Washington, D.C. – This evening, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper regarding the help the American Rescue Plan will provide to the American people. Below is a transcript of Senator Schumer’s interview, which you can also view here:
Cooper: Leader Schumer, what's your message to millions of Americans tonight who are out of work struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic? The expectations for this relief bill are extraordinary high.
Schumer: Well, help is on the way for so many Americans, the vast, overwhelming majority of Americans who need help. There will be money in people's pockets – checks of $1400 will go to middle class and working families. The vast majority of Americans will receive those.
There will be vaccines in people's arms far more quickly than people had anticipated. The pace will be picking up.
There will be money to keep schools open and safely open so all the discombobulation in terms of kids learning and parents having to deal with kids who are at home will be gone and there will be the kind of help to feed people who have lost their jobs and need food; to keep people in their homes; to pay the rent.
This is the broadest, most comprehensive bill to help middle class and working people, poor people, that's come along in decades. It is broad. It is comprehensive, and it will be very effective.
Cooper: I spoke to Senator Bernie Sanders last night. He said even though the bill doesn't include a federal minimum wage hike it is in his view “the most significant legislation for working people that's been passed in decades.” It sounds like you agree with that.
Schumer: Totally agree. We worked closely on this bill and Bernie was very, very helpful in getting this bill passed and done.
Cooper: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell attacked this relief bill on the chamber floor today. He called it very liberal and purely partisan and accused you of putting “lock step party unity substance and ahead of bipartisan compromise.”
Schumer: The biggest bill McConnell put on the floor was a bill of about the same size, $1.7 trillion. It benefitted the top 1%. It was tax cuts for the very wealthy and for big corporations.
Our bill helps people in the middle class and who are poor. It will cut in half child poverty – poor kids who don't have much of a chance and then grow up not having to have good, full, happy, productive lives are going to get a much better break here. Mitch McConnell is somebody [who] instead of just opposing everything and trying to thwart Biden and be so political, he ought to be joining us to help the American people. Close to half of all Republican voters like this bill. This is not a partisan bill. But McConnell is being highly partisan and hurting America.
Cooper: Some Senate Republicans did meet with President Biden early on; Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney. Could more have been done to get some of them on board?
Schumer: No; you know, we made a big mistake in 2009 and '10. Susan Collins was part of that mistake. We cut back on the stimulus dramatically and we stayed in recession for five years. What was offered by the Republicans was so far away from what’s needed, so far away from what Biden proposed that he thought that they were not being serious and wanting to really negotiate.
Cooper: You got the bill across the finish line in the Senate. It really came down to an 11th hour agreement with conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. Given the narrow majority, does Manchin have de facto veto power over future legislation?
Schumer: Well look – originally, Joe Manchin wanted to do an amendment with Senator Portman. I said that's going to kill the bill, Joe. That is going to kill the bill. He thought about it for several hours and realized that and then said, okay, let's come to a compromise, and we did. We didn't change things very much. We changed it a little in his direction.
I would have preferred not to do it. But this bill, even with that change, is still so overwhelmingly strong in helping poor and working people in America that I think it's getting huge plaudits from the American people.
When people start getting their checks, when they start getting the vaccines, when school starts opening, when kids can get out of poverty, that's huge. That's huge, Anderson.
Cooper: If it is that popular, given that or assuming that, despite that, there is still this unified Republican opposition to it. Are you hopeful Republicans will join Democrats on anything or Democrats will join Republicans on anything in the near future?
Schumer: Well, I always say we want to work with Republicans where we can but we have to get big, bold change done and that's our number one priority. I have hope. I'm always an optimist – you know that, Anderson – that now that Republicans have seen we can do it without them, they’ll realize that they ought to try and work with us but we are not going to make the mistake of 2008 and 2009 and do such a small, measly proposal that it won't get us out of the mess that we're in now, the mess health wise; the mess economically and getting the economy going to the way it was 20, 30 years ago when people's wages went up regularly, when unemployment went down regularly. We've had a rather placid economy, and I wouldn't say placid. We've had a weak, limp economy over the last ten years. We got to do a lot better than that to help the American people, give them hope. The American optimism that is so important is leaving people and then they turn to a demagogue, a bigot like Donald Trump. We have to stop that. There’s a moral obligation for us to stop that. And the way to do it is show positive change that helps people so there is a positive path and they don't turn to demagogues.
Cooper: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, I appreciate your time, thank you.