Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today appeared on ABC’s The View and discussed the importance of protecting the right to vote and fighting Donald Trump’s Big Lie. Below is a transcript of Senator Schumer’s interview:
WHOOPI GOLDBERG: You vowed to call a vote on major voting rights legislation in time for Martin Luther King Day next week. I just want to ask you this because it's irritating me to the N th degree. Why are we still talking about my right as an American to vote? I still feel like suddenly Black people still are where we were under the Emancipation Proclamation. What is happening? Why are we still fighting this this way? What's going to change?
SCHUMER: Well here’s what’s happening, Whoopi. You're 100% right, and it's not just staying the same. It's going to get worse if we don't do something. What happened is this. Donald Trump spread the Big Lie that the election was fraudulent. Of course, it wasn't – he had no evidence. But state legislatures, only Republicans, no Democrats, are now making it harder for people to vote based on that false Big Lie that the election was fraudulent. But they're not aiming it at everybody. They're aiming it at people of color; they're aiming it at poor people; they're aiming it at students; they're aiming it at the elderly; they're aiming it at the disabled.
So we have proposed legislation called the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act that would allow the Justice Department to come in as it has always done when states have taken away the right to vote. You all know what Jim Crow is. And what we've proposed is the Justice Department could come in and undo these bad laws.
Let me tell you a few of them. If you want to vote from home, you're disabled or elderly, they want a notary public to have to come to your house and pay money to vote. If you’re a student, in some states, they want to make you register your car in that state and go to the motor vehicles bureau which could be an hour and a half away. In a city like Milwaukee, what they've tried to do is say there should be only one drop-off voting location, even though it's a city of a million people, and they often put this location – or in other states – where there's no transportation, where there's no parking. So they're deliberately trying to suppress the right to vote. That is vital to America.
This is just not another dispute. This is about what America's all about, the right to vote. You know, when the constitution was founded, you had to be a white, male, protestant, property owner in most states to vote. We have made progress. We're not going to let them regress, and we're fighting to make that happen. And one other point, Whoopi. Voting rights always used to be bipartisan. Ronald Reagan was for voting rights. George H.W. Bush was for voting rights and George W. Bush, but now that Donald Trump has taken over the Republican party with his Big Lie that the election was stolen, they're all bowing down in obeisance to him and allowing these despicable things to happen – unless we stop them.
SUNNY HOSTIN: Well, Senator, you know, we just spoke during hot topics about President Biden's speech later today in Atlanta. Stacey Abrams, one of the most prominent advocates for voting rights and current Democratic favorite in Georgia's governor race is not going to attend today's event. She's citing a scheduling conflict, and there are also a number of voting rights groups in the state that are not going to be attending that speech saying that President Biden has taken a long time, perhaps too long, and not prioritized that issue. So what do you say to your fellow colleagues like (Senators) Mark Kelly and Manchin and Sinema who are being, in my view, pretty obstreperous on this issue, and those Democrats that are saying this push is really late and a little too little?
SCHUMER: Well, look. I'm glad Joe Biden is going down there to Atlanta today. He's going to give a very, very strong speech, and I say to all of my colleagues and my Democratic colleagues in particular: This is not just another political issue. This is about the future about how America functions, and if we allow voting rights to be rolled back, sort of like they were in Jim Crow, our democracy could really wither away. The root of our democracy is free and fair elections and we'll abide by the results until Donald Trump, and now we have to fight back. So I'm saying, even if the Republicans don't join us, we have to do it ourselves. And that will involve, as you mentioned, as Whoopi mentioned, changing some of the rules, but we've changed the rules in the past. Even (Former Senator) Robert Byrd who was Joe Manchin's mentor, one of the great traditionalists in the Senate, changed the rules nine times. He said, Byrd, when circumstances change, the rules have to change. The circumstances have changed because we have these horrible laws being passed, and we're having the Republicans, every single one in the Senate not joining us. I asked four times to have a vote, bipartisan vote, to just debate this bill, and not a single Republican would vote to debate it, so we couldn't debate it.
SARA HAINES: Now Senator, Republicans have already blocked multiple attempts at passing these bills over the last year, but there has been some bipartisan support for a more modest reform of the Electoral Count Act which is what President Trump and his allies wanted to use to invalidate the 2020 election. You called that unacceptable, insufficient and even offensive. Why not try to compromise on that and lodge some sort of win here?
SCHUMER: Well, I'm listening to any ideas. The trouble with the Electoral Count Act of course is all of these laws are aimed in 2022 at the House and Senate. The Electoral Count Act as you know only effects in 2024, there's not the urgency, but second, to do something on the Electoral College is fine, but it's no substitute for preventing people from voting, for making it so much harder for people to vote. You know one of the laws in Georgia, what it says? It says if, you know, often in minority areas, you have to wait for hours on line, you know, four, five, six hours, and in white suburban areas, you don't have to wait hardly at all. They now say it's a crime if someone wants to give you water or a sandwich as you're waiting on line to vote. The Electoral Count Act doesn't undo any of that. So is it something that we might consider? Yes – but not as a substitute for these vital, vital provisions which will keep the right to vote and prevent voter suppression.
GOLDBERG: Maybe it's time for the magic pen from the president. We'll be back with more from Chuck Schumer when we return.
GOLDBERG: We're back with Senator Chuck Schumer. Ana?
ANA NAVARRO: Senator, without Republicans on board, that leaves you no option but to take the so-called nuclear option, which to put into the historical context, you and Harry Reid took in 2013 to get Obama appointees through, and Mitch McConnell who is acting like a filibuster busting virgin took in 2017 to get Supreme Court nominees approved. So, without your fellow Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema who have been adamant in saying they don't support that, what can you do? Do you think they're bluffing? Can you agree on something? Are you setting Democrats up for a disappointment? What's the plan B here?
SCHUMER: Okay. Well, Ana, first, we have to make this fight. I think everyone would agree that when they're trying to take away voting rights and the ones I mentioned on the last segment were just a few, you have to do something.
So we're working very hard trying to persuade Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. They're for the two bills we want to put up, they just say we shouldn't change the Senate rules to do it. But as I mentioned, the Senate rules have been changed in the past even by Robert Byrd who was Joe Manchin's predecessor and mentor, when it's needed, and we can change the rules to allow this to happen.
So we're trying to persuade Manchin and Sinema to do that because it's so important. Ideally, it would be great if Republicans would go along as they used to in the past as I mentioned under Reagan and the Bushes, but they're not, and we have no choice. Can we persuade them? We're working very hard. We met last night in the evening hours. We're talking to them on a regular basis. And is it an uphill fight? Yes. But are we fighting as hard as we can? Yes. Must we try to do everything we can because this is so important? Absolutely. You heard what Whoopi said. There are millions of Americans who feel just like she does.
HOSTIN: Senator, in addition to voting rights, Democrats have so far failed to deliver on a number of other promises, things like Build Back Better, police reform, humane immigration policy, student loan forgiveness. Democrats are running the White House and both chambers of Congress. Why haven't you been able to get any of this done?
SCHUMER: Well, some of it we have gotten done, and we did do the ARP [American Rescue Plan] bill which was probably the most significant, progressive piece of legislation since the Great Society, in 50 years, and we got that done. With 50 votes, we need to get every Democrat, and it's a broad caucus, running from Bernie Sanders to Joe Manchin on board. We worked very hard to do it. So far, we've gotten people on board on the major bills that have come before us, but we're working very hard on voting rights and BBB, the Build Back Better bill, which deals with so many important things like child care and climate, and pre-K. And we’re working very hard to get everyone on board.
It's a very tough road to hoe when you have 50 votes and any one Senator, Democrat who dissents, can pull it down if you get no Republicans. And, unfortunately, this year, the Republicans under Donald Trump's leadership, he just says he wants the country – he wants the administration – to fail, so he can come back and try to run again, God forbid. And so we have to do it just ourselves. That makes it harder, but we keep fighting, and so far we have had some good successes.
HAINES: Senator, the CDC has been under fire in recent weeks for giving shifting and sometimes confusing information regarding COVID guidelines for things like isolation and testing. As the omicron variant continues to lead to record numbers of cases and hospitalizations, two years into the pandemic, are you concerned about there being a credibility crisis in our federal health agencies and do you maintain full confidence in what's coming out of the CDC?
SCHUMER: Well, look. First, the number one thing coming out of the CDC is something I totally agree with, and is the most important thing we can do which is get people vaccinated. Get your two vaccines and get the booster. And some people say, well, I don't care. If I get COVID, I'll get COVID. But what happens is when you’re not vaccinated, you can help breed new variants of COVID. They spread around amongst the unvaccinated population.
So number one, vaccinations; boosters. If the whole country had it, this omicron would have been a lot less severe, and there would be much less chance of new variants coming in with the same virulence.