On CNN’s ‘New Day’, Schumer Calls For Passing The Heroes Act, Slams Republicans For Unnecessary Delays And Partisanship Amid Historic Coronavirus Public Health And Economic CrisisJuly 21, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on CNN’s New Day and called for Senate action on the House-passed Heroes Act. Senator Schumer also condemned the delayed and partisan, behind-closed-doors efforts of Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans to draft an insufficient corporations-first bill to address the coronavirus pandemic. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Alisyn Camerota: We are hours away from top Democratic leaders and the White House meeting to discuss the next coronavirus package. Some proposals that President Trump is pushing are already running into trouble even with some members of his own party. Joining us now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator, thank you for being here. So tell us about this meeting that you're going to have with Meadows and Mnuchin? What's your message to them and what do you expect to accomplish?
Sen. Schumer: Well, our message to them is let's get going. It's over 60 days since the House passed the Heroes Act, which is a strong, bold, and comprehensive proposal to deal with the greatest crisis—the greatest health crisis we have had in a hundred years, the greatest economic in 75. And as you mentioned, Alisyn, the Republicans don't even seem to have their own act together. It’s hard to negotiate when the president says one thing, Senate Republicans say another, and many of them are divided. So we hope they are going to be unified and present something to us and present something in detail. Because up now they have been dithering. They have wasted 60 days as the crisis gets worse and worse and worse.
Alisyn Camerota: Senator, explain to us if you can what this pushback the White House is giving lawmakers, including Republican lawmakers, about not wanting to include money—additional money—for testing and tracing. We have a list of all even the Republicans who are saying that they desperately need more money for testing and tracing. Do you understand the logic from the White House in terms of why they don’t want to do it?
Sen. Schumer: No, it's so typical. Look, President Trump is really probably number one to blame for this crisis being a lot worse than it is and probably the number one reason and there are many, you know. He dithered, he said it’s going to go away, he tells people not to wear masks and all of that. But the number one reason we're in such trouble is because we don't have adequate testing and adequate tracing. If you compare America to the other countries, of the developed countries of the world, whether in Europe or East Asia, many of them had coronavirus as fierce as we had. Italy, Spain, South Korea. But they're now getting back a little bit to normal because they had a strong testing regime and it's befuddling, it's confusing, and it's detrimental to the health of millions of Americans why the president refuses to do. He has plenty of tools to do stuff on testing now, such as invoking the Defense Production Act. We need more help on testing. He's fighting even with his own Republicans on this. It's totally, totally a dereliction of leadership. It's like there's no one there leading the country at a time of great crisis.
Alisyn Camerota: As I understand it, what the White House logic is is that there were billions of dollars in a previous stimulus bill that hasn't been spent, that was designated for testing, I guess, and tracing and it hasn't yet been doled out.
Sen. Schumer: Well, some of the money hasn't been doled out because the White House hasn't doled it out. The president seems to think if we don't test, corona will go away. It's an absurd proposition, but that's why he's resisted this all along. That's why he's resisted the Faucis when they say we need more testing. It makes no sense. There is money there but it's not close to enough and we propose more and many Republicans agree with us. But the president is there and I'll make one other point. Senate Republicans almost never buck the president. They're afraid of him. They don't like to buck him. They know he can be mean and vindictive and angry. So even when they know he's wrong, they don't buck him and I'm really worried that we won't have adequate testing in this new bill. The Heroes bill has a very good, strong, adequate testing plan.
Alisyn Camerota: How about that $600, the supplemental $600 that are going to unemployed Americans that will run out this week. What happens when that runs out?
Sen. Schumer: What happens is millions of people go into poverty. Every expert has said that the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance, which I proposed with Senator Wyden. The Republicans have resisted—but thank God it's in the bill, it's kept millions of people able to feed their families, pay their mortgage, pay their rent. People who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It runs out the end of this month. And if we don't renew it and renew it in a robust way, millions more will sink back into poverty and lose their homes, get kicked out of their apartments, and not be able to feed their families. So it makes no sense to cut back at a time when we have over 20 million unemployed and we have the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. To cut back on unemployment insurance makes no sense whatsoever. And that's what they're proposing. And then one of their proposals says, “Well, we’ll pay people to go back to work.” Well, the people who are going back to work are getting a salary. It’s the people who can’t get back to work who we need to help.
Alisyn Camerota: And are you going to be able to get that done or is there too much resistance?
Sen. Schumer: Well, we'll see. I mean in the last three COVID bills, initially the Senate Republicans were stingy and behind the ball. McConnell put on these very narrow plans. He called them bipartisan but they were negotiated, as he said, in his own office with no input from us. We Democrats in the House and Senate resisted and then they came around to a much better plan. I'm hopeful that will happen again.
Alisyn Camerota: I want to ask you about Russian interference—not in 2016, in 2020. Because there's a development this morning as you know. So top Congressional Democrats have sent a cryptic letter—I assume you were on this letter—on Monday that a foreign power is attempting to interfere again. Obviously this has been a fear of lots of intelligence experts. Part of it is classified so we don't know all of the details. However, apparently it is intelligence related to a possible Russian backed attempt to smear the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden. Here's what The New York Times’ David Sanger has found along with his colleagues. “Democrats contend that the Russian-linked information is being funneled to a committee headed by Senator Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is investigating Mr. Biden and his son, who was once paid as a board member of a Ukrainian energy company.” Senator, what can you tell us this morning?
Sen. Schumer: Well, not much because it's classified. But look we all know that any foreign power when they interfere in our elections, as we all know Russia did in 2016 despite the fact that the president denies it, he seems to deny almost everything that's fact and reality these days, it's at the wellspring of our democracy. Our elections. The Founding Fathers in the Constitution worried about foreign interference in elections and their prescience is proving true today because it’s happening. We’ve demanded that the FBI Director, Mr. Wray, brief the every member of the House and Senate as to what’s happening so we can know what's happening—it’ll be classified—and then do things about it. Let's hope he says yes.
Alisyn Camerota: What would you do?
Sen. Schumer: Well, we have to know the details before we can tell you what we would do. But we should be doing everything to prevent foreign interference in our elections.
Alisyn Camerota: We are about a hundred days away from the election. How worried are you on a scale of 1 to 10 about interference in the election?
Sen. Schumer: I'm very worried. They did it before. It's a lot of countries are trying to do it. We have to be prepared. We have to be guarded. We have to make sure they don't. There was less of it in 2018 than 2016. But no one knows if that's because some of these countries decided to lay off and give us a sense of complacency or not. But we should be ever vigilant—ever vigilant. If people think that a foreign country helped determine our election and lose faith in our democracy, that’s the beginning of the end of this grand experiment in democracy that has been so successful for more than 200 and some odd years.
Alisyn Camerota: I want to ask you about the Supreme Court. We are very happy, obviously, that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to be on the mend out of the hospital, but it does raise the question as to what would happen if through retirement or something else there was a vacancy on the Court. And Republicans have begun to talk about what they would do. And they say that they would absolutely allow a nomination and a confirmation even right now during this election as well as after the election. After November regardless of who wins, they would up until January of a new administration still go through that whole process.
Sen. Schumer: Well, I'll say two things. Let's hope that doesn't come to pass. Let's all hope and pray for Ruth Bader Ginsburg's continued health. But second, one thing is certain. Leader McConnell twists the rules. Sometimes he's for the rules, sometimes he wants to change the rules for whatever he thinks benefits him at the moment. That does not serve our democracy, that does not serve separation of powers, that does not serve what this country needs.
Alisyn Camerota: Here's what Senator John Thune says about it. In terms of will, they would fill the vacancy. He says, “We will. That would be part of this year. We would move on it.”
Sen. Schumer: Let's hope we don't have to even confront that awful type situation.
Alisyn Camerota: Senator Chuck Schumer, we really appreciate you covering all of this and giving us all this information. Thank you very much.
Sen. Schumer: Thank you, Alisyn. Have a good day.