Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on CNN’s New Day and discussed the bipartisan agreement on coronavirus response legislation that prioritizes workers and public health. Below is a transcript of the interview:
John Berman: Breaking overnight, after five days of negotiations, there is an agreement on a huge $2 trillion rescue package, which is really the largest spending bill in U.S. history. Joining me now is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. I know it was a late night or early morning for you, Senator Schumer. I know we're at a disadvantage. We don't know exactly what is in this bill. You do. So, politics aside, what people want to know this morning, people who may be out of work, staying at home right now, not getting paid, what is in it for them? Your answer.
Sen. Schumer: Well, thank you. Just first, I want to give a thank you, a deep heart felt thank you to all the healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, everyone else who are on the front lines risking their lives for us. And to my staff, led by Gerry Petrella and Meghan Taira, this bill wouldn't have happened. To the American people, we say: big help, quick help, is on the way. Because we face about the most unprecedented health crisis we have. The five pillars that we fought for to make the bill better, much better than the bill Friday, are all in the bill and let me quickly explain them.
First and foremost, a Marshall Plan for hospitals and healthcare; nursing homes, community health centers, et cetera. These places desperately need help, they need ventilators, equipment, they need PPE, all kinds of things. They need to build new beds, they have so much strain. There is $130 billion dollars in for healthcare and our healthcare system to be injected right away to help with the shortage of ventilators, equipment and other things as well as what else they need.
Second, this is worker friendly, workers first. We didn't want to put corporations first, we thought original bill did that too much. This is workers first, and let me explain that. So many people have been thrown out of work through no fault of their own, the restaurant closes, the small business closes. Now, all of those people will be able to apply quickly and easily for unemployment insurance. And most of them will get their full salaries or very, very close to it. And they can be furloughed, which means that they can stay on the payroll of the company they work for, keep the benefits that that company was giving them and then when, God willing, this horrible crisis is over, these businesses can reassemble because the employees will not have been scattered to the wind.
Third, real help for state and local governments, $150 billion worth. Our state and local governments are hurting, many of them are going broke. They need the help.
Fourth, some real oversight and accountability, transparency of this large corporate lending facility, and the bottom line there is that we will know very shortly after any contract with the Fed or with the Treasury is signed with a company and any loan is made, we'll have the full details of the loan document, it will be published very, very shortly afterwards. Congress will get it, the public will get it, and we have strong oversight, Elizabeth Warren helped me design those so that we have a special inspector general to look over this as well as a congressional board.
Fifth, help for small business. Small businesses have been desperate for help. I know the anguish of small business people who spent years, years, building up their business and, boom, gone. They're going to get interest free loans, they're going to have the employees paid for by the Small Business Administration so they can keep them. So that's what's in the bill. And it is a good bill. Does it have everything we need? No. Are some things in there that I would have rather not had? Of course. But this is the art of compromise, this is the art of coming together, America needed huge help quickly and I think we have risen to that occasion.
John Berman: Let's talk about what people are going to see in terms of money. We can put up on the screen here, $1,200 for individuals earning up to $75,000, $2,400 for married couples, earning up to $150,000, $500 per child. And then you outlined the extension of unemployment benefits too. I don't think people necessarily realize in some cases that's quicker and longer term money than just the immediate check. But also in terms of $1,200, can I ask, when will people see the $1,200?
Sen. Schumer: This is important. Okay, I think the president said that he would have it out by April 6th. But this, what we call unemployment insurance on steroids, it goes longer. That first check is nice, but how are you going to pay the rent, buy the food and do things in the months after if you're still unemployed? The unemployment lasts for four [months] and it is larger, it is more money because it pays, for most workers, their full salaries.
John Berman: There has been a lot of shouting in Washington, and a lot of complaints about the process. Frankly I guarantee you that people at home aren’t interested in that, interested in what is in the bill. So my question to you, what is in it today that would not have been in it Sunday if it passed on Sunday? What did you get?
Sen. Schumer: All of the things I mentioned: much more money for hospitals, the unemployment compensation plan has been strengthened, and lengthened. There was virtually no accountability over these corporate bailouts. The transparency and accountability that I mentioned is there, the small business, much of it was there, that was the one thing that was there to begin with. But we have greatly strengthened the bill and we're proud of what we have done. Had the bill passed originally, there would have been huge holes in it in our opinion.
John Berman: There are some progressive Democrats, so-called progressive Democrats, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from your home state of New York, concerned that they have haven't seen the bill yet, they're concerned about the $500 billion to corporations. They want to know more about the oversight measures. There won't be a period, a six-month waiting period where people won’t know where the money is going?
Sen. Schumer: No, that was in the original bill; it was appalling. They could give out billions and tens of billions of these loans and to companies and no one would know what it is. Now, within seven days, Congress gets the full document, within 14 days they're made public. Each one and the whole document, not just the outline. So there will be accountability, and, in fact, many of the suggestions that Elizabeth Warren who went through this with the TARP Oversight Board were incorporated. She worked with me on this.
John Berman: And in terms of the president's own companies, I understand there is some restrictions there.
Sen. Schumer: We wrote a provision, not just the president, but any major figure in government, cabinet, Senate, Congressmen, if they have majority, they have majority control, they can't get grants or loans and that makes sense. Those of us who write the law shouldn't benefit from the law.
John Berman: Is this enough? Is this going to be enough?
Sen. Schumer: We don't know. We don't know. One of the two awful things about this crisis are, one, that we don't know how long it is going to last, who is affected. We still don't exactly know. I asked a doctor friend of mine a rudimentary question, which is once you get it, are you immune? No one knows the answer to that. The unknown is one thing. We should be willing, able to come back in a bipartisan way and do more if we need it and I believe we'll probably have to do that one way or another. The second problem about this crisis, John, is that it separates us. We New Yorkers, we love to be together. We mix and mingle and get strength from one another and isolation is tough.
John Berman: I have to let you go, but do you have any plans to get back to New York or need to stay in Washington now based on the situation in the city?
Sen. Schumer: I'll have to take stock after we pass this bill and, by the way, I think we will pass it today. The staff, who has done such an amazing job has to write everything and make sure everything is accurate and all of that. And then I'll have to decide what to do. I've been down here for close to two weeks.
John Berman: All right, Senator Chuck Schumer, we have to let you go. Thank you for helping us understand what is in the bill. We're going to learn much more over the next several hours.