Schumer On MSNBC: Democrats Will Focus On Threat To Health Care On Day One Of Senate Confirmation Hearing For Amy Coney Barrett

October 12, 2020

Brooklyn, N.Y.—Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and laid out Senate Democrats’ strategy focusing on the threat to health care and protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions during the first day of Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Below is a transcript of the interview: 

Mika Brzezinski: Joining us now, Senate Minority Leader Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York. NBC's Kasie Hunt also joins us from Capitol Hill. And the AP's Jonathan Lemire is back with us as well.

Joe Scarborough: So, Chuck Schumer, what's the Democrats' strategy going into this week of confirmation hearings?

Sen. Schumer: Well, it's very simple, Joe. We are focusing on the issues that matter to the American people—above all, health care. Judge Barrett has said that she would overturn the ACA, which would rip away protections for people with pre-existing conditions. They could end up with no insurance. That's 130 million Americans. It would raise drug prices for 40 million seniors on Medicare—20 million people would lose it. So we're focusing on that, and it's going to be a little unconventional.

Every Democrat in their opening statement will have a story of someone from their state or another state, maybe a Republican member's state, that will lose their health care under this issue, and we will have large portraits showing them. Because we are talking directly to the American people on the issues that matter to them. I'll tell you a story.

We learned of Justice Ginsburg's death—our family—at a Rosh Hashanah dinner. And immediately my daughter, who was sitting next to her wife, turned to her and said, ‘I wonder if my right to marriage will be curtailed or eliminated.’

My mom, who has Parkinson's, called up and said she had a pre-existing condition—what’s going to happen with her health care?

We’re going to focus on the issues—whether it be women's reproductive rights, the rights of labor, the climate change, and above all—health care. And we are going to show the American people how damaging this nominee, who said proudly, I guess, that she would follow Antonin Scalia, whose philosophy would turn the clock back 100 years, will be if she gets on the bench.

The Republicans are rushing this through, as you know. It's totally hypocritical—that will be a second theme we will mention today—after they held back Merrick Garland eight months before a presidential election. And we know why they’re doing it.

The number one reason is to get someone on the bench who will undo so many of the things people need and turn the clock back. They can't do it themselves. They are afraid to do it themselves, although a lot of these Republicans voted eight or nine times to repeal ACA. And so they are trying to get the courts to do it, and I think the American people will look very unkindly on it.

Joe ScarboroughSo, Senator, Mitch McConnell’s standard, as you know better than most, over the past four years as it's pertained to Supreme Court justices and nomination fights has been Mike makes right. You and I could go back over the past 30 years. We have been on opposite sides over 30 years. In this case, though, it's so clear that Mitch McConnell and the Republican standard is if it's constitutional we can do it, doesn't matter whether we're lying, doesn't matter whether we are going back on our own words, doesn't matter whether we are turning the Senate into a crude majoritarian chamber.

So, if that applies to what they have done with Merrick Garland and now with this nomination, why can't Democrats constitutionally finish what FDR started over 80 years ago and add a couple of justices in response to Republican radicalism? It's constitutional.

And by Mitch McConnell’s standard, you would be in your right to do that, correct?

Sen. Schumer: We would certainly be in the constitutional right to do it. Let me say this. You know, the Republicans are always looking for a smokescreen.

They don't want America to know that this justice would take away their health care.

They don't want America to know that this justice would repeal Roe v. Wade—even though 71% of Americans are against it.

They don't want to know that this justice could turn the Court into something that would get rid of all labor unions, make America a right-to-work state, following the Janus decision.

So they come up with smoke screens. And this idea, Democrats are going to pack the court. What the heck were they doing? 

Listen to this. Not only Merrick Garland, which they held back, Republicans introduced legislation a few years ago to limit the number of judges on the second most important court in the land, the D.C. Court of appeals, because they didn't want Obama to appoint people. And then the fifth circuit, the very circuit that decided to get rid of the ACA they held back, McConnell did, all these judges when Obama was there and then they appointed right-wingers who, again, undid ACA, which is what the Supreme Court will rule on on November 10.  

So this idea that Democrats are packing the Court, they have already done it. As for ourselves, what I have said is we are going to win the election, god willing. President maybe hopefully take back the Senate. And then everything will be on the table, that’s all. But we are not going to fall into the trap of debating that now after what they have done and when there is so many substantive issues at stake that the American people care about, health care above all.

Mika Brzezinski: Let's go to Kasie Hunt. She is live on Capitol Hill.

Kasie Hunt: Senator, good morning. Good to see you. To follow up on this question, Joe Biden, the democratic nominee, former vice president, said that we'll find out after the election whether he wants to add justices to the court. My question is, have you talked to him about that? And have you talked to him about whether you would consider ending the filibuster and do you know where he stands on those questions?

Sen. Schumer: I have not talked to him about that because, again, this election is about the issues that affect the American people. I have said this. We're not as a democratic I am not a Democratic Leader busting my chops to get in the majority to have nothing get done. So we will figure out a way to get something done.

Everything is on the table. But these discussions have to occur after the election when our caucus will gather and make some decisions.

Nothing's off the table. Everything's on the table. But let's win the election first. That's job number one because if we don't none of these matter at all.

Mika Brzezinski: Senator, let's bring in Jonathan Lemire.

Sen. Schumer: Hi, Jonathan.

Jonathan Lemire: Good morning, Senator. Speaking of Senator Graham, he has refused to take a COVID-19 test ahead of the debate in South Carolina. You, of course, called upon him to require coronavirus testing for Senators and staff and others who are going to be a part of the Supreme Court hearings.

Can you give us an update as to whether—what his answer to that was and if he and others refuse to take tests during the proceedings over the next couple of weeks, what will your recourse be?

Sen. Schumer: Well, you know, as I said, McConnell hasn’t—Joe talked about this earlier—he has so defiled the Senate that there is very little bipartisanship left. He has taken, changed the rules to make it much more of a majoritarian body. So we don't have the tools that can force Lindsey Graham to require testing. But let me just say this.

He is setting such a bad example, as is Donald Trump to the American people. Here we are in the fall. COVID cases are increasing. They are rushing this Supreme Court nomination through instead of dealing with the COVID crisis. Trump is like a yo-yo.

Today they came out with another proposal. Who knows where they will be tomorrow. They're rushing it through, but what a bad example. When we know that if we had observed things in a more rigorous way, like Europe, like Asia, we would have had many fewer cases, many fewer deaths, and that means mask wearing that means testing.

The bill that Speaker Pelosi has proposed has a strong testing regime, which would deal with that issue. So, we can't force them to do anything but it's an outright shame, and I think he pays a price with the American people when he so flaunts the science, flaunts safety.

Americans want the economy to improve, but they also want to make sure they don't get COVID, and Lindsey Graham's example, like his mentor Donald Trump's example, is a very poor one for the American people.

Mika Brzezinski: It is that simple and people don't want to get sick and they want the pandemic to end. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, thank you, very, very much.