TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC’s AM Joy, Schumer Pushes For Coronavirus Response Legislation That Puts Workers And People First

March 21, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on MSNBC’s AM Joy and discussed the need for Coronavirus response legislation that puts workers and people first. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Joy-Ann Reid: Thank you so much, sir. So the challenge that I think those of us are looking at what Republicans seem to be proposing with Steve Mnuchen's support is a one-time check of $1,200, which does nothing to pay monthly bills if this goes longer than a month, versus giving a full on bailout to companies like McDonald's, to airline companies, to give them just cash money and then making small businesses like restaurants get loans. Is – is that going to pass?

Sen. Schumer: No. We Senate Democrats have a plan that's called “Workers First.” We want the help to go just to the people who you said, who are losing their jobs and have to pay monthly bills, not just the one-time shot of money, and then what do they do next month when they have a mortgage or a rent or food?

So we have five major points. There are many more but let me give you the five.

First, we beef up unemployment insurance in a huge way that's never been done before. We call it unemployment on steroids or “employment insurance.” If you lose your job because of this crisis or any other reason, the federal government will pay you your full salary for 4 to 6 months, we're trying to get 6, for the whole time, and that way you will have money every month, you will have money at the same level you were making before,  and you will be able to at least pay your bills. And then, if the crisis is over, you'll go back to your old job because you'll have your bills, the company will just furlough you, and that will work.

Second, a massive amount of money for health care. Our hospitals are hurting. And they need huge amounts of equipment, they need huge amounts of masks, and the workers in those hospitals, I've spoke to the head of the nurses’ union. They need all kinds of help. They're asking them to work longer hours. They're asking them to work without the proper protective gear. Massive infusion of money to hospitals and, by the way, to state and local governments, which are hurting.

Third, and I know you're going to have Sarah Nelson on your show, we're working with her. Any money that goes to these big industries has to go to the workers. We are going to demand of the airlines, you can't lay off a single worker, you can't cut the benefits, you can't cut the salary, you can't cut any of this for any worker. We're going to work on – I've been talking to some of my friends here in New York with these workers that they farmed out, you know, you clean toilets for minimum wage because it's a contractor, not the airline – no way.

And another thing: no buybacks. It just infuriates me, Joy, that these airlines, between 2010 and 2019, did $45 billion in buybacks and now they say they have no money. Those buybacks went to the wealthy shareholders, not a nickel to the workers, to productivity, et cetera. So that’s third.

Fourth, paid sick leave, paid family leave. People need it. If you have to stay home because you're sick or because a loved one is sick, you ought to be paid.

And finally, we'd like to help the students and we're trying to get them, working with Elizabeth Warren on this, a portion of your loans, not just the interest, but the principal is forgiven during this crisis. Students are losing school. They may have to go back for extra terms and extra courses. They should be made whole, too.

There's many more things in this, but as you can see it's a workers first plan, period.

Joy-Ann Reid: Can I add a sixth thing?

Sen. Schumer: Sure. We have more than five. Go ahead.

Joy-Ann Reid: I think a sixth thing that a lot of the American people would really appreciate you guys adding, and that bill sounds like it makes a lot of sense, is ensuring that the president and his family cannot profit from bailouts. We know that Donald Trump when he was a nonpolitician benefitted after 9/11 from taking some of that money that was given to businesses that were harmed in New York. The fact is he's in the leisure business, sir, and his business is based on tourism. It's hotels, it's golf clubs, et cetera. And we've learned from David Farenthold at the Washington Post that those businesses are now losing money, but they've taken in a lot of money from us, from the taxpayers by him charging the military and the federal government to stay there.

Sen. Schumer: Yeah, and all these right wing Republicans, they only go to the Trump Hotel, which should be against –

Joy-Ann Reid: That’s right.

Sen. Schumer: We have a lawsuit led by Senator Blumenthal to stop this. Of course, when they stack the courts with right wing judges, they don’t succeed. But, it's a good thought and we will look into it. We have a lot of other things. That list is not exclusive, but I wanted to give you some of the main things and the flavor of what we're trying to do here. And we're making progress. We want to get this done, but we want to get it done in the right way, which is for workers. And average folks, not just workers.

Joy-Ann Reid: So you're going to ensure that the president and his family cannot personally benefit from bailout?

Sen. Schumer: We'll try to get that in the legislation, yeah. We’ll try to get that figured out. I think it's against the law now but the judges are not interpreting it correctly.

Joy-Ann Reid: Right. Yeah. And another issue, I think that's important that I must ask you about since I have you here. The fact that at least two members of the United States Senate, Senator Burr and Senator Loeffler of Georgia, appear to have traded on the crisis, using information, at least in the case of Senator Burr, he is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The idea that a United States Senator, let alone a chairman of the Intel Committee, would brief high-ranked donors, big ticket people, rich people, brief them on the crisis, not brief his own constituents in North Carolina, not tell them how bad it was, but tell big business people how bad it was and then trade on that information, I asked Senator Harris this earlier: will there be an ethics investigation of these members and any other members who did the same?

Sen. Schumer: The answer in one word is yes, there should be and there will be. I don't own any stocks. I think it's a very bad idea for Senators to own stocks. There's either a conflict or an appearance of conflict, and one of the things we need with the public is some degree of trust. You know, it's pretty low right now. You own stocks and you benefit from something that no one else can, or even people are hurt as in your example, the American people have even less faith in government. And look, at a time like this we need people to have faith in government because our federal government, the right wing is learning this, is needed. It may be the only backstop to so much destruction in people's lives and health and happiness.

Joy-Ann Reid: Yeah. And we know that Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary, is who is negotiating with you guys on behalf of the White House. And I wonder if you might ask him while he's there if he's, since he's not been very good about disclosing anything about the President of the United States' tax returns or his finances, I think the American people would like to know what Donald Trump's trades and his stock investments, if he has any, look like during this period because.

Sen. Schumer: Fair question.

Joy-Ann Reid: Because he was also –  he had this information too and didn't share it and said it was, you know, no big deal but presumably he also knew how bad it was. Can we find out if he traded in any way or his family?

Sen. Schumer: We know one thing though, Joy. He may have known how bad it is, but he downplayed this for so long with the testing and everything else that it's worse than it would have been, considerably worse than it would have been. But obviously it's a fair question. Obviously. And I don't know that he'll give me an answer, but I don't mind asking.

Joy-Ann Reid: Two more questions. Second question, is it possible for the United States Senate to authorize this country to simply buy the WHO test, the WHO-authorized test out of Germany, the gold standard test that other countries are using and distribute that around the country.

Sen. Schumer: We're trying to get as many tests out as we can. We need many more than this test. But I think the FDA and the CDC have been slow in authorizing new tests. We in New York State have different laboratories and different parts of hospitals that could come up with own tests and it took till last Saturday to allow, to get for the federal government to say go ahead. And now we're ramping up the tests in New York. Testing is so important. The mayor in New Rochelle, that’s the place that had the first quarantine, said to me, if I could have had tests, I wouldn’t have had to do this because I could have tested everybody, whoever had the virus could have had to stay inside. Whoever didn’t have the virus could walk on the streets, do the shopping, and everything else. The testing is important, but here's what's going to be the crisis in the next three weeks if we don't jump on it and do something about it: hospitals. There's going to be not enough beds. There won't be enough nurses, there won't be enough doctors, there won’t be enough masks, there won't be enough protective gear, so part of our plan is a Marshall Plan for hospitals so they get dollars quickly and they can deal with the people who are sick.

Joy-Ann Reid: Well, Senator Schumer, Leader Schumer, good luck. Thank you very much. Good luck in those negotiations and New York I think is really fighting hard so good luck.

Sen. Schumer: We are fighting the fight, Joy. We have no choice. America needs us.

Joy-Ann Reid: New York is fighting. Absolutely.

Sen. Schumer: Thank you, Joy.