New York, NY – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today was interviewed on MSNBC’s Morning Joe about the historic Inflation Reduction Act. Below is the interview:
Mika Brzezinski: It’s been a stretch of big wins for Democrats lately – and we’re expecting to see another one today with the House set to vote on the landmark Inflation Reduction Act. The bill passed in the Senate earlier in the week after intense negotiations between West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. And the Senate Majority Leader joins us now. Thank you very much for being on the show. Congratulations on the work to get this really landmark legislation done.
Senator Chuck Schumer: Thank you, Mika. I haven't been on the show in a while, hadn't seen you, so I came here to the studio. I figured we'd get to mix and mingle. I'm here all by myself.
Brzezinski: All right. We'll see you next time. We really glad to have you on the show, though. I'm sorry you feel lonely.
Schumer: Oh, It’s a big studio.
Brzezinski: Let me start by asking you, off topic, because we're going to talk about this legislation and all the different incredible facets and how it got done, and I know you don't want to talk and will not talk about the investigation and the F.B.I. search. Not asking you to – I've seen your answer. You don't want to talk about it. But I am very concerned about the dangerous rhetoric that has whipped across the airwaves and around the internet, and I guess the part that applies to you is, what do you say to your Republican counterparts who participated in this right off the bat?
Schumer: Well, look, what I said then and I said now, I was asked, should I comment? I said it is premature to comment until we know all the facts. When asked when others talked about it, I said it is premature for them as well. They're jumping the gun. Now that Trump has said that he will release this information, we'll all know the facts, and then it'll be appropriate for everybody to comment, and we'll see the facts, and we'll see if the kinds of statements that were made before they even knew anything have any validity. I bet they won't.
Brzezinski: Well, I mean, again, this is – I agree with you completely. This is something that we've seen happen with Hillary Clinton when it came to classified information. Now we're seeing it with Donald Trump. It seems far more serious, and Joe, I'll take it to you, because there are Republicans on the Hill, and I think Leader Schumer is, you know, careful with his language here, but they're calling for investigations.
Joe Scarborough: They say they’re going to investigate the investigators. Yeah, I'm just curious, again, the attacks on law enforcement officers, the hostile language, the rhetoric, shouldn't Republican Senators, shouldn't Republican House members step forward and try to tamp that down?
Schumer: Well, of course. But what's happened is, and we've seen this, not just in this area, the Republican party has become the MAGA Republicans. The bottom line is, too much of that party just goes along with this hard right philosophy. The good news is, Joe, that a good number of, not only Democrats and independents, but even now some Republicans are rejecting that MAGA Republican party. There's about 20%, frankly, of electorate that is either mainstream Republican, non-MAGA, or independents who lean Republican. They're moving in our direction. And their only doubt has been, well, we don't like where the Republicans are going, but if the Democrats stay in power or gain more power, can they get anything done?
And I think what's so important is what we've done in the last six weeks. It shows that we can get a lot done. I think the contrast is a great contrast. You have a MAGA Republican party that's turning off at least a certain segment of Republicans and leaning-Republican independents, and now you have a Democratic party that says, hey, we can do a lot of things, we can get things done that really make your lives better, and I think it is going to serve us very, very well in November.
Scarborough: So before we talk about the contents of the bill, let's talk about the big question, how did this get done? I mean, for a year and a half, we saw Democrats debating each other, attacking each other in the halls, running to members of the press, talking about why other Democrats were inadequate in their responses or positions on different issues. And then you and Joe Manchin come out and announce you've got a deal. How did it happen?
Schumer: I'll describe one word that helped get this done more than anything else: persistence. We just kept at it. That's who I am. I'm a persistent fella. And we had a lot of obstacles and roadblocks and dead ends, but we kept at it and kept at it because we knew how important it was to get something done. And even though it wasn't everything everybody wanted, certainly not what I wanted, it is a major, major accomplishment and there’s almost universal acceptance in the Democratic party. You saw it was a unanimous vote. And if you'll indulge me, I'll tell you one more point that relates to this.
So my dad passed away in November. I was very close to him. Mika, I know you lost your dad recently, as well, and maybe you understand this. He's still sitting here with me. He had a difficult life. He had a junky little exterminating business, he hated it. He never complained. He was a brilliant guy but couldn't go to college due to circumstances, and never resented other people who might have gotten a better break than him. But he taught me two things above all, and they're with me. One, always try to help people who need help. That's one of the most noble things you can do. Second, he said, if you know you are doing the right thing and you're sure of it, and you persist and you keep at it, God will make sure, as he put it, God will make sure you succeed.
That's motivating me, and I think a lot of us here: keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, and you can get something done, and that's what happened. It took a while. There were a lot of critics. I tried to just look for the good in what we could get done. And here we are, we passed the most significant piece of legislation in decades, maybe since the '60s, if you look at the six pieces of legislation that we’ve passed in the last four or five weeks. And I think that serves – it is going to serve us well as Democrats, but it’s going to serve America well in a lot of different ways.
Brzezinski: Historian Jon Meacham is with us, and he has the next question for Leader Chuck Schumer.
Jon Meacham: Senator, I'm wondering, when you look at the various states that are competitive coming up, do you have any sense of what the persuadable slice of the country is these days? You know, we're not an 80/20 country. We're not a 90/10 country. It's always been closer. But someone in your job understands where these margins are because you have to know what your members can do. When we step back, do you think there's 10% out there, more, less, who might say, you know what, I don't want the extremism. I may not love the Democrats, but at least they're not taking nuclear secrets.
Schumer: Jon, well, it's not just not taking nuclear secrets, it's all of it. We've seen a dramatic change in numbers in the last few months, even before this major accomplishment of the IRA [Inflation Reduction Act]. And it’s because people felt the Republicans were becoming extreme. It is people who had voted for Trump in 2020 but were now getting turned off to him. It is not most of the Republicans, and it's certainly not most of the people who vote in the primaries, as we saw in the recent election. But it is sort of mainstream, old-school Republicans, but a lot of independents who leaned Republican and voted for Trump, are now moving. So I think actually that number of people who can move is greater.
And when they see the things we've done, for some of the younger people, it is climate. For elderly people the fact we've reduced the cost of prescription drugs for the first time, allowed Medicare to negotiate, put in a $2,000 cap, all these people who have to pay $400 for a pill and don't know how they're going to even live. We got insulin down for Medicare people to $35. Here's one thing people forget in this legislation, there's a lot of savings for individual people in the energy front. It's estimated your electricity bill by 2030 will go down $500 to $1,000. Appliances are going to cost a less, electric cars, which are becoming more popular, will cost less. When you want a solar panel on your roof, it’s going to cost a lot less.
And so all of these things are winning over the same people who have doubts about Republicans, but, as you said, had doubts about Democrats. And the doubts they basically have about Democrats are, can this party get anything done? So I think that the combination of those two things is huge.
And, look, I just talked to two of our candidates yesterday out in their state, in our battleground states. The reaction they're getting is enormous – enormous. One of them talked about insulin, and one was talking about power and electric rates. A third was actually talking about choice. But in all of them, the reaction was, even beyond a specific accomplishment, that maybe this government isn't broken. Maybe it can do something that makes my life better. We've been trying for decades to do something about prescription drugs and the power of Pharma. Here, we have a major and very important bill. Again, not everything everybody wanted on each piece, but very important. So I think there is a slice of the electorate, a new slice of the electorate, because of the MAGA Republican-ness of that party, and the failure, as Joe mentioned, of some of the Republican leaders to even speak out against them, that's up for grabs, and I think we have a good shot to get them. The way I look at it, if we held the election today, there is a damn good chance we'd pick up a few seats.
Eddie Glaude Jr.: Congratulations again on this extraordinary accomplishment. It’s wonderful to see, at least in this instance, government working. I want to talk about, you know, aspects of the IRA, but I want to frame it in the sense of, you know, you have this accomplishment. You rightly say you didn't get all you wanted to get, but there is also the question around voting rights, a question around the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act. Then in "The New York Times" today, there is an issue with IRA, with Black farmers and the $4 billion that was promised earlier. There's some question about whether they'll get the money they deserve. Talk about that issue in relation to IRA and the broader issue around race and the upcoming midterm and the like.
Schumer: Okay. Let me say two things about that, Eddie. On the black farmers, of course, originally, we had put $4 billion in the ARP aimed at Black farmers because of the injustices against them, the legitimate injustices. And then, of course, right-wingers went to court and said, you can't do it on the basis of race, so nothing was happening. And these farmers are ready to be foreclosed. So Cory Booker and Raphael Warnock, who care about this issue a lot, came up with a proposal that put the $4 billion still in, it didn’t do it explicitly race-based but it did talk about poor farmers who needed the help, and much of the money will go to the same black farmers. Should we still pursue in court this decision, which I think was wrongly done by some east Texas judge, but he put a freeze on the whole thing? Yes, we should. But I think what we put in the bill is going to give some relief to the farmers. And we'll keep going beyond that.
Generally, the bill has a lot of things that deal with the problems you've talked about. $60 billion is for environmental justice. We all know when decisions were made about building highways, building this, building that, they put them in the poorest – or bus terminals – they put them in the poorest neighborhoods. And we have huge numbers of kids in our poorer communities who suffer from asthma. It is estimated by a nonpartisan modeling agency that the number of asthma cases will go down by 100,000 a year because of this proposal, mainly affecting people of color. The number of deaths from asthma will go down by more than 4,000 a year, 4,000 young people who will be alive and have good, productive lives, God willing. So we have looked up and down this bill to deal with the issues of racial injustice. Even going after diabetes. While 8% of Americans suffer from diabetes, 14.7% of African Americans suffer from diabetes, and now there is going to be a $35 limit for all people on Medicare, so they can afford the diabetes [medication insulin]. Stacey Abrams told me one of the most important things we could do is put a cap on diabetes, when she talked about how to help in Georgia.
Brzezinski: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, thank you very much for coming on the show this morning. Congratulations on this legislation.