Issues Facing America
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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Madam President, we may be back to work carrying out what should be the normal business of the Senate, but from what I have observed, the American people really don't see this as just another day. They are a little bit anxious, and I really think that it is because, over the past week, they have witnessed some of the most divisive news cycles in recent memory.
Allegations of voter fraud are running rampant. These have been unanswered and ignored by most media outlets. Liberal operatives have sent up test balloons on the creation of official enemies lists. Think about that. We have them making enemies lists, wanting to execute a campaign of personal destruction against people with whom they disagree. What does that say about treasuring free speech?
The most popular social media platforms--oh--have honestly just outdone themselves by making matters worse by slapping these scary labels on content that is meant to inform and to spark bipartisan debate.
Then you have email services that are locking down access to email lists because the distribution is something with which they disagree. This is what has happened to millions of Americans. They gasp every time they see these markers on content, when they can't get to an email list, when they hear about a group they belong to that they can't hear from or communicate with.
Yes, it is censorship, and it is something that has divided people, families, neighbors, friends, coworkers, and colleagues.
I will tell you, many of them remain divided, but I think we have to say they have been engaged. According to the Pew Research Center, Americans participated in this election cycle at the highest rate in 120 years. Election officials still haven't finished their counts, and already we know that more than 144 million ballots were cast this cycle.
I would venture to say that many of those millions of individuals are watching us. They want to see what we are going to do next, how we are going to conduct ourselves. They don't really care if it takes a little multitasking; they are saying it is time for Congress to do its job.
You can look at all of the exit polling on the favorability ratings of Congress. I will say it is discouragingly low--the regard in which the American people hold their elected representatives collective body. It is time for us to get some things done.
Judging by the footage of demonstrations in many of America's major cities, you might not remember that we are still dealing with the effects of a global pandemic. It seems that for a few days, people forgot there is a pandemic.
Democrats in the House and the Senate have wasted months of precious time obstructing the passage of targeted COVID relief legislation that Tennesseans and New Yorkers and Californians and every other American who owns a business or supports a family needs not tomorrow or today; they needed it yesterday, last week, last month.
I have spent the past several months coming to this floor to tell the stories of Tennesseans, Tennessee small business people, Tennessee employers who are desperately in need of relief, trying to help my colleagues on the other side of the aisle understand that there is fear and pain in certain sectors of our economy. It is really so inappropriate that those fears and that pain are something they have chosen to ignore. To be frank, it has been like talking to a brick wall. There has been no response.
Just last week, I met with the board of the Academy of Country Music for a very hard discussion about the future of their industry. Not one single venue or one studio musician or one sound engineer--their whole industry shut down. This is an industry that has shut down. They did nothing wrong, mind you. They showed up for work. They built businesses. They hired people. They used independent contractors. They paid their bills. They paid their taxes. They did nothing wrong. But the entertainment industry--live entertainment--is shut down.
This isn't the huge record labels and big entertainment companies that many people think are the music industry. These are the mom-and- pops. These are the small businesses, the sole proprietors, the independent contractors. These are the people who set up and tear down stages. They put on these amazing sound and light displays that people get so excited about seeing and that really make music and entertainment come to life. They produce the music that you walk around listening to in your earbuds. The support staff at the venues clean up your beer cans and ticket stubs after you have enjoyed a show. I tell you, they also are the artists, the storytellers, and I really think our creative and cultural historians.
This industry is absolutely dying. They are not the only ones. There are so many other sectors of our economy that are at a standstill. They are suffering, and so many other people have been suffering. They are tired of what they see as posturing here in DC, using the hurt and the suffering of people as just a political bargaining chip. Do you know what? They have noticed. They have been watching over the past few months. They know that very little has been accomplished, and they think it is time to stop putting politics over people. It is time to stop saying ``We want the issue if it is good for us'' because people are looking for solutions.
They were waiting for a mandate--our friends over on the left--a mandate they were sure was going to come their way on November 3, but the American people refused to deliver them a mandate. You see it in elections that took place at the local and the State level. You see it in the congressional elections and certainly here in this Chamber.
So far, Speaker Pelosi has refused any offer to compromise. Every offer and gesture that has been made by the White House or this Chamber has been refused. She has clung to that $3 trillion parody of a relief bill that she has stuffed to the brim with billions for liberal pet projects that have nothing to do with COVID recovery--nothing at all. Isn't it interesting that her pet project is not the American people? Wouldn't you think she would want to solve some of these problems? But no--she would rather play politics.
This absurd delay has come at great cost. We have so many Tennesseans, indeed, across this country, millions of families and small businesses that will tell you they are in damage control mode because Democrats refuse to allow them the dignity of hope that targeted relief would provide. ``Dignity''--that is a nice word. And we have so many people who are grasping, trying to pay their bills, keep their businesses alive. I will say that our friends across the aisle twice--twice, twice--have declined to vote for targeted relief.
It is not too late to step up on behalf of those who have lost just about everything and those who still have a shot at coming out on the other side of this pandemic with their livelihoods intact. It is not too late to pass legislation that would provide better unemployment insurance, more help for small businesses, resources for schools and universities, vaccine research funding, testing funding, and liability protection--targeted relief for millions of Americans who have said: This what we need in order to keep people employed and to keep our businesses open.
The legislation is written. All that needs to happen is our friends across the aisle need to say: We are ready to vote on this package. Let's do another round of PPP. Let's do a plus-up in unemployment. Let's do that money for vaccines and testing and resources for schools and universities. Let's give companies the liability protection they need to open their doors. Let's give these entertainment venues the liability protection they need in order to again get on the road, have concerts, play that music Americans love to listen to. It is there.
To my friends, let's have no filibusters, no more distractions, and no more extravagant wish lists of pet projects. For goodness' sake, put your politics aside, and let's put the people first. Let's provide the relief they are seeking.
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