TRANSCRIPT: On MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Senator Schumer Says That Amid Pandemic, The Senate Should Be Working On Responding To Coronavirus—Not Confirming Right-Wing Judicial Nominees

May 4, 2020

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer tonight on The Rachel Maddow Show said that the Senate should focus on coronavirus pandemic response efforts and oversight instead of focusing on confirming unqualified, right-wing judicial nominees. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Rachel Maddow: Joining us now for the interview tonight is the top Democrat in the United States Senate, New York’s senior Senator, Chuck Schumer. Senator Schumer, it’s nice to see you. Thank you for taking time to be here tonight.

Sen. Schumer: Good evening, Rachel.

Rachel Maddow: Let me ask you first about what I just mentioned there—this White House notification today that members of the administration's coronavirus task force won't be allowed to testify at any time this entire month unless the White House chief of staff gives a permission slip. To me, it just strikes me as a strange sort of proclamation, I wonder if this is something you expected, or if this is a surprise to you.

Sen. Schumer: Well, it's not surprising, because Donald Trump and his administration, by and large, have just shied away from the truth. They don't want to admit the reality. President Trump said a month ago, every American who wants a test can get a test. Well, obviously, that is not even close to true. And you know, Rachel, the longer they don't admit the truth—the longer they don't listen to the scientists—the longer this crisis is going to last. And even worse, it's more likely to come back a second and third time. So frankly, this president, who only looks out for himself, is even hurting himself, by shying away, by putting his head in the sand, by not admitting the truth. You know, we Democrats, you're right, we came back today, so Mitch McConnell could confirm a right-wing, very divisive judge, a judge who even said that the chief justice was wrong when he didn’t get rid of the ACA, even at a time when people are desperate for health care, and that's why we're coming back. It's unbelievable.

There is nothing on the floor this week about COVID. We asked McConnell, at least, to have hearings, and bring up, so they could get real questions, not, you know, when a reporter asks them a question, or asks the president or one of his people at the White House, the president cuts them off. In a hearing like this, a real, focused hearing, you could ask question after question, and we ask that Fauci and Birx and Mnuchin and Powell and others all come forward. We don't have that here, those hearings this week. Now they say they may have Fauci next week, but who can believe that given what Mark Meadows said and given they pulled him away from the House. So by not telling the truth, by not hearing the truth, by not listening to the scientists, they are prolonging this crisis, they are prolonging how bad the economy will be, they are prolonging the agony of this country. It’s appalling. So does it surprise me? No. Does it upset me? A lot.

Rachel Maddow: Senator, especially given what you all have been called back to do, as you say, you're not dealing with the crisis the country is facing right now, you're dealing with, you know, confirming controversial judge picks and other things like that. Given that that’s the thing for which why you are all potentially sacrificing your health, coming back to work in aggregate at the U.S. Capitol, without actually having you and all of your staff tested before coming into that environment, which is something that does happen at the White House for anybody who comes into contact with the president.

Sen. Schumer: Yes.

Rachel Maddow: I mean, I'm worried about you and your colleagues, you are, with all due respect, an older group. You have, you have to have interaction with a lot of people. That’s the nature of the job.

Sen. Schumer: Young at heart. Young at heart.

Rachel Maddow: It does feel scary to me though, that you're all there. Is there concern among your colleagues?

Sen. Schumer: Yes, and each colleague has made his or her own choice, whether they can best serve their constituents by staying home or coming. And that choice, I respect in every colleague. But we're here right now, to force McConnell, and the Republicans, to do the job that we're supposed to do: pass new COVID legislation. We haven't heard a peep out of McConnell other than these lines in the sand for his ideological issues: we are not going to give aid to state and local governments. He first said let them go “bankrupt.” Now he's saying, oh, we have to exempt the corporate leadership from liability. That means if a head of a company said, “You have to sit next to someone who has all the signs of COVID, without PPE,” you can't sue that boss. That encourages bad bosses to do just that. That's all he is doing. So I'm here to force them—as best I can—to do real oversight. That's part of Congress' responsibility. And to come up with things, like money for state and local governments, like “Heroes Pay” for the people who are on the front lines, like getting money for housing relief, for people who after three months will be kicked out of their homes. And that is something that he is not doing. Why he called us back here, given the agenda, is befuddling, even to many of my Republican colleagues.

Rachel Maddow: Senator, in terms of the what the Senate can do right now, and I can hear and see your frustration with the Republican Leader in terms of how he is organizing the time and the priorities of Senate right now. But I know that Senate Democrats, for example, put together a detailed plan about trying to fix the testing disaster in this country.

Sen. Schumer: Yes.

Rachel Maddow: I know that the Senate Democrats have talked in detail about what needs to happen different in terms of the financial relief and how it's been directed and how in some cases it has been misdirected to the kinds of companies that were not supposed to get small business aid, but nevertheless took the lion’s share of it. Do you have the opportunity to work on those things, at all? Even as a caucus? Even if Senator McConnell isn't allowing those things to be driving the floor agenda?

Sen. Schumer: Yes. Well, the last two bills show that, Rachel—COVID3 and COVID 3.5 McConnell came on the floor with a corporate-first bill; in the first one, we forced him to do state and local aid, we forced him to do aid to hospitals, we forced him to do aid to small business. On testing they resisted, but in this COVID 3.5 we forced them to put in $25 billion for testing, $11 billion to go to the states so they could do testing and do contact tracing, and then the rest to the federal government so they could actually provide the supply lines that are needed and the manufacturing that are needed to make the most tests. So when we confront McConnell, we usually win. And that's because, even though we're a minority, the public is on our side. And a lot of those Republican Senators—some up for re-election and some not—eventually come over to our side. And so we’ve had success in bill three; we had success in 3.5. Not everything we want, believe you me. But making it a lot better than when they started and I believe we will have the same success as we get to work and roll up our sleeves on COVID4, the next bill.

Rachel Maddow: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator Chuck Schumer, thank you for making time tonight I know there’s a lot of demands on you right now. I appreciate you making time.

Sen. Schumer: Thank you.