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On NPR’s Morning Edition, Schumer Calls For Serious, Bipartisan Response To Ongoing Economic And Public Health Crises As Republicans Reportedly Plan 30% Pay Cut For Americans Who Lost Their Job Because Of Coronavirus

Washington, D.C.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and called for a serious, bipartisan response to address the ongoing economic and public health crises as Republicans reportedly plan a 30 percent pay cut for Americans who lost their job because of the pandemic. Below is a transcript of the interview, which can also be listened here:
Steve Inskeep:  Senator, welcome back to the program.
Sen. Schumer: Glad to be back, hope you’re all healthy.
Steve Inskeep: From what you know, can you work with this Republican proposal?
Sen. Schumer: Well first, we don't know what it is, Steve. You can't negotiate with a ghost. It keeps changing. There are leaks here – we may do this, we may do that, we may do this. Lindsey Graham yesterday said half the Republicans are not going to vote for any stimulus package. And why are we at this cliff? Well, we Democrats proposed ten weeks ago a comprehensive plan including dealing with unemployment insurance, extending the existing benefit to January 31st and  Republicans are in such disarray and dithering. The president has no idea of what to do that we don't know what their plan is. I'll tell you a couple of  things though, the present plan has been hugely successful. It has kept more people out of poverty, tens of millions of people out of poverty I believe it is, certainly in the millions, and I think it's getting up to the ten millions, it's done more to keep people out of poverty than any program. Second, it’s pumped a huge amount of money into the economy. We could have gone into the Great Depression, depression not just recession…
Steve Inskeep: Understood, Senator, but let me just ask about the objection…
Sen. Schumer: … if this program hadn’t been passed. So let me just answer your question, Steve, I will answer it. So, two things.
Steve Inskeep: Can you work with a proposal, okay?
Sen. Schumer: No, well no, we haven't seen it so you can’t ask us to work with something. But to tell people who—there are two things in it that we find objectionable. Number one, they seem to want to pay people who go back to work. That's backwards. The people going back to work have money; the people were unemployed don't. But second, to tell the American people, millions of American workers, you lost a job through no fault of your own, that job may not even be there, many of these jobs are gone, and you get a 30% pay cut? That’s unfair and wrong. It’s unfair…
Steve Inskeep:  Well, let me just ask about that Senator if I can because, forgive me Senator, time is short here. Our own Scott Horsley did report that some businesses have been closing because it was safer and the employees could actually make a little more on unemployment they could working. That is reality. Are the incentives a little wrong here?
Sen. Schumer: No. Mark Zandi, one of the most respected Republican economists said 95, huge percentage of people who have a job keep the job. It's a permanent, it often has benefits like health benefits and pension benefits, and they will keep it if they have the job. The vast majority of these people don’t have jobs. It’s not that they’re sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Americans want to work. And to tell people to take a 30% pay cut when there is no job available, which is true in most of their cases, when they’ve done nothing wrong, the pandemic has hurt them, is the wrong way to go at a time Steve, when the economy needs more money pumped into it not less. One of the few bright spots of this economy is that spending is going up, you know people are going to the stores and going to here and going to there, and that will be cut back dramatically under this Republican non-plan because we haven’t even seen it yet and we don’t know what else they’d add to it. Someone said they’re going to attach it to something that we find unacceptable, so, it’s really not fair to ask us to negotiate against—we’ve been ready to go for weeks. Pelosi and I sent a letter to McConnell saying, three weeks ago, let’s sit down and negotiate.
Steve Inskeep: Senator, our time is short. I’ve got a couple of quick questions here.
Sen. Schumer:  Please, please, please.
Steve Inskeep:  Is there a limit to how much the United States can borrow? Granting the emergency, it’s another trillion dollars here.
Sen. Schumer: We are faced with two bad choices. If we limit our spending right now, we will be in greater debt later because the economy will get worse. The recession will get deeper and could turn into a depression. These are not good choices. COVID visited upon us, Trump made it dramatically worse by not doing any of the things we were supposed to do to fight this crisis, and if we spend less than we should the debt will end up being greater than if we spend more now.
Steve Inskeep: Understood and one other question for you Senator. As the president has become less popular in surveys, some election forecasters have been raising the odds that his party will lose the Senate. Do you believe that the Senate majority is in reach this year for you?
Sen. Schumer: Look, here’s what I believe, the American people have seen, and many of them for the first time, how the president’s incompetence and ego has led to hurting them. When he said it’ll go away in a few weeks, when he said it’s a hoax, when he said drink bleach, when he said use hydroxychloroquine, and probably most importantly, when he refused my request, repeated over and over again but begun March 6th, to use the DPA on testing and have a nationwide testing regime…
Steve Inskeep: About ten seconds. Do you have majority in reach?
Sen. Schumer: …he created trouble that is making things look better for us. You know, it’s hard to accept all this trouble, but it sure hurt him in the eyes of the American people.
Steve Inskeep: Is the majority in reach for you?
Sen. Schumer: I believe it is.
Steve Inskeep: Senator, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
Sen. Schumer: Nice to talk to you, Steve.