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.
Glad to be back, hope you’re all healthy.
Steve Inskeep: From
what you know, can you work with this Republican proposal?
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…
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.
Can you work with a proposal, okay?
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…
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.
Senator, our time is short. I’ve got a couple of quick questions here.
Sen. Schumer: Please,
Steve Inskeep: Is
there a limit to how much the United States can borrow? Granting the emergency,
it’s another trillion dollars here.
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.
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?
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
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
Steve Inskeep: Is
the majority in reach for you?
Sen. Schumer: I
believe it is.
Senator, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.
Sen. Schumer: Nice
to talk to you, Steve.