Skip to content

TRANSCRIPT: On CNN’s State Of The Union, Schumer Calls For $30 Billion Plan For Comprehensive Natl. Testing Strategy, Improvements To Small Business Lending Programs, And More Funding For Hospitals And State And Local Governments In Ongoing Interim Emergency Relief Negotiations

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today joined CNN’s State of the Union with Jake Tapper, and continued to call for Democrats’ $30 billion plan for a comprehensive national testing strategy, improvements to small business lending programs, and more funding for hospitals and state and local governments in ongoing interim emergency relief negotiations. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Jake Tapper: As Secretary Mnuchin and congressional leaders are negotiating a new stimulus package, President Trump is attacking Senate Democrats' motives. Joining me now, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. Leader Schumer, thank you so much. I know you’re here to talk about testing, and I want to talk about that in one second, but I do want to talk about this funding for small business loans, the program has run out of funding, as you know, because of provisions Democrats want to add.
Karen Mills, the former head of the Small Business Administration under President Obama, says Democrats just need to go along and fund this program now, she says, quote, ‘Complexity is not our friend here, things that have to be implemented quickly can't have a lot of bells and whistles, or else there will be too many unintended consequences. One of which is delay, and we don't have time to delay.’ What do you say to Karen Mills?
Sen. Schumer: Well, I’d actually say the very things that we Democrats have been fighting for are now going into the bill. If you had a connection with a bank, it was pretty easy to get a loan. If you didn't, from one end of the country to the other, we have been hearing that people can't get the loans. The local restaurant, the local barbershop, the local drugstore, or even startup businesses, manufacturing or services that aren't happening. So we Democrats say, yes, we want to put more money in but let's set aside some money to make sure it goes to the rural areas, to the minority areas, to the unbanked. And the $60 billion for the disaster loan was our proposal and now the administration is going along with that. Setting aside a good chunk of the money, about half of it, so it goes to these unbanked people who don't have a connection with a bank or the smaller ones, was our proposal, and it looks like it's going. So, to just put $250 billion and leave out a large, large segment, I would say half of the small business community, wouldn't have made sense. And now it's going to happen because we Democrats said, ‘Let's get this done this way.’
Jake Tapper: So you agree with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, that the deal could be done today and voted on in the Senate tomorrow, the House on Tuesday, and then signed by President Trump on Wednesday?
Sen. Schumer: Well, Speaker Pelosi and I have had constant discussions with Secretary Mnuchin. Our staffs are meeting 24/7. We've made very good progress. And I'm very hopeful we could come to an agreement tonight or early tomorrow morning. You know, you've got a lot of details, a lot of dotted I's and crossed T's. But I am very, very hopeful. And as you heard, many of the things we have asked for on the banking side, on the testing side, on the hospital side, they're going along with. So we feel pretty good. We still have a few more issues to deal with.
Jake Tapper: Let's talk about the testing. You were on the call with Vice President Pence on Friday when Senate Democrats grew increasingly frustrated with the administration's testing response. Did you get any indication from the call that the federal government has a coordinated plan to roll out testing and to make sure governors know where all the tests are?
Sen. Schumer: Okay. Well, let me talk about testing. Angus King, who is a mild-mannered Maine guy, was very upset because the president said, ‘Now testing is up to the states.’ They've been back and forth on this.
We Democrats proposed in this package a $30 billion focused plan on testing. And we proposed three basic things: Money to go into both manufacturing and supply chains, to bolster them quickly. We've proposed that we make free testing far more widespread. If people avoid testing because they can't afford it, that's not good for the country. And third, we propose contact tracing. What we need here is the $30 billion and we need the focus from the president. The governors of our two states who are most impacted say they need federal help, they can't do the testing on their own.
You talk to the business community, when Republican and Democratic senators were on with the president a few days ago, the number one call was for more testing and more federal involvement in the testing. You can't have it state by state. Let's say the swabs are made in California, and the machine, the little chemicals, are made somewhere else. You need the federal government to focus.
Thus far, I believe that the president has not been focused enough on testing. That's what got Angus King so upset. But I think there is huge pressure for him to do it. I urged him to use the Defense Production Act to get this money out, the way we've talked, the $30 billion. But at least there ought to be one person appointed, in charge and making sure there's a national focus and effort on testing.
I would say this, Jake. Testing is the key. Every expert says it. Today's "New York Times," one of the best experts says we only have about a third of the tests we need. We will not be able to get the economy going full-fledged unless we have testing. And we have examples: South Korea, I think they had a case, one day, the first case was within a day of each other in the U.S. and South Korea, the first case. But they did just what we're calling for. They did a massive increase in the number of tests. They did contact tracing. And now South Korea is way over the hump. We must do the same thing for the good of the health of America and the good of the economy.
And then just a couple of more things. The money for small business, as I’ve said, we have four goals in the bill. One, money for testing. Two, money for small businesses, we discussed that. Three, money for hospitals. Our hospitals are in desperate shape. As the Secretary said, they're not doing elective surgery. In my state, St. Peter's laid off 700 people. In Albany, St. Joseph's laid off 700 people. In Syracuse. Joe Manchin says his hospitals will go bankrupt. We need that. The third thing we do need is what the Republican governors are calling for—money for state and local governments. And this is not abstract.
Jake Tapper: Right, but that’s not going to be in there, you heard Secretary Mnuchin, he said the funding is not going to be in this bill.
Sen. Schumer: He says that. We are pushing hard. Well, they said 'til the last minute that it wouldn't be in COVID 3, and we pushed for $150 billion and it got in. It is so important. We don't want our police, our firefighters, our EMTs, our bus drivers. This is not an abstract issue. We don't want them fired, they're as important as anybody else. We're continuing to push hard for that in COVID 3.5.
Jake Tapper: So, let me ask you a question, because you're coming to us live this morning from one of the epicenters of coronavirus in the world, New York. Democrats have been very critical of how long it took President Trump to take serious action in the fight against coronavirus. But Dr. Thomas Frieden, the former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he told "The New York Times," that if New York State and city had adopted social distancing and physical distancing a week or two earlier the death toll in New York could have been reduced by anywhere from 50 to 80%. Didn't New York politicians drop the ball here too?
Sen. Schumer: Well, look. I think our governor and our mayor have done a great job, and I think most of America agrees. It's very hard when you don't have the federal cooperation, when you have the president early on saying it's a hoax, or it will go away, or don't worry about it, to get things done. I think our state and our city have done a terrific, terrific job, given that we were the epicenter.
Jake Tapper: San Francisco ordered schools closed on March 12th. Ohio did the same with five confirmed cases. On March 15th, de Blasio ordered New York City schools to close with 329 cases. A New York statewide stay-at-home order was on March 20th, a day after California. You don’t think more could have been done earlier? I mean, other states were taking action.  
Sen. Schumer: Look, again, we were the epicenter. There were so many things to do. Getting ventilators, so people wouldn’t die was important, getting the PPE for health care workers was important. There were many things that were very, very important. And as I said, I think both Cuomo and de Blasio get very high marks for how they've handled this.
Jake Tapper: I want to ask you one other question, sir. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this week did not rule out a possible 2022 primary run against you. Are you confident you could beat her?
Sen. Schumer: Look, throughout my career, I've done my job. I'm totally focused on this COVID. We are the epicenter. And I found throughout my career, you do your job well, everything else works out okay.
Jake Tapper: All right. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, thank you, sir, for your time. And I hope everyone in your world is safe and healthy. Thanks so much for being with us.
Sen. Schumer: Thank you, Jake, and stay healthy, too.