Dec 1, 2020
Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript December 1: Biden Cabinet Picks, Coronavirus Relief
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on December 1 with other Senate Democrats. They discussed Biden’s cabinet picks, saying confirmation hearings must begin directly after the Georgia runoff election. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Senator Schumer: (00:01)
… and I want to thank Senator Klobuchar and Senator Menendez for being here. Today, I had a productive discussion with Secretary of State designate, Tony Blinken and Director of National Intelligence designate, Avril Haines. We had wide ranging discussion that covered the globe and priorities for the US, foreign policy, national security. In particular, I urge the incoming Biden administration to be tough on China, but in a smarter, more multilateral way than the Trump administration was. What was immediately clear in our discussion is that President-elect Biden’s foreign policy and national security team are exceptionally qualified. Accomplished individuals with the expertise to protect our nation and advance American interests abroad. In addition to Tony Blinken and Avril Haines. She corrected my pronunciation. It’s Avril. President-elect Biden continues to roll out an impressive slate of nominees to his cabinet and other key administrative positions.
Senator Schumer: (01:06)
Now, after all we went through over the past four years, I would expect that almost all of President-elect Biden’s nominees would be widely acceptable to the Senate. After all, Republican senators looked the other way and confirm several of Donald Trump’s unqualified, ethically compromised and scandal plagued appointees. Republicans argue that a president deserves broad deference when it comes to the cabinet and official appointments. Well, Republicans ought to give President-elect Biden the same deference. But we’re already seeing more pearl clutching about overblown complaints from Republican senators who conveniently ignored scandal after scandal in the Trump administration. Honestly, the hypocrisy is astounding. After spending four years pretending they didn’t see the latest insane tweet from president Trump, Republican senators have just found the passwords to their Twitter accounts since they’re now suddenly concerned about what’s being said about them on Twitter.
Senator Schumer: (02:10)
But after the caliber of nominees that this Republican majority confirmed over the past four years, it would be impossible, impossible to take them seriously. The Senate Committee should prepare to hold hearings on President-elect Biden’s nominees in January, immediately after the Georgia elections. That’s what the Senate did for President Trump and for President Obama. That’s what the Senate must do for President-elect Biden as well. Our nation’s facing unprecedented crises. We need the next administration to hit the ground running to tackle these multiple challenges. That means ensuring that on January 20th, 2021, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have much of their team in place. I hope my Republican will look at Joe Biden’s nominees based on their merits and their impressive credentials and not let petty political animists get in the way. Senator Menendez.
Senator Menendez: (03:11)
Well, thank you, Mr. Leader. Look, I want to echo, particularly in the national security front, the leader’s comments, this is about our nation’s security and prosperity. It shouldn’t be about politics. There’s no question that the slate of nominees, particularly in the State Department, UN ambassador and elsewhere put forward by the president-elect are capable and qualified. Now, does the Senate have to do its due diligence and vet them? Of course. Do we have to understand their thinking and ask them about their views? Of course. That’s part of advice and consent. But there is a difference between that and some who are already suggesting that they seek to weaponize the confirmation process and seek to turn it into a political wrecking ball. Those who ultimately for their own purposes, as they may aspire for future election to the presidency of the United States.
Senator Menendez: (04:11)
So wants to use the vetting process in a way that undermines the very essence of what we need our nation to be able to do on day one. Is that the American people deserve to have a government not that only looks like America, but that is up and running from day one to deal with the pandemic and the economic wreckage that has come from the pandemic and to pursue our interests and extend our values around the globe. Today, I was on a panel with European parliamentarians and the cry from all… And these are all people from the European Union, elected, different countries, different political beliefs and whatnot. But the one thing they want to see is America be back and engaged in the world. That takes a secretary of state. Tony Blinken is an incredibly qualified individual to help us, once again, be back on the global stage, engaged, creating more allies, less enemies, creating more prosperity, less challenges.
Senator Menendez: (05:12)
And that also takes a UN ambassador. And Ambassador Greenfield is an extraordinary. I know her, I helped her become the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa when I was the chair of the committee. She’s an example of an exceptional career diplomat. That’s who we need helping lead the national security of the United States. That’s what we need to get on day one, which means we need early hearings in January and a vote in order to guarantee it.
Senator Schumer: (05:41)
Senator Klobuchar: (05:42)
Thank you very much. And thank you for your leadership Senator Schumer at this critical time. And thank you, Senator Menendez. I think that really President-elect Biden has set the tone here when he said, “This should not be a partisan moment, this should be an American moment.” And we just don’t have time to mess around. We have, as Bob has pointed out, security threats across the country. Across the world, we’ve got incredibly qualified nominees, which really are in keeping with the tone that the president-elect set. From the minute the president would not concede this election, President-elect Biden took the stage and said, “You know what? Give me a chance, people that voted for Donald Trump, and I’ll give you a chance.” He set that tone and now you see that tone in these nominees. In people like Tony Blinken. In people like someone who won’t come before us for confirmation but I must mention because he’s from Minnesota and used to work for me, Jake Sullivan.
Senator Klobuchar: (06:43)
You see people that are well-respected including Treasury secretary to be, Yellen. And so he has really lived his words in who he has nominated and it’s our job to get it done. And the last thing I would add is that we are in the middle of a pandemic right now. I don’t have to tell you that. And one of the things that we need right now is stability for the rest of the world and for our own country. And I am been pleased that my colleagues are moving ahead with some bipartisan negotiations. Obviously, that’s not done. We know we haven’t heard good words from a Leader McConnell on this, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot keep moving ahead. Because we cannot have no leadership for America in place when we want to lead the world when it comes to this vaccine.
Senator Klobuchar: (07:36)
That’s going to mean funding to get this vaccine out. If I sat at home, you just can’t drop a bunch of vaccines in the middle of Laverne, Minnesota, and think they’re just going to magically show up there. It takes coordination on infrastructure, on storage and the like. And to do that, we need Joe Biden to be able to put a leadership team both internationally and domestically. So I’m excited to work on this. I think we have had great nominees come forward and it is on our Republican leaders and us to work together to get them confirmed immediately.
Senator Schumer: (08:10)
Thank you Senator Schumer. Yes. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 4: (08:15)
[inaudible 00:08:15] questions, you sent a proposal to Leader McConnell on COVID relief last night, what was in it and are you let going of the $2 trillion demand that you previously had? And also I’d like you to respond to Attorney General Bill Barr saying there was no widespread fraud [inaudible 00:08:32]
Senator Schumer: (08:32)
Well, in response to Attorney General Bill Barr, I guess he’s the next one to be fired since he now too says there is no fraud. Trump seems to fire anyone in that regard. In the first leader, Speaker Pelosi and I sent yesterday a proposal to Leader McConnell in an effort to get things moving. I’m not going to get into the details. It was a private proposal to help us move the ball forward. But let’s make no mistake about it. I just heard Leader McConnell say, he’s going to put another partisan proposal on the floor. He’s going to talk to McCarthy and Trump and put something on the floor. The obvious fact of the matter is, the biggest impediment to getting an agreement is the Republican leader refusing to negotiate in a bipartisan way. He knows darn well the House is Democratic majority.
Senator Schumer: (09:25)
He knows darn well he needs Democratic votes in the Senate to get anything done since a number of his people won’t vote for any proposal and yet he continues to negotiate in a partisan way. Speaker Pelosi and I sent him the proposal in a good faith effort to get him to negotiate in a bipartisan way. I always welcome and encourage my Democratic members to talk to Republican members. And there’s another proposal that way. All are in efforts to get Leader McConnell to stop being so partisan because the needs of people are desperate, desperate, desperate during this Christmas season and later.
Speaker 4: (10:08)
He indicated that he wants to add it to the must pass government funding bill. Are you worried about getting jammed and that you’ve lost your negotiating power and you’re going to have to accept whatever he comes up with, with the president?
Senator Schumer: (10:16)
Let me just say, I hope McConnell will start doing things in a bipartisan way. Every time he’s tried to do it in a partisan way, it has failed.
Speaker 5: (10:25)
[inaudible 00:10:25] it seems like there’s a debate within the caucus about holding committee chairmanship and leadership position. How do you plan to proceed as a leader on this issue?
Senator Schumer: (10:35)
Look, I think the bottom line is every two years, we have a robust discussion in our caucus about the caucus rules and what should be changed and what shouldn’t be changed. And we’re going to have another good discussion in the next few weeks.
Speaker 6: (10:48)
This morning there was a 900 billion bipartisan proposal, proposed. What do you think of that proposal specifically? Has your letter more than that or around the same-
Senator Schumer: (10:59)
Again, our letter was done in a private way to get McConnell and maybe the White House to move. So I’m not going to get into its details. The bottom line is that it’s an effort to get things moving forward. As for the proposal that the bipartisan group of senators announced, as I said, I’ve always encouraged our Democratic senators to sit down with Republican senators and negotiate. And this is a good effort. I haven’t seen all the details. They haven’t come out with the details yet. But when Democrats and Republicans can get together, that’s a good thing. And I hope Leader McConnell will heed that call. Yes.
Speaker 7: (11:35)
So I’m assuming by this that Leader McConnell hasn’t responded to your letter-
Senator Schumer: (11:36)
Not yet. We hope he will. It was just sent yesterday.
Speaker 7: (11:42)
What about Secretary Mnuchin? Did he respond when-
Senator Schumer: (11:44)
Not yet. We hope they will give us a real response so we can get something done. Next question. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (11:52)
[inaudible 00:11:52] or maybe he’s very engaged on this?
Senator Schumer: (11:55)
Let’s hope he’ll negotiate in a bipartisan way. Thus far, every time he’s done it in a partisan way, it hasn’t worked. There’s a Democratic House. They need Democratic votes in the Senate.
Speaker 8: (12:07)
I know that you’ve said you would encourage your members to meet with Republicans, but this proposal they’ve put forward is a full trillion dollars less than what you are proposing. So is it something that you all think-
Senator Schumer: (12:19)
Look, we have to see the details. Bipartisan proposals, again, are what is needed to get things done.
Senator Klobuchar: (12:30)
Could I just say one more thing?
Senator Schumer: (12:30)
Yeah, go ahead, Amy.
Senator Klobuchar: (12:30)
One thing I note about that earlier question about McConnell and whether he’ll jam us and those things. I do remember there were Republicans in that group, right? And while it is not nearly what we had asked for, there were Republicans that stood up and said they wanted this amount of money. So I wouldn’t assume that everyone’s just going to go down the path with Mitch McConnell this time when you have states like in Maine that have had so many small businesses closed. There was a Yelp study out recently that showed 800 small businesses are closing a day. We have restaurants that have tried to hang in and can’t do it anymore.
Senator Klobuchar: (13:06)
We’ve got a vaccine around the corner, light at the end of the tunnel, but if we don’t put the funding into it to get the distribution going and the storage going, we’re not going to be able to recover like we want to. We’ve got the head of the Federal Reserve under Donald Trump, his appointment, Jerome Powell saying it would be a tragedy if we didn’t get something done. So I wouldn’t just assume that everyone’s going to go down his path this time. And I think that this bipartisan negotiation, while of course just a start, and is significant to show that some people are willing to cross over, to get something done, which Senator Schumer has been calling for from the beginning.
Senator Schumer: (13:42)
Okay. Last one.
Speaker 9: (13:43)
Joe Biden said that on his first day of office he will give transgender students access to sports bathrooms and locker rooms in accordance with their gender identity in all federally funded schools. Do you think he has the ability to do this and do you agree with this decision?
Senator Schumer: (13:57)
I agree with the decision and I know he’ll check things out thoroughly, legally. Thank you everybody.