Washington, D.C. –Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on MSNBC Live and reacted to the latest jobs report, warning Republicans that, with unemployment above 13% and an ongoing public health crisis, now is not a time to be complacent. Senator Schumer also urged Senate Republicans to join Democrats to pass urgent and necessary legislation to address these ongoing crises roiling the lives of tens of millions of Americans and called on Leader McConnell to hold a Senate vote on law enforcement reform legislation before the Fourth of July. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Stephanie Ruhle: With us now, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Leader in the Senate. Senator, this better than expected jobs number, what does that tell you?
Well, it tells us that we still have a very long way to go. There's a great
anomaly here. The president says it's “stupendous,” the president says “it's a
joyous day,” when we have almost 20 million people out of work, when the
unemployment number went down, but it's still much higher and higher than any
time during the Great Recession after 2008. And why did this happen? In large
part because of the stimulus. Because of the plans that we put together mainly
pushed by Democrats to pump trillions of dollars into an economy that was just
headed in free-fall. Here's my worry, Stephanie. My worry is that these numbers
will make the president, the Republican Senate, complacent. We have lots of
cliffs coming up. July 1st, loads of states have their budgets due.
If they don't get state and local aid there are going to be massive layoffs
among state and local workers—we haven't seen that many of those so far. We
have a rental crisis. People after three months moratorium
s are going to
be thrown out of their homes. The unemployment insurance, which pumped a whole
lot of money into the economy, expires July 31st. Our bill moves it
to December 31st, the one that passed the House. And let's not
forget the stimulus checks, $1200 people got, which got a lot of money quickly
into the economy. There's no more of those unless we pass a new bill.
And one more point, racial justice. Racial justice. We Democrats intend to put together a plan on racial justice and police enforcement—a strong, bold, comprehensive plan together on Monday. Senate and House Democrats together. But there's an economic component to this. African-American unemployment went up—as you pointed out or one of the reporters—that a lot of that is in the industries that are hurting the most: the travel, the entertainment, and the retail. Things like that. And if we don't get massive testing, which is the real answer here. If people had instantaneous tests and knew when they entered a place that everyone was tested and the people who were inside didn't have COVID, we could open up a lot more quickly. That's in our bill, too.
So the bottom line is very simple here. And that is the stimulus helped get the economy going. But we need a lot more or we could go right back into the ditch with unemployment expiring. And one other thing. Even large companies, they have cash reserves that last three, four months. They're going to run out in the next few months. And if they can't borrow, they're going to have trouble, too. So this is not something to say is joyous and stupendous, but rather is to double down and do more of what we did, which has the beginning signs of being successful.
Stephanie Ruhle: I hear everything that you're saying, Senator. But are you going to be able to get your Republican colleagues to hear that and agree? It was already an uphill battle for you to get more stimulus passed. And now with the jobs picture what it is and the president running a victory lap, do you think Republicans are going to take your call?
Sen. Schumer: Well, the great worry here is that they will be complacent. This is not the time to be complacent. Nearly 20 million people out of work, a 13 percent unemployment number is not a time to be “joyous, stupendous,” and stop doing things because we have new cliffs to occur and it's a very strong likelihood things will go down again if there's no new stimulus. Will our Republican colleagues see that? Or will they be bound by an ideology that says you're not supposed to spend government money even though the private sector we know cannot get us out of this crisis alone? Will Donald Trump be able to finally think in a systematic, more than a month ahead or day ahead way instead of doing all these horrible things he's doing in terms of dividing the country, bigotry, everything that General Mattis talked about? Look, the jury is out. But we are ready. The House passed a very strong bill that will help us move forward. The Senate Republicans have not even said they’d put it on the floor before July 4th. If they don’t, I would say the odds are very high that the gains we’ve seen today will evaporate.
Stephanie Ruhle: Senator, you mentioned just a moment ago when we were talking racial inequality how there is clear economic inequality. Beyond stimulus, is this an opportunity for the government to take a closer look at policies? You mentioned it. Black unemployment, 16.8%. Black women in this country, almost 20% of them lost their jobs between February and May. If you go back in time, education. We don't have education equality in this country or opportunity equality. We don't have Black America occupying executive jobs where they can work from home and benefit from the roaring stock market.
Sen. Schumer: You're a hundred percent right, and our stimulus bill does aim things. We push much more money into minority small businesses. We got a $10 billion set aside for what are called CDFIs, which are little institutions that help minority businesses get loans from the PPP. The unemployment insurance, of course, helps the disproportionate number of black people that are out there. But we need structures. We need to improve our education system. Here's another one. Why did such a higher percentage of African-Americans and people of color die and get corona? Because they have lousy health care, inferior health care, compared to the rest of the population. So the pre-existing conditions—something like diabetes, which may have been taken care of if you were in a middle class suburb—didn't get taken care of in the inner city. So we must learn from this. We must deal with law enforcement reform, but there's a whole lot of other things we have to do on education, on jobs, on health care to bring greater equality. And I hope and pray that this crisis will alert Americans.
We Democrats are going to push very hard on both fronts. Law enforcement, I asked Leader McConnell to put a law enforcement reform bill on the floor by July 4th and economic recovery. We've asked them to put the COVID-4 bill on the floor and debate it with us. So far all they're doing is these sort of goofy, their conspiracy caucus. They're focused on the Russian conspiracy and the Biden conspiracy and the Obama conspiracy. That's not what the American people want. They want more action. The action we did helped break the worst of this recession. But if we don't do more, we could slide right back. Right back and it could be even worse. I hope, I pray that Trump and the Republicans don't take this as a sign to be complacent, because there are many more cliffs and problems coming up in the economy that we are aiming to fix and so far they're sitting on their hands. This may make it—I hope it doesn’t—but this may make it worse in terms of the ability to have them get something done.
Stephanie Ruhle: What is you level of confidence you can get something done with regard to civil rights? Look at the social unrest in the last week. But our government couldn't even pass an anti-lynching bill. If you couldn't do that, what can you do?
Sen. Schumer: Well, it was blocked by a Republican. We did a memorial service; to sit there stand in silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds and realize the pain that George Floyd went under is just—it was an incredibly moving experience. But I'm so proud. Trump would like people to think all the demonstrators are violent rioters. That's a tiny number and of course they should be punished. Nobody wants the violence. But the vast majority are people looking for change to deal with the gaping sore that's been on the American body politic since our founding and that is racial injustice, racism. And I am very hopeful that people across the country are seeing that and we can get some real strong action. We're going to push for it hard in the House and Senate. We hope that at least some Republicans with conscience will go along with us and get this passed.
Stephanie Ruhle: You're proud to see so many young Americans, actually Americans of all ages, out there protesting and demonstrating. But how concerned are you about their health? It was just a week ago we were looking at all the people who disregarded social distancing rules memorial day weekend, and we worried they were going to put themselves and so many others at a health risk. Do you not have that concern now?
Sen. Schumer: Well, yeah. Sure. The answer here is testing. The Trump administration has been an abject failure in getting adequate tests. If we had adequate tests, people who knew they had COVID could stay in. Everyone else could go about their business—protesting if they so wish, going to stores, going to work. Every country that has succeeded in bending the curve much better and more quickly than we did had a big testing and tracing regime. Trump, on March 6th, said “Everyone wants a test can get a test.” It's still not true today. I talk to business owners and I say, what do you need? Restaurant owners or business. And they say, I need testing. If I could get an instantaneous test and test everybody right away, then everything would be much more confident coming into my store, coming into my office, coming into my factory. They still are way behind the curve on testing.
All right. Before we go, I have to ask you always about oversight. Chuck
Grassley, Republican, at this point
, is saying he won't look at another
Trump appointee until we look at these five Inspectors General that the
president has removed. What are Democrats doing about oversight right now?
Sen. Schumer: Well, we agree with Grassley. We're not getting much support from others on the other side of the aisle unfortunately. I wish this was all bipartisan. You know, when we passed the COVID-3 bill, it passed 96 to nothing. Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz and everyone in between voted for it. But somehow now, led by our president, our Republican friends are moving away from all that. We've got to get back to bipartisanship and part of that is oversight. This is huge amounts of money being spent, and we had to get it out there quickly. There’s no question about it; otherwise things would have gotten worse. But you need oversight to make sure it's done well and the excesses aren't there.
Look at an example, Stephanie. The bill they originally proposed with the $400 billion lending facility, you know, magnified by the Fed to get $3 trillion more—they had no transparency. You wouldn't know who got the loan and what the terms were until after six months made. We required at least that every one of these new big loans to the big companies and all that be made public within fourteen days and every one rejected be made. I put in a really tough oversight guy, on our oversight committee who has already started to expose it. It would be great if it would be bipartisan. It should. I commend Grassley. I urge other Republicans to join him. Oversight is really important when you start doling out so much money so quickly. It's always important but even more importantly now.
Stephanie Ruhle: Never a bad idea to demand more transparency. Senator, thank you for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.