Feb 11, 2021

Chuck Schumer, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock Press Conference Transcript February 11: COVID Relief

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RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsChuck Schumer, Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock Press Conference Transcript February 11: COVID Relief

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock held a press conference on February 11, 2021. The discussed COVID relief plans for Georgia. Read the transcript of the briefing here.

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Senator Schumer: (00:02)
Okay. Six feet away, six feet away. Good, that’s good, that’s good, good. Okay, good morning everybody and thank you for joining us and I’m so proud to be joined by two new outstanding senators from Georgia, Jon Ossoff, and the Reverend Raphael Warnock, who are working alongside Democrats in the Senate to deliver desperately needed COVID-19 relief back to their home state. If this little event today has a message, it’s three words, elections have consequences. But before I get to that, I want to just say how proud I am that both these senators are history-making. Raphael Warnock was born in Georgia when two arch segregationists were the senators and now he’s the first African-American Senator from Georgia. And Jon Ossoff is the first Jewish Senator from Georgia, so it’s game-changing. And following that game changing election that brought them both to the Senate, Democrats took the majority for the first time.

Senator Schumer: (01:11)
What does that mean? It means real things to real people, in Georgia and throughout the country. If the election had gone the other way, we know that Mitch McConnell would not be working on COVID relief for working families. But now, because we have Warnock and because we have Ossoff in the Senate, we are on the edge of delivering real relief to the working folks, to the poor people, to the middle-class people of Georgia and of America.

Senator Schumer: (01:45)
Here’s a little number, $8,200. A family that makes $75,000 and has two kids, in other words, a family of four with two kids is going to get $8,200 in additional direct relief. That’s between the direct payments and the doubling of the child tax credit, which the House has already reported out and both have large support among the Democrats in the Senate. So these talented fighters are actually delivering on their promise when they ran, that they were actually going to bring real help, that elections have consequences. That the difference between having Ossoff and Warnock in the Senate is very real to the vast majority of average folks in Georgia and in the country. It’s part of what we’re trying to do here.

Senator Schumer: (02:51)
Last year, as you know, Congress passed multiple COVID-19 relief packages, but we’re far from out of the woods. The down payment Congress passed in December stopped some of the bleeding, but without robust action the recovery is going to be long and painful. And we want to get out of that ditch, the COVID ditch, both health-wise and economically as quick as possible. And the addition of these two men to the Senate makes that very, very likely and very, very real, because it allows us to build in a much stronger way on the previous package that was passed in December.

Senator Schumer: (03:31)
Thanks to Senators Warnock and Ossoff, this COVID bill will be bigger and bolder and bring significantly more help to Georgians and to Americans. And right now, Democrats are on the path to secure another round of direct payments , an expansion of the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. Other things that they have been pushing for. Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, minority institutions, and tribal colleges, debt relief to black farmers, who have been ignored for far too long in Georgia and elsewhere, and so much more.

Senator Schumer: (04:18)
They have been pushing me, as leader, to get these things done. They’ve been talking to our caucus and obviously, the Democratic caucus is very grateful that they ran such great races and helped us gain the majority. But we realized that’s not the end, that’s just the beginning. Getting things done is the real reason that people elected them and what we must do.

Senator Schumer: (04:43)
Again, in terms of direct assistance to Georgia, families, senators Ossoff and Warnock are going to help deliver an extra $8,000 for an average family of four. That makes a big difference in their lives. We Senate Democrats, as you know, we’re moving full steam ahead with a bold plan to tackle the worst health crisis in a hundred years since the Spanish pandemic flu. The worst economic crisis in 75 years since the great depression. This bill, what we are proposing is proof to people who have lost faith in democracy, your vote matters. It sure mattered in Georgia. The people of Georgia should be very proud of their two senators and their state. Because Georgians sent John and Rafael to the United States Senate, I can confidently say real significant help is on the way. Senator Ossoff.

Senator Ossoff: (05:48)
Thank you, Leader Schumer. It’s great to be here alongside you, Senator Reverend Warnock. The message today for Georgia families is very simple. $8,200 of additional federal financial relief to help see you and your kids through this pandemic will be included in the Senate legislation that we are working to pass right now. $8,200 for a family of four in Georgia earning $75,000. Senator Reverend Warnock and I were sent here to fight for COVID relief for the people of our state who have had to face extraordinary childcare costs as schools have been closed.

Senator Ossoff: (06:36)
Who have had huge medical bills during this health crisis. Who have seen loss of employment and severe financial distress. Families who have been facing eviction and foreclosure. We came here to deliver help for the people of Georgia. And working with Leader Schumer and colleagues, Senator Reverend Warnock and I are here to inform the people of Georgia that we are working to advance this legislation, which will deliver $8,200 in additional federal relief in coming months for an average working family of four in the state of Georgia. We are working tirelessly to ensure that there are additional funds for Medicaid expansion for the people of Georgia.

Senator Ossoff: (07:23)
Our state thus far has refused to expand Medicaid, and we are working to secure additional funding for the expansion of Medicaid in Georgia, as well as Leader Schumer mentioned, significant additional resources for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. So once again, $8,200 for a working family of four in the state of Georgia to bridge this period of great distress and suffering while we ramp up vaccines and the public health response. Thank you, Leader Schumer. Senator Reverend Warnock.

Senator Warnock: (08:04)
Thank you so very much. I’m glad to be here with Leader Schumer and with Senator Ossoff, I love the sound of that. To talk about the urgency of getting this relief bill passed for the people back home in Georgia and all across this country. I want to say that I’m so proud of the people of the state of Georgia, in this defining moment in American history for sending John and me to the United States Senate. But they sent us with a mandate to address the devastation of this public health crisis for our state and our country, and we intend to live up to that promise. The people of Georgia are the ones who helped to make this robust relief possible. In a real sense that they stood up not only for that state, but for the country, and now it’s up to the Congress to deliver.

Senator Warnock: (09:01)
And that’s why our top priorities are getting the vaccine distributed in our state and delivering the relief and assistance Georgians need to get on their feet through this tough time. This is one moment in which it’s very clear that public policy is quite literally a matter of life and death. And so, it’s clear that Congress needs to take bold action to help Georgians and Americans respond to a once in a century pandemic that’s created an economic turndown, the likes of which we haven’t seen in 75 years. And we do that by passing this $1.9 trillion relief proposal. And when we do that, here are the things that we bring home for the people of Georgia. $20 billion in vaccine procurement, distribution, and outreach, so we can address the health of our citizens and our economy, 20 billion for the whole country. And then just for Georgia, nearly $2 billion to incentivize our state to finally expand Medicaid.

Senator Warnock: (10:14)
And I want to emphasize that point because many of us have been fighting for the expansion of Medicaid for years. Folks here in the Congress have been trying to get States like Georgia to expand Medicaid. I literally got arrested in an act of civil disobedience, trying to get our state to do the right thing. I came here to this Capitol as an activist in 2017, standing up when they were cutting the children’s healthcare program in order to give a $2 trillion tax cut to the richest of the rich.

Senator Warnock: (10:47)
And so now, we can finally get Georgia to expand Medicaid by providing nearly $2 billion. It covers the cost of expanding Medicaid in Georgia and then some, and that would not have happened were it not for the fact that the people of Georgia stood up and sent us to the Senate. More than $4 billion to Georgia’s K through 12 schools to ensure students, teachers and staff stay safe and healthy and to address learning and loss and billions and equitable funding for our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Also $5 billion in debt relief and direct assistance to farmers of color, to help our rural communities who have been so hard hit by the recent economic devastation, but also have suffered from long-term discrimination. Relief for rental and mortgage assistance, and more than $8 billion to help Georgians provide essential services to keep up the fight on the front lines of this pandemic.

Senator Warnock: (11:58)
That’s just some of what’s in this package. And so I’m committed to getting it done as quickly as possible. I’m so grateful to Leader Schumer for his support. We have been encouraging others to stand with us, to make sure that the people of Georgia and the people of this country get the relief that they need. There is not another minute to waste.

Senator Schumer: (12:24)
Okay. We’ll take a few questions.

Speaker 4: (12:26)
Leader Schumer?

Senator Schumer: (12:27)
Nope. Go ahead.

Speaker 5: (12:29)
Leader Schumer, so it sounds like you are fully on board with the $1,400 checks for those making up to 75,000 and 150 respectively individuals and couples. With the phase-out at 100,000 and 200,000 individuals and couples. How competent are you that you have everyone in your party on board?

Senator Schumer: (12:51)
The bottom line is it has broad, broad support in our caucus. And we think the House bill is right in the ballpark, right in the ballpark.

Speaker 4: (13:00)
Leader Schumer. A lot of your caucus has been pretty vocal about wanting to see the $15 minimum wage as a form of direct aid to folks in this bill. The president’s been somewhat skeptical it can survive the reconciliation process. What’s your view on that being in this bill and making it all the way through the Senate?

Senator Schumer: (13:18)
Well, Senator Sanders and I are working very closely together to overcome the bird bath and make sure we do everything we can to see that it survives the bird bath. We’ll see what happens. That’s our first step.

Speaker 6: (13:36)
Hi Senator Ossoff and Warnock, you all both mentioned Medicaid expansion. Can you tell me a little bit more about what you think can make it into this final bill that will incentivize states like Georgia to expand Medicaid?

Senator Warnock: (13:50)
Well, the current package provides an additional 5% for Georgia through the FMAP, which would more than incentivize Georgia to do the right thing. Listen, Georgia is already losing money because it’s refused to expand Medicaid. And politicians have been playing games around this for years, but now with this additional 5% through the FMAP, we more than provide adequate support for Georgia to do the right thing.

Senator Schumer: (14:22)
Yes.

Speaker 7: (14:23)
I was going to ask, is the trial slowing you guys down at all in delivering relief? And then on that, are the House impeachment managers changing any of the GOP colleagues minds?

Senator Schumer: (14:33)
On question one. No, it is not. As we promised, when I first became majority leader, they said, “You have three big tasks. President’s cabinet, impeachment, COVID.” We are on track with all three this week, we affirmed two more of the president’s nominees. The impeachment trial moves forward at a good pace.

Senator Schumer: (14:51)
And our committees as we speak, both in the House and Senate are working on bold COVID relief that the American people need. So no, it is not slowing us down. Look, yesterday’s testimony and presentations … actually not testimony, but presentations were extremely powerful, gut wrenching when you saw what happened. And a lot of people didn’t see it up close, particularly a lot of the … I had never seen myself in that tape that they showed. I didn’t know they had it until I saw it. And so I’m hopeful it will change minds. It’s hard to look at that and not see the gravity of what happened.

Speaker 8: (15:31)
Leader Schumer, after yesterday’s testimony, do you see the need to bring in outside witnesses in the impeachment trial?

Senator Schumer: (15:37)
We have given the House managers a free hand and they said to us, “We’re not sure we want managers, but we want to preserve the right.” In the bipartisan agreement, that leader McConnell and I negotiated that is allowed. And they will make that decision, I think after the opening arguments of both sides.

Speaker 8: (15:54)
Thank you.

Speaker 9: (15:55)
Leader Schumer, what is your reaction to Republicans basically saying that this trial is nothing more than just preventing Donald Trump from running again?

Senator Schumer: (16:03)
Just look at the trial. Look at what happened. To sweep this under the rug, to ignore it in one of the most dastardly at any president, probably the most dastardly act any president has committed, would not heal, but keep the wounds open. Last one.

Speaker 10: (16:20)
Leader Schumer, it seems that it might not be the votes to convict President Trump. And so then you might not be able to pull up the vote to bar him from office. Is there support for bringing forward a 14th Amendment measure?

Senator Schumer: (16:30)
We’re first going to finish the impeachment trial and then Democrats will get together and discuss where we go next. Thank you everybody. And thank my colleagues.