TRANSCRIPT: On CNN’s Situation Room, Schumer Provides Update on Coronavirus Response Legislation Negotiations; Schumer Says US Needs Marshall Plan for Hospitals And Any Stimulus Legislation Must Put Workers And People First

March 21, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on CNN’s Situation Room and provided an update on negotiations for Phase 3 Coronavirus response legislation. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Wolf Blitzer: Joining us now, Chuck Schumer. Senator, thanks so much for joining us, I should call you Leader Schumer. Thank you so much for joining us. So, where do the talks stand right now on this new huge economic stimulus package?

Sen. Schumer: Well, I've had two good meetings this afternoon with Secretary Mnuchin. They've lasted about an hour and 15 minutes total. We went over a lot of details on a lot of the issues that we hope will be in the package and I'm very optimistic that we can get something done. We're not there yet, but we're working all night and we're making very, very good progress. You know, we Democrats want a package that stands for two things.

First, workers first. Not helping and bailing out big corporations. Focusing on the workers, the average American family who is suffering.

And second, apropos of what you were just talking about, we need a Marshall Plan for hospitals. All of the hospitals I speak to in New York are desperately short of equipment. It's beds, not just masks. PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment), you know, the gowns and everything else that protect them. The ventilators when somebody is really sick with coronavirus, that they need. So we have proposed a hundred billion dollar to go to our hospitals for equipment, for more beds, and to help bring in more nurses of doctors, there are shortages of them too. These hospitals are hurting. If we don't do this, large numbers of smaller hospitals, hospitals in rural areas will simply close down.

The other part of this package is what we call “Workers First.” One of the centerpieces, what we would call unemployment insurance on steroids. If you can't work because your business is closed for all the obvious reasons, you will get your full pay from the federal government and this unemployment insurance on steroids will cover all workers. It will cover part-time workers, it will cover workers who are independent workers, it will cover the freelancers, and you will be able to stay on this for four months. And when the end of it occurs, since you'll be getting your pay, but you'll be furloughed by the employer, you can go back to work. The second point of this, the first is it gets money to where it's needed, but the second is, it allows these business that is are now closed to quickly re-establish themselves.

Wolf Blitzer: Which is really important. Is the Republican leadership in the Senate and the White House, are they both on board?

Sen. Schumer: This is an idea that I proposed to them a while ago and we're making good progresses. We haven't dotted the I’s and crossed the t’s, but, conceptually, I think we’re there, yes, [on expanding unemployment insurance].              

Wolf Blitzer: Well that’s encouraging. Earlier today, the President’s economic advisor Larry Kudlow suggested that the package could be more than $2 trillion. Is that accurate?

Sen. Schumer: Well, he said that and there's so many needs out there. When you see, when you read that we might have 10% unemployment, that GDP would go down 20%, that's $4, $5 trillion, this large package is needed. And we not only need money for the hospitals, we not only need this unemployment insurance, we need money to keep small businesses going and help them go through it even if their personnel are paid for by the unemployment insurance, they have rent, they have insurance, they have electricity bills and things like that.

We need to prevent foreclosures. If you can't pay your mortgage for a few months, the banks shouldn't foreclose on your home. We need some abstinence from evicting renters who might not be able to pay their rent. That’s something we’re looking for.

We’re looking also, when they bail out corporations, we want the workers to come first. If a corporation is getting money because they need something, and airlines is the industry they're talking about, they’ve got to keep their employees, they've got to not cut the pay of their employees, and they should not do stock buybacks, increases in compensation for the top executives. We need to have this be workers first, up and down the line.

One other thing we're looking for, paid family medical leave, paid sick leave, and we would like to forgive student loans for the period of time this crisis persists. If you owe a thousand dollars this month, you won't have to pay it, it will be forgiven.

There's a lot of things we're trying to do but this is a crisis unlike we've ever seen. It's affected everything and everywhere, and we have to be there to help people who need help.

Wolf Blitzer: It was just a few weeks ago, you'll remember this, Leader, that the white house was proposing $2.5 billion dollars. You guys in the Senate, you said maybe $8 billion. All of a sudden it became $1 trillion and now it's $2 trillion. Go ahead.

Sen. Schumer: Kudlow proposed the $2 trillion. Let's put it like this, we have to spend the money wisely but this idea that we shouldn't spend the money that's needed is wrong and we could get significantly as high as where Kudlow is at.

Wolf Blitzer: $2 trillion.

Sen. Schumer: We could get there. We may not get that high. It's going to be certainly amply more than $1 trillion, $1.4 trillion.

Wolf Blitzer: And you think it will be wrapped up by Monday?

Sen. Schumer: Well, I hope it is. We’re having good, bipartisan agreements. The initial bill leader McConnell put in didn't have any Democratic input and we were worried they would just try to put it on the floor, not consult Speaker Pelosi because the House still needs to pass this. But actually, to my delight and surprise, there has been a great deal of bipartisan cooperation thus far.

Wolf Blitzer: Even the president was speaking very positively about you and even Speaker Pelosi.

Sen. Schumer: That doesn't happen very often.

Wolf Blitzer: Even Speaker Pelosi as well. And you're speaking positively about them as well. You probably saw this NPR poll which showed that nearly one in five American households have already lost work as a result of this pandemic, this crisis. How much can they expect in terms of direct checks, direct payments and when will we see those checks mailed?

Sen. Schumer: Well, that's one thing the president has proposed. I'm very worried if it's just a one-time check, let's say you get a $1,000, well, that might take care of your rent and groceries and electricity for the month, but what do you do for the rest. That's why we're excited about this unemployment insurance on steroids. Because that will keep you at your previous salary for a period of at least four months and that should keep you at least economically whole through the crisis. A one-time check of $1,000, I'm not opposed to that. But that doesn't do the job alone.

Wolf Blitzer: How would you say President Trump is doing in handling this enormous crisis? 

Sen. Schumer: Well, look, I think he was slow to come to it and we'll look back after this is over and there will be a lot of things that people will point out. But for the moment, we're trying to work together for the good of the country.

Wolf Blitzer: And let’s hope you guys succeed.

Sen. Schumer: By the way, Wolf, without foregoing our principles, workers first. And, again, the package that the president proposed with that $1,000 was regressive. We're not going to stand for that. We'll make some changes in that as well.

Wolf Blitzer: But if these huge corporations go bust, they employ hundreds of thousands, millions of workers. You got to keep those businesses operating, right?

Sen. Schumer: We do. But if you give them money without requiring them to keep the workers on board, that would be a big mistake and we're pushing hard for worker protections and I think we're making progress with the administration there as well.

Wolf Blitzer: Basically, just so I understand, I know you got to run, you have a lot of work to do, but a final question for you, Senator, it's going to pass the Senate first and then go to the House? Is that the way you want to do it?

Sen. Schumer: Look, Speaker Pelosi and I preferred four corner negotiations where the leaders, Democratic and Republican of the House and Senate sat together. McConnell didn't want to do it. So we're working together in the Senate. But I am consulting with Speaker Pelosi hour by hour, actually, and we'll have to see if she and the House will go along with what the senate produced. But we are talking to each other and they know exactly what's in the package, and much of what we want and what they want are very similar.

Wolf Blitzer: She worked very closely with Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, to get the initial legislation passed.

Sen. Schumer: Yes, she did.

Wolf Blitzer: So things are working at least in the right direction. We'll stay in touch with you, Leader Schumer. Thank you so much for what you're doing and thanks for spending a few moments updating our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

Sen. Schumer: Thank you for that opportunity.

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