On MSNBC’s ‘All In With Chris Hayes’, Schumer Slams Senate GOP’s Partisan, “Weak Tea” Approach To Addressing COVID-19 Public Health And Economic Crises, Touts House-Passed Heroes Act

July 20, 2020

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes and railed against the partisan, behind-closed-doors efforts of Leader McConnell and the Senate GOP to draft a lackluster bill to address the coronavirus pandemic and instead called for Senate action on the House-passed Heroes Act. Schumer also decried President Trump’s failures to keep Americans as safe as possible from the coronavirus. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Ali Velshi: Joining me to discuss that is the top Democrat in the United States Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Senator, it is good to see you. Thank you for being with us. There is really an issue with the degree to which the urgency of this has dimmed certainly among some of your Republican colleagues in the Senate and the White House, which has decided to sort of put coronavirus on the back burner. How do we deal with the fact that for so many millions of Americans this is really real? That $600 makes a big difference—it might mean the difference between having your home and not having your home.

Sen. Schumer: Well, you're exactly right, Ali. Our Republican friends and the president have been totally asleep at the switch. It's three months since we passed the last COVID bill, and we have so many different problems facing us that make people unsafe, economically and health-wise. And so McConnell said, well, let's take a look. Let's do a pause. Then he said maybe localities should go bankrupt.

Donald Trump has avoided this problem—says it's going away. Well, you can't make the coronavirus go away just by wishing it to go away. You have got to do something. Three weeks ago, Speaker Pelosi and I sent a letter to Mitch McConnell and said let's sit down and start negotiating. We didn’t hear a peep out of him.

Now, finally, they're beginning to talk to one another. But if you believe the press reports, and from what I'm hearing, they’re all divided amongst themselves. There are 10 or 15 Republicans who don’t want to spend a nickel and let us go into a Great Depression because they're such hard right ideologues. Then there are all kinds of disputes. The president actually told the Republican Senators not to put in any money for testing or contact tracing.

Well, when you ask yourself, why are we doing so much worse? This is a shame—a shame. We should be ashamed of this. We are doing so much worse than the European countries—Italy, Spain—they had as virulent a crisis as we did at one point. The east Asian countries. It’s because we're not doing the testing. We're not doing the contact tracing that they prepared for and did. And now Trump is saying don't do it anymore. Donald Trump has put his head in the sand. He is responsible for the safety of the American people, and he has hurt that safety dramatically. And our Republican Senate friends are so afraid of Donald Trump that they don't budge. They don't do anything.

Now, all of a sudden, it's beginning to dawn on a few of them, and I said, they're divided, that if they don't anything, the economy is going to just go into a total tailspin and instead of a deep recession—the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression—we could end up with a depression. So they're beginning to nibble at the edges, but if you look at what they proposed, it is such weak tea that it's not going to solve the problem.

Ali Velshi: Right and the weak tea is a problem became we have more than a million people signing onto unemployment rolls every week. We have airlines employees who have said as soon as the deal that they’ve got runs out at the end of October, tens of thousands more will be unemployed. We've got these stop and start cities that are happening. What is the proposal that you and Speaker Pelosi think makes the most sense?

Sen. Schumer: Well, ours is a robust, strong proposal. It is called the Heroes Act. It deals with the major problems. Let's talk about three or four of them.

Number one: it keeps the pandemic unemployment insurance going until at least January 31st because we're going to have more and more unemployed people—lots of businesses that have just been hanging on by their fingernails are going down. What are we going to tell these people? Don't feed your families? Get kicked out of your homes? Don't go to stores and buy things? That's the formula for disaster. So that’s number one.

Number two: we have in there robust money and specific plans as to how to do testing and contact tracing. The state of Arizona, one of the epicenters—the governor themselves, all the government officials have said we're short of testing. Every other country that has gotten out of this has had many tests. If you test people regularly, and you get the results back quickly—the labs are so backed up here in America, it often takes a week, which makes the tests almost invalid—you can stop this crisis because you can do contact tracing. You find out, if someone tests positive, who they had contact with. You make sure that they’re tested. You isolate them.

Third thing: come this Thursday, the moratorium on eviction expires. Now, there are lots of people in this country—a lot of poor people, a lot of people of color—who have not paid the rent, but they couldn’t evicted until the 24th. They can get a rent bill for four months because the rent was not forestalled. We propose $100 billion to help them stay in their apartments. What good is it going to do this economy, this country, and these poor people and their kids if they get kicked out of their apartments?

And money for state and local governments. I had to fight tooth and nail in COVID-3 to get $150 billion. We knew that was insufficient. Right now, 1.5 million state and local workers, government workers, have been laid off. But there are going to be many, many more if we don't do this, and they're not putting any money into that at all.

McConnell said let the states go bankrupt. Our Republican friends say, well, this is a blue state issue. Oh, bull! A firefighter who is laid off in Arizona or a firefighter who is laid off in New York is the same firefighter who the community needs him for safety. Same with the bus driver, same with the sanitation worker. Their bill is just totally inadequate.

But I'll tell you the good news. The good news is on the last three bills, COVID-2, COVID-3, COVID-3.5, McConnell did the same thing. This time he said I'm going to write the bill in my office. Then he calls it bipartisan. I mean, that is no one's definition of bipartisan.

He said he's going to write it in his office. Well, if he writes it in his office, it will not pass the House. Democrats in the Senate will not go for it, and then he will have to come back and do a much bigger, better bill along the lines of what we had. That’s what happened in the last three bills.

Ali Velshi: And write it together. Let me ask you about the election. We're a little longer than three months away from the election. You sent a letter to the FBI in which you write, “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November.”

You're talking about congressional activity there. What are you referring to, sir?

Sen. Schumer: Well, I can't get into the details because things are classified, but I can tell you this. We know that there was foreign interference in the previous election, and we must make sure we do everything we can to know what's happening and then to do something about it. So that's why the four of us, Speaker Pelosi and myself and Mark Warner and Mr. Schiff, the heads of the intelligence committees, the Democratic leaders of the intelligence committees, have demanded that Wray come before us and brief the entire Congress, Democrats and Republicans, so first we can know what's going on, and then we can do something about it. And if people don't want that to happen, they're playing with the wellspring of our democracy, safe and fair elections.

You know, if we believe—if Americans start believing that foreigners can interfere in our elections and jaundice the results, that's the beginning of the end of this grand experiment in democracy.

Ali Velshi: Senator, always good to see you. Thank you for your time tonight. Senator Chuck Schumer is the Democratic Leader in the United States Senate.

Sen. Schumer: Thanks, Ali. Good to talk to you.

Ali Velshi: You too, sir.

Sen. Schumer: Bye-bye.

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