On CNN’s The Lead With Jake Tapper, Schumer Lays Out Painful Consequences Of Republicans’ Dithering And Division Amid COVID Pandemic, Says “I Have Never Seen A More Dysfunctional Party In A Time Of Crisis Than This Republican Party.”July 22, 2020
Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on CNN’s The Lead With Jake Tapper and discussed the inability of Senate Republicans and the Trump administration to put forward a bill to combat the coronavirus pandemic after months of delays. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Jake Tapper: The White House and Senate Republicans are at odds—not with Democrats but with one another—after a full day of negotiations over a new coronavirus relief bill and with less than three weeks until their August recess. Joining us now, Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. Senator, thanks so much for joining us. So the unemployment rate is 11%. And at the end of this month, as you know, the extra money in unemployment insurance that had been provided from previous stimulus bills, that runs out. What is your message to Americans who don't know how they're going to be able to afford food or rent next month?
Sen. Schumer: Well, you're right, Jake. We have a whole bunch of cliffs that we're up against—unemployment insurance runs out; tomorrow, rental assistance runs out. Millions, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands could be thrown out of their homes. State and local governments have another deadline on August 1st where they don't have enough money, and they're going to lay off tens of thousands of more people.
And why did this happen? Just what you said. Because our Republican colleagues are just dithering. They’re divided. They don’t talk to each other. They spend more time talking about getting rid of statues or not getting rid of statues than about the greatest economic crisis we've had in 75 years, the greatest health crisis in a hundred years. They’re totally—it's pathetic.
McConnell went to the floor today and gave a speech. He talked about The New York Times having a writer leaving them, about the cancel culture—not one mention of COVID when we're in such a great crisis. What they have to do is get their act together.
The president, the Senate Republicans got to get together and present us with something. We told the Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows yesterday—Nancy and I, Speaker Pelosi and I—give us a concrete plan in writing, and then we can start negotiating. They haven't been able to do it. You can't negotiate with thin air.
Jake Tapper: There's a big debate right now about opening schools. And, frankly, it's a horrible, Hobbesian choice. Remote learning is awful. It causes problems. It forces working people to have to choose between childcare and employment. On the other hand, opening the schools poses serious health risks to students, to teachers, and to spreading throughout the community. What do you tell your constituents about this problem that, frankly, their government has not been able to solve?
Sen. Schumer: Yeah, we, Democrats, have had a solution for weeks. And it's very simple. Everyone wants the schools to open—but only if they open safely. And their schools can do that if they have the resources.
I spoke to a school district in Upstate New York. They have 4,000 students, 500 faculty. If they need a mask every day, that alone—and that's what the experts say—a new mask every day, that alone is hundreds of thousands of dollars. They have to change their bus routes. They can't have the kids sitting right next to each other, so you have to double the bus routes. A lot of the schools want to change their gymnasiums and cafeterias into classrooms. They can do this all with money and open up safely. But, again, we've had a plan—we've asked our Republican colleagues to give us a counterplan. They say nothing. And this is what the frustration is. We are frustrated because there are so many people hurting in such a great crisis. And we’re willing to sit down and talk with them and negotiate and they can't come back with any answers.
The party is divided. Donald Trump, they know, doesn't know what the heck he's doing. They know in their hearts he's responsible for this crisis in a lot of different ways and yet they can't break from him. So he says, two days ago, amazingly, no more money for testing. Testing is a key. It's one of the reasons the European countries and the eastern Asian countries are so far ahead of us, which we should be ashamed of because we had the best healthcare system in this country. But the president wants to eliminate testing. The Republicans are afraid to say no to him. And we can't eliminate testing money. It's a key. The frustration. Forget me. How about all the people who will be thrown out of their houses, who will not get unemployment, and not be able to feed their families? We're waiting for some concrete proposals. The sooner the better. And we'll roll up our sleeves and sit down and negotiate.
Jake Tapper: So you and Speaker Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, as well as Chief of Staff Meadows. Mnuchin says he thinks there can be a deal by the end of next week. Is that possible?
Sen. Schumer: Well, you know, if they can get us a concrete plan, we told them very explicitly: You can't just talk in generalities. You can't negotiate in thin air. And we told him, come up with a bill. We've had a bill for two months that the House passed, that Senate Democrats fully support that deals with all of these things in terms of unemployment, in terms of people being thrown out of their houses, in terms of state and local governments, in terms of opening up schools. Come back with your alternative. And they're so divided among each other. I have never seen a more dysfunctional party in a time of crisis than this Republican Party. And part of the blame is Trump. But part of the blame is the Republican Senators—who when they know he's wrong, they know he's off base, they're afraid to refute him. Now he's coming back on the air? I worry what he's going to say. He could disrupt things once again. You know, any time President Trump goes before the public could be another public health crisis. Who knows what he'll call for.
Jake Tapper: All right. Senator Chuck Schumer, Democratic Minority Leader of the U.S. Senate, thank you so much.
Sen. Schumer: Jake, our frustration: because people are suffering and we want to get something done but we can't do it when there's a Senate Republican control and a president who's a Republican and won't come to negotiate with us. It's terrible.
Jake Tapper: All right, sir, thank you so much.