we should do this in person. President Trump is showing up to work every day with his team. The Senate is in session. The United States House of Representatives should lead by example and be here working too.
“This Committee should lead by example. Put the partisanship aside as let’s work together to show America how the largest relief package in American history is working and how we can safely and smartly reopen. So, what was the very first action of this subcommittee? It was not to help families and small businesses get back on their feet, and it was not to hold China accountable.
“The first act of this subcommittee was to attack blue-collar workers, who are now living in fear of being laid off if their companies give in to the bullying tactics of the Democrats on this committee. Your first act was to attack steelworkers, welders, and truck drivers. Mr. Chairman, you have recently received a letter from both Democrat and Republican Members of Congress urging you to reconsider your demand that the PPP money be returned because these are “exactly the type of companies that the PPP program was created to assist.” And you all voted for the bill.
“Why did the committee start by putting hundreds of steelworker jobs in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio at risk, and has yet you had nothing to say about the lies of the Chinese government that led directly to the loss of thousands of American lives? Why aren’t we beginning by trying to get to the bottom of the World Health Organization’s misinformation on the seriousness of COVID-10, and WHO’s apologies for China’s indefensible behavior?
“America has begun the path to reopening and recovery. 36 states have moved into Phase 1 of safe reopening. My home state of Louisiana moves to Phase 1 this Friday. Louisiana became an early hotspot and we’ve seen a disproportionate share of suffering. But my state relies on the lessons of Katrina—we’re strong, resilient people, just like the rest of America. We pull together, we help each other out through tough times, and we work to make tomorrow better.
“I have talked extensively with state and local officials, heads of major hospitals, doctors, business leaders, faith-based organizations, heads of major trade associations, sports executives, as well as small business owners like restauranteurs—they all have very smart ideas specific to their industry or business about what can be done now to start safely reopening.
“Each state and locality must to continue to take a series of steps—some common across the country and some unique to their circumstances—to move from phase one to phase two and three. The federal government needs to continue its historic pace of ramping up production and distribution of PPE, tests, and other medical supplies. As of May 10, FEMA, HHS and the private sector have worked night and day to deliver or ship:
“Over 90 million N95 respirators, 126.6 million masks, 9 million face shields, 21 million surgical gowns, 993 million surgical gloves, nearly 11,000 ventilators, and 8,500 medical station beds.
By the end of the week, we pass the 10 million mark for tests performed. We are now conducting 300,000 tests a day. Done smartly—focusing on front-line heroes like our health workers, first responders, essential workers, etc. And we won’t slow down.
“The practice of non-COVID-related medicine has begun again. It must, for the sake of the health of our nation. Women put off mammograms; cancer treatments were delayed; treatment for mental health suspended; individuals are delaying or avoiding altogether seeking medical attention in cases of heart attack, stroke, appendicitis. We need to make sure people aren’t neglecting their personal health as they deal with this pandemic.
“Re-opening must proceed so basic medical care can resume.
“After the strongest economy in our lifetime, with record low unemployment, 33 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the past 7 weeks. The job losses have fallen disproportionally on lower-income workers. We must continue to smartly and safely reopen because the burden falls too heavily on those least able to wait for a delayed recovery. We know that rapid increases in unemployment are associated with rising rates of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide.
“The Trump Administration continues to implement the largest relief effort in American history. The Trump Administration has done an incredible job standing up the Paycheck Protection Program. As of today, the program has made more than four million loans made totaling over $520 billion. What an incredible success We saved millions of jobs—which makes recovery easier and faster moving forward. We have helped hospitals, first responders and other providers. We have helped save multi-generation family-owned small businesses, assisted farmers and those involved in the food supply. We have provided direct cash relief to tens of millions of Americans.
“But America does not want to hide in fear. America wants recovery.
“Businesses, schools, churches, stadiums, museums, are all innovating and re-imaging and redesigning what a safe environment looks like. Restaurants have worked together on reopening guidance. Retailers, manufacturers, hospitals—all working in ways only Americans can—to get the job done. How to space tables, how to reimagine how someone enters a stadium, increased mobile pay options, plastic shields guards at check out, temp checks, more use of PPE in the private sector—all of these are happening because the process of reopening has begun.
“Testing and contact tracing are an important part of a large multi-dimensional effort being led by President Trump and being implemented by everyday Americans from all corners of our society. But testing is just one part of an overall strategy.
“That is what today’s briefing should be about—the subcommittee coming together—in person—discussing how we move from phase 1 to phase 2 and beyond. Instead of beating up hardworking Americans, we should be lifting them up and helping them through this, while we also focus on holding China accountable and bringing back the supply chain of life-saving drugs and PPE that China has used as a leverage point against us. The American people do not need and do not want a political sideshow.
“The American people are smart and strong. We don’t cower or live in fear. We confront our challenges and move forward. We love great comeback stories. Let’s rise to this challenge, and let’s help America safely come back one more time.”