Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Sunday joined ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Leader Schumer said that President Trump’s recently unveiled executive orders are ‘unworkable, weak, and far too narrow’ to meet the health and economic crises facing the United States today and pushed for real legislative solutions that meet the needs of the American people. A transcript can be found below:
George Stephanopoulos: We’re joined by the Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator Schumer, thank you for joining us this morning. Let's talk about the president's proposals. First of all, Trump wants to replace the $600 the unemployment benefit, the federal benefit, with a $300 federal benefit paid for by disaster relief funds. He says the states will kick in another $100. Does he have the power to do that? Will you go to court to stop him?
Sen. Schumer: Well let me first say, George, that overall, we have this huge crisis, the largest economic crisis since the Depression, the greatest health crisis since the pandemic, and unfortunately the president's executive orders described in one word could be paltry. In three words, unworkable, weak, and far too narrow.
The event at the country club is just what Trump does: a big show but it doesn't do anything. And as the American people look at these executive orders they don't come close to doing the job, in two ways. One, what they’ve proposed and second, what's left out. What's proposed: on the unemployment benefit, first, the $600 a week has been very successful, it's kept millions of people out of poverty, it’s pumped more money into the economy. Consumer spending is probably the best thing going in the economy. They want to cut it.
George Stephanopoulos: The president says it keeps people from working.
Sen. Schumer: The evidence shows that’s not the case. That belittles the American people. Americans want to work. But with 10%, 11% unemployment, you can't find a job and people shouldn't be given a pay cut. But second, this is an unworkable plan. Most states will take months to implement it because it's brand new, it’s sort of put together with spit and paste. And many states, because they have to chip in $100, and they don’t have money, won’t do it. And to boot, it depletes the hurricane trust fund to defer this money, to pay for this money at a time when we're at the height of hurricane season.
George Stephanopoulos: Well, can the president do it, though? Is it legal?
Sen. Schumer: Well, I'll leave that up to the attorneys. It doesn't do the job, it’s not going to go into effect in most places for weeks or months, because it's so put together in a crazy way. If he just would have renewed the $600, as we do in the Heroes bill, through January, things would flow smoothly.
George Stephanopoulos: How about the payroll tax deferral?
Sen. Schumer: The payroll tax cut is another, it's just way off-base. First, most employers are not going - it's a deferral, and so it accumulates until January, when it expires. Employers are just going to continue to withhold the money. I’ve talked to some, because they don't want their employees to be stuck with a huge bill in December. So, it's not going to pump money into the economy.
And, second, the president said if elected, I will forgive all this, that depletes money out of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. If you're a Social Security recipient or Medicare recipient, you better watch out if President Trump is re-elected.
George Stephanopoulos: Let’s talk about how you get back to the table. And you say these proposals are narrow, they’re unworkable, they’re paltry. What the Republicans just said is that your trillion-dollar offer is really just a budget gimmick. You’re shortening the amount of time the money will be spent. You're not cutting any programs. Will you compromise more?
Sen. Schumer: Well, look, we've compromised a great deal. But one more point I have to say on the executive orders, what they leave out. Nothing on testing. We have a regime that is not testing, the president has messed up testing to a fare-thee-well, unlike other countries.
Nothing to help open the schools safely. They need lots of money to open up the schools. Not just for PPE but for bus routes - because kids can’t sit right next to each other - for ventilation systems, for hot spots - a lot of the schools want to convert their gyms and cafeterias to classrooms.
It does nothing for state and local government. We’re going to see layoffs, and this is not an abstract concept. You know, the Republicans say ‘the blue states.’ A firefighter is a firefighter. A person who drives a bus, a person who picks up the garbage, those are important jobs. It’s not in there. There's no money to help us with elections. No money to help us with the post office. Very little money to feed children, no money to feed children, and no real help for eviction of people. So they leave out a lot.
So what have we Democrats proposed? Originally the $3.4 trillion Heroes bill was carefully done and it meets the needs. There are huge needs - two-thirds of the American people by survey data prefer our $3.4 trillion to their $1 trillion, which doesn't do the job. But in an effort to compromise, Speaker Pelosi told the negotiators from the president's office, we will come down a trillion, you come up a trillion, that would bring us to 2.4, them to 2 and we could meet in the middle and get things done quickly. They said absolutely not. I said to them, ‘This means it's your way or the highway?’ And they basically said, ‘yes.’ That is not the way to create a deal.
Here's my hope, George, here’s my hope, that now that they've done these executive orders and the American people will see how paltry, how narrow, how not doing the job they are, that Republicans who hung their hat on these executive orders will now be forced - by the economy, by the healthcare crisis, where a thousand people are dying a day and we're not making the progress we should, and by the American people - to come to the table, accept our compromise to meet in the middle, and come up with an agreement.
George Stephanopoulos: Let's talk about where you could compromise more, perhaps. One prevision you’re pushing is for repeal of the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. That’s a long-time goal of yours. It benefits basically upper-middle class and wealthy taxpayers in big states like New York. Why does that have to be in the emergency COVID bill?
Sen. Schumer: Well, first, state and local governments are hurting and one of the reasons was the elimination of the cap on state and local, it hurt state revenues. But, secondly, this idea that it's rich people, go to Long Island, talk to a couple, a typical couple, maybe he’s a firefighter, she’s a teacher, they need that deduction. This affects the middle class, in suburbs, in the red states and in the blue states, and it’s something that I’m going to keep fighting for.
But we're willing to come down a trillion dollars and we'll compromise and meet them halfway. They don't want to meet halfway, they don't want to meet any way and that's what the American people should understand, that we've made a big offer, a huge offer. In an effort to get this thing going, we will cut that trillion and it won't be so easy because these are real needs of people. This is not an abstract game.
You know, you have so many Republicans who say they don't want to spend one nickel. They don’t want to spend one nickel. Mitch McConnell said 20 Republican senators don't want to spend any money, not even the trillion that the president has proposed.
And that is sort of reminiscent of Herbert Hoover. When the stock market crashed, Herbert Hoover and some of these Conservatives then said, don't spend any money, and we had the Great Depression. We are fighting for people’s needs. We need testing. We need our schools to open safely. We need to prevent firefighters and teachers and others from being laid off.
That's what we're doing. This is not a game. And, you know, they’re so wrapped up in their ideology, ‘We hate government.’ Well, I got to tell you something, the Republican mantra, ‘Let the private sector do it alone,’ just doesn't work when you have a huge recession and huge healthcare crisis.
George Stephanopoulos: I want to ask about election interference, as well. The intelligence community put out a new warning Friday about foreign election interference. They’re saying that China wants Biden to win, that Russia is actively interfering now to help Trump, that Iran is also looking for opportunities. I know you’ve received classified briefings. Does that public statement accurately reflect what's happening right now? And what, if anything, can be done to counter the interference?
Sen. Schumer: OK, first, I can't talk about what happened in the briefings. But, I can tell you, there are public reports and intelligence officials have said that Russia is attempting to interfere in our elections. Evanina said it just yesterday. He’s the deputy of the DNI.
And so, yes, it is absolutely true that Russia is trying to interfere, from public information and public statements. And we are trying, we Democrats, are trying to stop it in the defense bill. We want to put tough sanctions on Russia, both before they do something. And even more so, Chris Van Hollen has a bill, bipartisan, I believe, with Marco Rubio, to stop it. Trump is resisting. Why does Donald Trump not want to stop Russia from interfering in this election? You have to ask that question. It’s the wellspring of our democracy. And if the people don’t believe our elections are fair, we can hang it up.
George Stephanopoulos: Your colleague Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said the underlying intelligence about Russia is so alarming, so chilling, that it should be declassified. He says every American has a right to know. Do you agree?
Sen. Schumer: Without compromising sources, yes. And they should know one other thing, that these hearings that [Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron] Johnson and [Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey] Graham are doing, some of it is now, now it’s public, is based on false Russian intelligence about Joe Biden. In other words, false Russian reports about Joe Biden. They should be ashamed of themselves for what they’re doing, letting the Russians manipulate them and us, the American people, or try to manipulate us.
George Stephanopoulos: Senator Schumer, thanks for your time this morning.
Sen. Schumer: Thank you, George.