Aug 11, 2021
Chuck Schumer Press Conference After Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Passed Transcript
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on August 11, 2021, the day after the bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget resolution passed in the Senate. Read the transcript of the full briefing here.
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Chuck Schumer: (00:00)
Hands if you got six hours of sleep. Five, four, three. Okay. All right. Right. Anyway, I hope everyone got some sleep. I got a little bit, not as much as I’d like but good.
Chuck Schumer: (00:18)
So this was one of the most significant legislative days we’ve had in a long time here in the United States Senate, but we still have a long road to travel. It’s as if we caught a nice long pass at midfield, but we still have 50 yards to go before we score a touchdown, but it’s still good to make that pass and make that advance.
Chuck Schumer: (00:44)
What we saw yesterday is very simple. That elections matter, the American people’s votes matter and Democrats are working hard to keep the promises we made to the American people when we won the majority. Earlier this year, as you know, we pass the American Rescue Plan, which helped put checks in people’s pockets, shots in people’s arms and save small businesses and our economy. Now we’re going from rescue to recovery, to make the American people’s lives even better than it was before COVID because there were so many structural problems in our economy, and it became a sourness in the land that we very much want to remove.
Chuck Schumer: (01:32)
The two track strategy, which I outlined earlier this year, is moving full steam ahead. When I first said we were going to pass both the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the budget resolution before we broke for the August recess, many said it was an impossible task, but Democrats in the Senate are determined, fiercely determined, to move President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda forward. Sometimes it took a little prodding. It took working weekends, late nights, cloture emotions, but we kept working at it. I kept prodding the bipartisan group to go forward, pushing them when they needed pushing, giving them more time and breathing space when they needed more time and breathing space. And that bill passed yesterday. But now we have to keep working at it. And I’m very pleased to report that the two track strategy is right on track.
Chuck Schumer: (02:40)
As I said, first, we pass the bipartisan infrastructure package with all 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans. Every Democrat voted for both the bipartisan bill and the budget resolution, every Democrat voted for both. And the first bill, the bipartisan bill was a long overdue step to revitalize America’s infrastructure and give our workers, our businesses, our economies, the tools to succeed in the 21st century. The bipartisan infrastructure bill will put America on track to lead the 21st century in both productivity and job creation for decades to come.
Chuck Schumer: (03:25)
While the bipartisan infrastructure bill is a very significant bill, my entire caucus agrees that there’s much more that needs to be done. So on the second track, we passed a robust budget resolution that will grow the middle-class in the 21st century and give more Americans a chance to get into the middle class. Keep those in the middle-class and assure them they’re going to stay there, they’re worried about it. Help those trying to climb that ladder to get into the middle class, to get there more easily. That’s our mission. That’s our goal. And frankly, that is my passion, that is what motivates me in working as hard as I can to get this going forward.
Chuck Schumer: (04:10)
The democratic budget resolution is transformational. It’s probably the most significant single piece of legislation that we have seen certainly in decades and Bernie Sanders thinks since Roosevelt and he’s pushing for big change. It’ll cut taxes, lower costs for the American people create good paying jobs, invest in our future while tackling the climate change crisis. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s strong and it’ll be paid for by making our tax code more progressive and more fair without raising taxes on working families and small businesses by asking corporations and the wealthy to pay their share. It boils the average Americans blood when they see multi-billionaires paying virtually no taxes. And that was done by the Republicans under Donald Trump, it was reported that you had a greater chance of being audited if you made $40,000 a year than if you made $40 million a year, because they decided to go after the cheaters of the earned income tax credit. But that’s where the Republican party is these days with the very wealthy, the very powerful and the right wing, who doesn’t want to see government help the people at all.
Chuck Schumer: (05:27)
So, the job, make it easier for the middle-class Americans to stay in the middle class and build ladders into the middle-class for hardworking people. And let me just say something about this, this is my gut. For the last 20 years, there’s been a sourness in the land the American character has always been for centuries, a bright, sunny, optimistic character. The American dream, very simple. It says the average American would say, it means if I work hard, I’ll be doing better 10 years from now than I’m doing today and my kids will be doing still better than me, that faded. It created a sourness in the land and in my judgment, it elected a man who had such awful values and was so divisive as Donald Trump.
Chuck Schumer: (06:18)
The mission, it’s a mission, is to not allow that to happen again. And the way to do that is to restore that American dream and give middle-class Americans, poor Americans, hope for the future. They don’t expect that just to snap our fingers and get it all done at once, but they sure expect us to give them some hope and some progress and that’s what we’re trying to do with both bills, with both bills.
Chuck Schumer: (06:43)
So let me say what we’re doing here is an easy we’ve labored for months and months to reach this point. And we have no illusions, maybe the hardest work is yet to come, but we are united in a desire to get it done. And so far so good. And I think my entire caucus can say with absolute certainty that it’s worth doing, and I believe we will get the job done.
Chuck Schumer: (07:14)
Last night, I convened a meeting with the chairs of all the committees tasked with crafting the reconciliation bill. And I given them a deadline of producing a bill that can be presented to the full caucus and passed in the Senate as soon as possible. Every committee chair is going to be meeting, at least on a weekly basis, may be more often with their members and we will do weekly Zooms with them as well. We’re going to be working very hard in the next few weeks, the next month frankly, to get that reconciliation bill ready in September. That’s a hard job in such a large important bill, but we’re going to roll up our sleeves and work to get it done.
Chuck Schumer: (07:54)
Before I take your questions I just want to close on voting rights. I don’t know how many of you were up when we did that there. But yesterday morning you saw what it was like when the Senate comes together in a bipartisan way to pass legislation. This morning, early this morning at 4:00 AM, we saw what it looks like when the Senate refuses to come together even on simple things that the American people overwhelmingly support on voting. Republicans once again obstructed even debating, even debating, voting rights legislation in the Senate. Let me be clear, Republicans refusing to support anything on voting rights is not in an excuse for Democrats to do nothing. In recent weeks as recently as yesterday, we’ve had a meeting of nine senators, myself and four of the more progressive senators, Warnock, Merkley, Klobuchar [inaudible 00:08:54]. And four of the more moderate senators Manchin, Kaine, Tester, and King. And we’re making great progress to come together with a very strong voting rights bill that every Democrat can support.
Chuck Schumer: (09:13)
So, we are going to come up with that legislation. We’re going to rally around it. And this morning I filed cloture on a vehicle to allow the Senate to take up that compromised voting rights bill when we return. Voting rights will be the very first matter of legislative business when the Senate returns to session in September. Ready for your questions, Mr. pink shirt,
Speaker 2: (09:36)
Senator, Senator McConnell said this to me yesterday, “They have the house, the Senate and the presidency it’s their obligation to govern. And essence of governing is to raise the debt ceiling.” Your reaction to that. And with this morning’s vote on the budget have you ruled out for the one and for all using reconciliation [crosstalk 00:09:54]-
Chuck Schumer: (09:53)
Look. Let me just say this. I cannot believe the Republicans will let the country default. It has always been bi-partisan to deal with the debt ceiling. When Trump was president, I believe the Democrats joined with him to raise it three times. Again, I cannot believe Republicans will let us default. As for reconciliation the White House and Janet Yellen prefer to be done outside of reconciliation. A to keep it bipartisan, to stop making this a partisan issue because it’s fraught with peril. Mitch McConnell seems to want to do that, I don’t think he’ll succeed. And second, because reconciliation limits what you can do there and doing it outside gives you more flexibility. Yes.
Speaker 3: (10:46)
Voting rights. We’ve heard you say repeatedly failure is not an option and that everything is on the table here. When you come back in September, what is actually going to change? Republicans are [inaudible 00:10:59] [crosstalk 00:11:01] half of what this will [crosstalk 00:11:03]-
Chuck Schumer: (11:02)
We have made progress and we are showing very clearly to every one of our 50 senators that Republicans won’t join us. And yet the importance of voting rights, if anything, has strengthened in the minds of everybody, everybody. And Senator Manchin put down a proposal back in June that had not everything I would want, but many of the things I want. So we are making very good progress and we’re going to keep at it. It’s so important. Yes.
Speaker 4: (11:36)
So following that up. What do you say to activists who say showing you have 50 Democrats is not enough, they say they need a law to actually deal with voting rights now.
Chuck Schumer: (11:42)
Two things. I’d say we’re going to keep at it. And as I’ve said before, everything, everything is on the table. Yes. Yes.
Speaker 5: (11:49)
Speaking of Senator Manchin, he put out a statement this morning saying that he’s concerned about the price tag of a reconciliation bill. How do you navigate his concerns and Senator Sinema’s concerns that the $3.5 trillion price tag is too much?
Chuck Schumer: (12:05)
Look, there are some in my caucus who might believe it’s too much. There are some in my caucus who believe it’s too little. The original bill that Senator Sanders put in with 6 trillion, I supported that. And I can tell you this, in reconciliation, one, we are going to all come together to get something done. And two, it will have every part of the Biden plan in a big, bold, robust way. [Manu 00:12:35]. Manu.
Speaker 5: (12:34)
Can I [crosstalk 00:12:36] follow up.
Chuck Schumer: (12:36)
You can follow up.
Speaker 5: (12:38)
Are you open to lowering the price tag or are you firm on 3.5 trillion?
Chuck Schumer: (12:43)
As I said, every part of Biden’s proposal will be there in a big, robust way. There were some members in our caucus who want less, some members in our caucus who want more, that same in the house. We’re going to all come together to meet that goal. Yes.
Speaker 6: (12:58)
Senator, do you support an exception to senate rules on voting rights and 50 members of caucus [crosstalk 00:13:04]-
Chuck Schumer: (13:04)
Everything is on the table. Yes.
Speaker 7: (13:07)
Senator, last night, hearing the vote-a-rama Republicans as the minority party normally does put forward a lot of messaging amendments, including altering the deal [crosstalk 00:13:15]-
Chuck Schumer: (13:15)
Not on voting rights, on reconciliation.
Speaker 7: (13:17)
Reconciliation, correct. On vote-a-rama, sorry. They put forward a lot of these messaging amendments, any of those votes last night concern you in terms of putting your members in a vulnerable position-
Chuck Schumer: (13:28)
No. We go through vote-a-rama all the time, it has no effect on the bill. When you compare the amazing breadth and strength and depth of the 3.5 trillion we passed, this is a small little thing that means nothing. Yes, in the back red dress.
Speaker 7: (13:46)
Was yesterday morning the last we’ve seen of bi-partisan [crosstalk 00:13:47]-
Chuck Schumer: (13:47)
I hope not. As you’ve seen, I always try to do bipartisan stuff when we can. And this Senate has done far more bipartisan stuff than ever when McConnell was there. And my moderate members know that, appreciate it and have thanked me for it.
Chuck Schumer: (14:00)
So for instance, we had before the infrastructure bill, which we kind of had to push, prod, and I was very instrumental in trying to making sure it got done. And you know, that’s what the gang of five says, our five Democrats. We had USECA took three weeks, bi-partisan. We had the Asian crimes bill, bi-partisan. We had the water bill, bi-partisan. We had the transport bill, bi-partisan. And we’ve had more amendments this year, skipping vote-a-rama, which of course is an exercise all into itself way out there, we have had more amendments in months than McConnell often had in years. Yes.
Speaker 8: (14:45)
Senator, in terms of paying for the plan, the reconciliation plan, is the hope that the tax increases on the ultra wealthy as well as corporations are going to cover it? Or [crosstalk 00:14:55]-
Chuck Schumer: (14:55)
Yes. Some are worried about inflation, but if you talk to the leading economists, the way to deal with that is to make sure you pay for it. We intend to pay for it. And we intend to pay for it in sticking with Biden’s rules, by closing loopholes, having the wealthy and the big corporations finally, finally, finally pay their fair share. Last question.
Speaker 9: (15:21)
Thank you. Back to reconciliation. In many ways, what has happened has been the easy part, you said so yourself. When you look at the comments coming from those who doubt you can get this done and you look at the challenges ahead with Senator Sinema and Manchin. Tell us what is your plan and do you have a deadline? Will you [crosstalk 00:15:47]-
Chuck Schumer: (15:46)
First question. Yep. Well, first I would say so many people were dubious we could get anything done, including many of you in this room. Can’t get the ARP done. Never get the president’s cabinet done in time. Never will this two track strategy, it’s going to be impossible for it to succeed. So far. So good.
Chuck Schumer: (16:05)
How come? A, I try and I think our caucus tries to show respect for every single member. We have a diverse caucus. We have Bernie Sanders, we have Joe Manchin and everybody in between. And we show respect, we don’t be little or denigrate or anything. But second and most important, every member of our caucus realizes that unity is our strength. And with 50 votes, at a time when Republicans on too many issues, refuse to cooperate at all, as you saw last night, we all need to be unified. And everyone knows that. So that doesn’t mean people don’t fight for their beliefs, but at the end of the day, we have to come together. Thus far we have, is it going to be easy on reconciliation? Absolutely not. But if past is prologue, we got a chance. A good decent chance.
Speaker 9: (16:56)
Chuck Schumer: (16:57)
Well, I told you I want to get the reconciliation bill done on September 15th and we’ll see where we move after that. Thank you everybody. Nope, that’s it. That’s it. That’s it. [crosstalk 00:17:10] Talk to Cory Booker.
Speaker 2: (17:12)
Governor Cuomo isn’t governor.
Chuck Schumer: (17:14)
I’m glad he stepped down.
Speaker 2: (17:18)