Senator Blackburn Talks COVID-19 on the Senate Floor

December 10, 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) spoke on the Senate floor to shed light on Speaker Pelosi’s and the rest of the Democratic Party’s continuous blocking of targeted COVID relief for the American people.

To watch Senator Blackburn’s speech, click below or here.

You can read the transcript recorded in the Congressional Records below or click here.

MRS. BLACKBURN: Mr. President, I have to tell you, every day, I am

hearing from Tennesseans who are asking what we are going to do about

COVID relief. It is coming up in nearly every conversation that I

have--with our county mayors, with citizens, with employers and

employees; conversations with those who have lost their jobs through no

fault of their own. Why can't we get something done?

  The phones really started ringing last week when Speaker Pelosi, the

Speaker of the House, accidentally revealed that it was politics and

not principle that convinced her to spend months--months--standing

between the American people and targeted relief that they are asking

for and that they desperately need. It was politics--all politics to

her. People were pawns that she was moving around, trying to get her


  It is disgusting. It is a tragedy. But I will tell you this: It is

nothing new. In fact, since July, Democrats have continuously blocked

efforts to provide targeted relief. The minority leader obstructed

these efforts in the hopes of passing a $3 trillion bill. That is

right, trillion--$3 trillion bill. It was filled to the brim with

partisan proposals that had nothing do with the pandemic and a bailout

for fiscally irresponsible States and cities.

  Tennesseans are very much opposed to having their hard-earned dollars

that are tax dollars that come to the Federal Government used to bail

out States that have chosen not to be fiscally responsible. They say:

Above all else, do not bail out these States, these cities, these

pension funds.

  Let's be clear to the American people. It is the Speaker of the House

and the minority leader who are holding noncontroversial relief--they

are holding it hostage. There should be another round of PPP. There

should be another increase, a plus-up, of unemployment. There should be

more money for vaccines, testing, and getting children back to school.

But, oh, no. For months, what did they want to do? Play politics. Play

politics with people's lives. If that isn't the most tone-deaf thing

that I have ever heard, I don't know what is. Perhaps some of my

friends across the aisle should check their mail and make certain that

their office phones are being answered. People are quite upset with


  It doesn't stop there. I wish it did. It only gets worse. In the

fall, the Democrats filibustered targeted relief proposals not once but

twice and rejected a much needed extension of the Paycheck Protection Program almost as

soon as it was proposed. This month, more of the same. Their refusal to

negotiate in good faith has made it abundantly clear to the business

owners, the healthcare providers, and millions of other struggling

Americans that partisan grandstanding is more of a priority for

Democrats than doing their jobs.

  The American people are not pawns, and it is time my colleagues in

the minority stopped treating them as such. The House Speaker and

Senate Democrats might have all the time in the world to stall. Maybe

they are pretty comfortable with where they are. But outside of this

Chamber, for a lot of our families and small businesses that are

struggling, it is the eleventh hour. Now is not the moment to strong-

arm the U.S. Senate into rubberstamping a radical liberal wish list. It

is time to step up and deliver relief--targeted relief, relief we all

agree will mean the difference between survival for many of these small

businesses and economic collapse; money and support for vaccines;

another full round of PPP funding for the businesses that need it most;

and support for our frontline heroes and essential workers.

  This bullet list of absolute essentials must also include reasonable,

responsible liability protections for small businesses and healthcare

workers. These protections are the flip side of relief funding. Without

them, we take these business owners and workers out of one bad

situation and put them right into another one. Without them, we

effectively force entire industries to choose between economic survival

or, in the case of healthcare workers, literal survival and death by

opportunistic lawsuits. We can't allow this to happen.

  One of the things that I have noticed this past year is how critical

it is for us to be able to articulate problems and lay the foundation

to address them before an emergency strikes.

  In Tennessee, as in many other States, the number of people who live

in rural and remote areas poses challenges when it comes to providing a

variety of services that we all consider essential, chiefly among them,

healthcare delivery and access to high-speed internet. I have worked

with healthcare practitioners and advocates to cut a path forward for

the widespread use of telemedicine.

  Last year, I introduced the Rural Health Agenda to increase access to

healthcare for the 60 million Americans who leave in rural areas. A

crucial component of that legislative package was a set of provisions

that lifted unnecessary regulatory barriers standing in the way of

access to telemedicine. As always, it is the redtape that slows up

progress. The pandemic only highlighted the importance of opening up

contact-free access to healthcare.

  Fortunately, in March, after a lot of meetings with the White House

and Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, we were

able to roll back a particularly frustrating regulation preventing the

use of telemedicine by Medicare enrollees.

  Provisions I supported as part of the CARES Act further expanded

access to telemedicine by removing even more of that redtape and

providing funding for reimbursement to frontline healthcare providers.

  Of course, access to telehealth and access to high-speed internet go

hand in hand. You can't really have one without the other.

  This week, I learned that the FCC, as a result of the recent Rural

Digital Opportunity Fund auction, has now made some great steps, and

Tennessee is going to receive about $150 million to help close the

digital divide over the next decade. These new connections will be a

game changer for rural and underserved communities. Not only will they

open up access to telehealth, distance learning, and remote work

opportunities, they will open up the local economy and encourage growth

and outside investment because these dollars are targeted to unserved


  This award, coupled with CARES Act funding put to work earlier this

year, will help us build on our prepandemic work on behalf of rural and

unserved Americans.

  The Internet Exchange Act, a bipartisan bill I sponsored to provide

grant funding for broadband infrastructure, recently reported out of

our Commerce Committee.

  The pieces are, indeed, falling into place, and, hopefully, we can

keep the momentum going and finally get this job done: closing the

digital divide, providing everyone with access to high-speed internet

and allowing communities that have been cut off from economic

development, from telehealth, from remote learning to enhanced law

enforcement--allowing them to benefit.

  It is not just a matter of connectivity or convenience. It is an

investment in a better quality of life for all Americans who call the

rural parts of this country home.

  I yield the floor.

  I suggest the absence of a quorum.