WASHINGTON – Republican Whip and Select Subcommittee Ranking Member Steve Scalise (R-La.) opened today’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing by re-emphasizing China’s active deception with the emergence of the coronavirus, Democrats’ unwillingness to hold the country accountable for the pandemic, and America’s ability to fully recover economically.
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Ranking Member Scalise notes Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and the Trump administration have handled the economic crisis effectively and the United States continues to add good, well-paying jobs at record-breaking speed. In addition, Whip Scalise reiterated the importance of state and local governments continuing to reopen safely, while acknowledging the incredible work of the administration’s vaccine Operation Warp Speed. He championed the most transparent review process in history for a vaccine and concluded that once approved, will be safe and distributed quickly.
Below are his remarks as prepared:
Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding today’s hearing.
Chairman Powell, thank you for appearing here today. We all thank you for your service. Earlier this year, we had former Chairs of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernake and Janet Yellin. Chairman Powell, they had it easy during their tenure compared to what you have been through these past six months.
China has long declared a goal of over taking the United States economically and militarily. At the outset of this pandemic, China lied about the emergence of the most dangerous virus in over 100 years. China refused to allow American scientists into to the country to help and to assess the threat. At the same time China was closing down domestic travel, they were sending thousands of people a day overseas – including to the United States – setting the table for a global pandemic. In the months of January and February China hoarded medical PPE. The Chinese Communist Party banned the exports of surgical gloves, masks, and gowns to the United States, hoarding PPE for themselves while they lied to the world about COVID’s dangers. China not only covered up an emerging pandemic. They spread the pandemic and made sure the rest of the world was not prepared to thwart the virus.
Still, to this day, this House majority calls China’s role in this pandemic a distraction. The majority has held zero hearings on China’s role. We’ve had celebrities testify, but not the Chinese ambassador. We cannot fully understand this pandemic and the impact it has had on the America people without understanding the role of the Chinese communist party and the Chinese government.
But let’s start with where America was prior to COVID. Prior to COVID-19, the economy added jobs every month since the election of President Trump. Prior to COVID-19, since the President’s election, the economy added over 7 million jobs. This is more than the population of Massachusetts in 2018. This is 5.1 million more jobs than the Congressional Budget Office projected in its final forecast before the 2016 election. In 2019, real median household income increased by more than $4,000, reaching an all-time high of $68,700. This represents a 6.8 percent one-year increase, which is the largest one-year increase in median income on record. As income grew by $4,379 in 2019 alone, this represents more than the entire median income gains during the entire eight years of the previous administration by over $1,300.
Poverty hit a record low in 2019. The official poverty rate fell to an all-time record low of 10.5 percent, and over 4 million people were lifted out of poverty between 2018 and 2019 for a 1.3 percentage point decrease. This was the largest reduction in poverty in over 50 years.
Minority groups led the way in poverty alleviation in 2019. Compared to the overall poverty rate reduction of 1.3 percentage points, black poverty fell by 2.0 percentage points, Hispanic poverty fell by 1.8 percentage points, and Asian poverty fell by 2.8 percentage points. The poverty rate fell to an all-time record low for every race and ethnic group in 2019. The Black poverty rate fell below 20 percent for the first time in history. Between the time President Trump took office and February 2020, African American employment increased by 1.3 million.
And then the virus hit our shores. And President Trump listened to the experts and took decisive action. Travel banned from China. Travel banned with Europe. 15 days to stop the spread – which he then extended another 30 days. Dr. Fauci testified before this committee – each of those decisions saved lives.
We put the strongest economy in American history in a self-induced coma. The pain was real. 40 percent of the job losses occurred among people making less than $40,000 a year. In my home state, almost 45 percent of the accommodation and food service workforce have lost their jobs – an industry dominated by low income and minority workers.
Under President Trump’s leadership, Congress responded in a bipartisan way. The CARES Act provided a lifeline to the American people and America’s small businesses. And it put your team to work Chairman Powell. While the main street lending facility has perhaps taken a slightly different path than originally anticipated, the Fed provided a needed backstop and injected needed liquidity at a critical moment.
The United States had the smallest economic contraction of any major Western economy in the first half of the year. And now, America has begun its economic recovery. Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 1.4 million jobs in August. With the record-breaking job gains in May (+2.7 million), June (+4.8 million), July (+1.7 million), and now August (+1.4 million), the economy has added 10.6 million jobs over the past 4 months. The unemployment rate (U-3) ticked down by 1.8 percentage points (p.p.) to 8.4 percent in August, beating market expectations. African American employment has increased by 1.3 million (+7.9%) from the recent April low.
So how do we keep the great American recovery on track. I first want to emphasize a point Chairman Powell has made: “Our economy will recover fully from this difficult period.” The Chairman also testified yesterday that “The path forward will depend on keeping the virus under control, and on policy actions taken at all levels of government.”
State and local governments need to continue to reopen safely. Schools must continue to reopen for in person learning. And we must continue to support the incredible work of operation warp speed. We are on a path to find a vaccine faster than in any time in human history. We are also on a path to have the most transparent review process in history – meaning no corners are being cut, and significantly more peer review of clinical trials than normal.
Multiple companies have already moved into phase three trials. Several companies have already begun releasing the design and protocols. Congress put the resources behind Operation Warp Speed. American innovation and ingenuity is leading the world to solution to a hundred year pandemic. And yet, some politicians running for higher office are questioning the credibility of the vaccine. This is irresponsible, destructive and potentially deadly if these voices succeed in convincing vulnerable Americans to avoid taking a vaccine. I hope all of us on this subcommittee send a clear message – the process is safe, no corners are being cut, and a vaccine, once approved, will be safe and distributed fairly and quickly. I yield back.