Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and discussed the need for a Marshall Plan to combat the growing coronavirus crisis. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Anderson Cooper: Joining us now Senate Minority Leader and New Yorker, Chuck Schumer. Senator Schumer, thank you for being with us. Just in layman’s terms, can you just talk about the tangible effects Americans might expect to see from this bill that’s passed?
Sen. Schumer: Yes, there are a number of things. First, we need to have a Marshall Plan for our hospitals. As the number of illnesses increase, the number of people seriously ill increase, our hospitals are not totally prepared. They need more beds. They need more ventilators. They need more equipment. They need more personnel.
Some hospitals even report now that they've finally gotten the tests; they don't have the swabs—the nasal swabs—to implement the tests. So we need a Marshall Plan immediately. And the ventilators, you know, a few weeks ago some of us were talking about the testing problem, and we fell behind. Two weeks from now, the problem of a lack of respirators, a lack of beds, will be just as crucial. We need that.
We need a second thing: we need what we call Employment Insurance. Right now, Unemployment Insurance is hard to get. You get paid only a fraction of what you’d have at work, and many people are not covered. We want to say anyone who loses his or her job because of this crisis will get paid fully by the federal government—it's Employment Insurance, not Unemployment Insurance, and that will put money in the pockets of the people who need it most.
Third, we need to improve on the bill we passed today for both paid sick leave and paid family leave. We need it to be extensive; we need it to cover almost everybody; and we need the federal government to step in so businesses aren't hurt, especially small businesses when they're not having any income.
And finally, we need to make sure that everybody who has this illness gets treatment for free, basically. If people have it and the beginning signs of it, and they don't show up and they just walk around and spread the disease because they're afraid it will cost them two, three, four hundred dollars through a co-pay or deductible, we have to stop that.
So those are some of the things that we in the Senate, we Democrats, are pushing for. And I think, Anderson, we can come to a bipartisan agreement. I spoke to Secretary Mnuchin tonight. I know some of the things they're interested in. Some of the things we're interested in. A lot of them overlap, and there are some things that we’re gonna want.
The one thing I did tell him as well, though, if there are going to be some of these corporate bailouts, we need to make sure workers and labor come first. That people are not laid off. That people's salaries are not cut. If these big companies, many of which did buybacks, the airlines I think did about $300 billion of stock buybacks, they have to put their workers first if they're going to get this help.
Anderson Cooper: You talk about a Marshall Plan for the hospitals. Obviously, the hospitals here are the front line. We don't want medical professionals, nurses, doctors getting sick. You know, they're going to be working around the clock. They already are. You know, that's over a long term, then this may be a long term. That's part of the thing. How likely is it, do you think, that whether it's the National Guard or the military is going to be needed or the Army Corps of Engineers is going to be needed to start building field hospitals, taking over convention centers, schools facilities, whatever it may be.
Sen. Schumer: Yesterday, we asked for the president to use something left over from the Korean War in the 1950s called the Defense Production Act which allows us to use the military to both create things and build things like hospital beds and temporary facilities. We've seen how those were built in other countries. It also allows mobilization of manufacturing and allows the federal government to tell manufacturers: we need more masks, we need more swabs, we need more ventilators. But there's so many different aspects to this, Anderson. Take many large cities, New York City. How do the workers get to work? Right now by the subways. But if the subways aren't used anymore, how are they going to get there? And yet the subways are a place where people come in close contact. So this is a massive problem. It takes bold, strong, immediate action. And we'll have to stay at this for a while because there are so many different problems we have to deal with, but we can't be partisan. We can’t be timid. It's got to be bold and strong and comprehensive. And we’re prepared to stay here and do that.
Anderson Cooper: How much of the decisions in New York are made by the governor, by the mayor of New York City? How much is it a federal response? Obviously, it's got to be everybody working together.
Sen. Schumer: Well, it is, and we have good coordination with the state and the city. The federal government's job is mainly to provide the resources. Even a city as large as New York, a state as large as New York, can't do it on its own. They have good leadership, but we need to make sure that the money for the people, for the unemployed, for the hospitals, comes from the federal government. We're the only place that can do that, and in states not as wealthy as New York, all the more reason.
Anderson Cooper: You know, Senator Schumer after 9/11, especially in those terrible days right after 9/11, there was an extraordinary spirit, not only in the country, but in New York City. It was a privilege to be in New York at that time, to stay with the city and to watch the people come together. Citizenship now seems to be more important now than it has been for a long time in our lives. Can you talk to people about what that means, whether it's New York or somewhere else, to be a good citizen right now?
Sen. Schumer: First let me say, I have lived through 9/11. I lost three people, three friends that I knew in the towers. I was there through the crash of 2008, but this is the worst of all for a variety of reasons. First, we're very uncertain as to what is going to happen. There was some uncertainty after 9/11, in the days after we were worried we might be attacked again, but it's not the same as this. How long is this going to last? Who does it effect? We're not even certain who it effects. We're just learning now that children can be affected by the illness. So there's that.
And then there's isolation. What New Yorkers and Americans like to do is come together as we did after 9/11, in times of crisis, but here you can't. You're not supposed to be near other people because obviously it spreads the disease, and I urge people to make sure they keep their distance. So it's much harder. Having said that, I believe in the spirit of New Yorkers. I've talked to a lot of people on the telephone today, and people are willing to do what it takes and overcome this virus and once again bounce back. After 9/11, a lot of people said New York would never bounce back, and we came back bigger and stronger.
Anderson Cooper: Yeah. Well, we're all in this together. More now than ever before.
Sen. Schumer: We sure are.
Anderson Cooper: Senator Schumer, thank you.