May 18, 2021
Chuck Schumer, Senate Democratic Leadership Press Conference Transcript May 18
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Senate Democrats held a press conference on May 18, 2021. Read the transcript of the news briefing speech here.
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Chuck Schumer: (00:04)
Okay. Welcome everybody, and thank you for coming. I’m proud to be joined by Senators Cantwell and Peters, Senator Menendez and Senator Brown are expected.
Chuck Schumer: (02:30)
Now before I begin, I just want to say that I saw Leader McCarthy’s eleventh hour opposition on the January 6th Commission. This shows how difficult it is to negotiate with Republicans. If the Republican leaders are just going to throw their lead negotiators under the bus, why do they even participate in negotiations at all? We’ll see what the House vote is like, but I want to be clear. I will put the January 6th Commission legislation on the floor of the Senate for a vote, period.
Chuck Schumer: (03:06)
Republicans can let their constituents know, are they on the side of truth, or do they want to cover up for the insurrectionists and for Donald Trump? A lot of what McCarthy asked about and some of his members is a bogus way to avoid focusing on what really happened on January 6th, but we will have a vote.
Chuck Schumer: (03:27)
Now, on the reason we came here, the Competition Bill. So last night, the Senate voted to move forward with the Endless Frontier Act by a vote of 86 to 11, an overwhelming bipartisan vote. The Senate, as soon as today, will take another step forward to begin the debate on the bill. We’re finally taking action to correct the decades of federal underinvestment in science and technology that has imperiled America’s global economic leadership. The Endless Frontiers Act, when you invest in science, when you invest in innovation, when you invest in producing the jobs that are needed, America stays number one, plain and simple.
Chuck Schumer: (04:14)
And we have to do it. We have to do it. It was attempted to do, as Maria will explain, 10 years ago, but no one appropriated any money. And now we are beginning to really, we could very well fall behind in crucial investments in science and innovation and down the road, that will mean fewer jobs, less prosperity, and America will no longer be number one.
Chuck Schumer: (04:37)
We’ve had great bipartisan input in this legislation. It passed out of the Commerce Committee, it’s piece of it, 22 to four.
Speaker 2: (04:45)
24 to four.
Chuck Schumer: (04:47)
24 to four. It passed out of Senator Menendez committee 21 to one. It passed out of Senator Peters’ committee.
Senator Peters: (04:54)
A number of bills by a wide, wide margin.
Chuck Schumer: (04:56)
By a wide, wide margin. So we have good, strong bipartisan support. And I promised to try and go bipartisan whenever we could. And this is one example, I’m very glad on this imperative on economic security, national security and job growth, that the parties are coming together. Soon I’ll file a substitute amendment this afternoon that pulls together more bipartisan legislation from across the Senate committees into our comprehensive bill that we’re now calling, with all the pieces put together, the US Innovation and Competition Act. The bipartisan legislation is a product of more than a half dozen Senate committees and includes input from just about every member of the Senate.
Chuck Schumer: (05:43)
I want to thank Chairman Cantwell, Chairman Menendez, Chairman Brown, Chairman Peters for their important work here. They’re here to talk about the work their committee has made in the legislation. We’re investing in our country, in our universities, our businesses, our workers. The USICA will allow the United States to out-compete countries like China, create good paying American jobs, improve our country’s economic and national security. It’s the first major investment in America’s future in a generation and it’s long overdue. Senator Cantwell.
Senator Cantwell: (06:19)
Well thank you, Leader Schumer. And thank you for actually leading the charge on this legislation. You and Senator Young, in a bipartisan fashion, introduced the concepts and the language behind this legislation more than a year ago, and then recently re-introduce this legislation and have been leading a very solid, bipartisan effort in the United States Senate.
Senator Cantwell: (06:39)
As Leader Schumer said, we passed this out in a very strong bipartisan support, because there is consensus. We need more NSF research dollars. We need NSF research dollars to go to more user-based transational types of research. We need to strengthen the research that comes out of our universities, making more of it patentable, thereby protected from being used in other places, and also strengthening the tech transfer capabilities of those universities. We also are strengthening DOE and the RPE and energy innovation agenda for the nation, which so many of our colleagues care about and the investment. And this legislation makes a big down payment on future STEM jobs, adding to diversity of STEM with a new diversity office over at NSF, and making sure that we are doing better by women and minorities in science, and also geographic diversity, spreading out research dollars to other parts of the nation. So they too can grow economies more competitive in their manufacturing base for the future. So look forward to getting this legislation passed very shortly and again, thanks Senator Schumer, Leader Schumer for introducing this concept and getting all our colleagues on board behind it. Thank you.
Chuck Schumer: (08:04)
Thank you Senator Cantwell. Senator Peters.
Senator Peters: (08:05)
Thank you, Leader Schumer. I join Senator Cantwell in congratulating your efforts and thanking you for your efforts in putting this legislation together. It is comprehensive, it deals with the future competitiveness of this country to make sure we continue to out innovate anybody on this planet and continue to strengthen our economy so that we have good paying jobs here. And it’s a pleasure to serve on the Commerce Committee with Chairwoman Cantwell, and certainly want to thank her for her efforts to make sure manufacturing is a big part of this legislation. You can’t be a great country if you’re not actually making things, in my view, and that’s what this legislation focuses on.
Senator Peters: (08:43)
The work that I did with my committee, Homeland Security and Government Affairs took a number of approaches to strengthen the bill. And one of those is to make sure that when we are out innovating that we actually protect that intellectual property and to make sure that we are hardening our cyber defenses. We know that this country is being attacked continuously. The recent attack on the pipeline is just another example of why we have to strengthen cybersecurity. We passed legislation to do that out of Homeland Security that will be integrated into this bill, including allowing the secretary to announce a major incident, a cyber incident and creating a recovery fund so that we can get through that incident and harden our defenses going forward.
Senator Peters: (09:25)
It also makes sure that we have a workforce that’s trained with the latest and the greatest when it comes to cybersecurity, how do we attract the best and brightest into federal government? How do we make sure federal government is communicating with private industry as well in a coordinated fashion to deal with cyber attacks. And so there’s a legislation strengthening training programs throughout the federal government in assisting private industry. There’s also legislation to protect intellectual property that is being developed at our universities, that we want to make sure that that intellectual property is not stolen by other foreign actors that attempt to steal that information, to make that a stronger.
Senator Peters: (10:04)
The last part of bills that I think are critically important are buy American. And that’s to make sure that when US taxpayer money is being used to purchase the products, that they’re making sure that they’re buying American made products here in the country. Right now we have legislation that deals with it. But unfortunately, there are a lot of loopholes and people exploit those loopholes and spend money on Chinese steel and iron and other products from foreign countries. This bill will ensure that American workers will bear the fruit of the investment. And this will mean good paying jobs, not just in Michigan, but in states all across the country. It’s why I’m so proud to be part of this legislation.
Chuck Schumer: (10:41)
Thank you, Senator Peters. Questions on this subject first. Yes.
Speaker 5: (10:49)
Senator Schumer, are you planning to include money for kids [crosstalk 00:10:51].
Chuck Schumer: (10:50)
We are going to do a amendment on the floor, a substitute amendment, and stay tuned. Others on this subject.
Speaker 6: (11:01)
Senator, I understand there’s not a Finance Committee component to this bill, can you explain why that is?
Chuck Schumer: (11:06)
Well, the Finance Committee had a number of provisions, but we’re trying to keep this bill as bipartisan as possible, and a couple of the provisions were not bi-partisan. And so it’s not going to be a component. There may be an attempt to add specific amendments from that proposal as we go through the amendatory process. On this subject.
Speaker 7: (11:25)
Senator Schumer, a lot of it is based on spending authorizations. Can you guarantee that the appropriations will be there [crosstalk 00:11:31]?
Chuck Schumer: (11:31)
Yes. The big difference between this bill, as Senator Cantwell reminds us, because they worked on a bill back in-
Senator Cantwell: (11:38)
2007 and 10, the America Competes Act.
Chuck Schumer: (11:41)
Yes. And it had an authorization, but no appropriation, not enough appropriations and didn’t do much good. And so didn’t get the job done. And so we’re going to do that. Senator Menendez, do you want to talk about the foreign relations part of the bill. Great. Yeah please, thanks for coming.
Senator Menendez: (12:03)
Okay. So I appreciate joining with our leadership here. You heard from Senator Cantwell about our need to be able to out-compete through innovation, through computer chips, to be at the apex of innovation in the world, as we already are, want to continue to do that. That needs investments. But at the end of the day, in addition to that, China is a foreign policy challenge. And so what we do under the Strategic Competition Act, which passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 21 to one, is to do several things to get our foreign policy right as it relates to China.
Senator Menendez: (12:43)
It’s about getting the Indo-Pacific region and our allies that share values and interests with us aligned, re-engaging with them in a way that the last four years did not bring. It is about challenging China in international forum by joining with our allies. If you think about the economies of the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the European Union joined together in common pursuit, that’s a major challenge to China. If you think about our challenge to China as it relates to their debt trap diplomacy, where they go throughout Africa and Latin America lending under provisions that ultimately trap that country and for which then China exacts from them demands in terms of foreign policy, votes at international organizations, and ultimately they can’t get out of that debt. We deal with that. It also centers on our values, looking at the incredible human rights violations that are going with the Uighurs in China or their overreach on Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Senator Menendez: (13:54)
So all of this, which was a series of amendments, Republican and Democrat alike, that brought us to the 21 and one vote, is to reorganize our international effort in a way that meets the challenge of China in a geo-strategic way. We see China as a competitor. We wish China would take advantage of what the United States and the western world offered them, which was an opportunity to be part of the international order. We invited them into entities like the World Trade Organization and other international forum, with the hope and the expectation that they would move in a direction like most of the rest of the world. Unfortunately, under Xi Jinping, that has not panned out. And that’s why the committee came together in a bipartisan way to devise a foreign policy that can meet that challenge.
Chuck Schumer: (14:39)
Thank you. And this bill has two important components. One is the domestic economic component, which was embodied in the Endless Frontier Act, which the Commerce Committee made good and important changes. And the other is the foreign policy geopolitical component to keep America number one, and Senator Menendez, along with Senator Risch made very good changes in that. Okay. Yes.
Speaker 9: (15:04)
Will you allow a vote on Senator Gillibrand or Senator Ernst’s Military Sexual Assault Bill? And secondarily, how important is it for Senator McConnell to sign on and support this January 6th Commission once it comes over to the Senate?
Chuck Schumer: (15:16)
We’re going to bring it to the floor. I hope Senator McConnell will sign on. Here’s Sherrod, I’ll call on you in a sec. I hope Senator McConnell will sign on, but if he doesn’t, I will still bring it to the Senate floor. It’s an important thing to vote on, and the American people should know where that’s at.
Chuck Schumer: (15:32)
On your first question, I do support Senator Gillibrand and Senator Ernst’s very good proposal on sexual harassment in the military, and I would hope to put that on the floor again. We’re not going to become a legislative graveyard. When McConnell was leader, all these good things came over from the House and nothing was done with them. That’s not going to happen here. And we’re going to have votes, as we have been doing now, and we’re going to continue to have votes. And I hope Senator McConnell will go along and wherever I can, I’ll try to work out a bipartisan agreement whenever I can. We’re going to try to get amendments so he can have an opportunity to shape and craft it, but we’re not going to be a legislative graveyard anymore, and Senator McConnell should understand that.
Chuck Schumer: (16:12)
Sherrod Brown, the Banking Committee also had important components to this bill, so let me call on Senator Brown.
Senator Sherrod Brown: (16:18)
Thanks, Chuck. Sorry about being late, I was talking to the Transit Association about all the important work that this body in the Senate is doing on public transit and what it means. We know 350 people working for transit systems passed away from COVID. It’s about worker safety. It’s about investing. It’s about moving those vehicles, 60,000 of them, over the next decade or so, to zero emissions. So that’s a big part. That’s not directly what we’re about here, but in part we are, because it’s all about competition.
Senator Sherrod Brown: (16:48)
We know what China has done, that our competitors spend billions propping up state-owned enterprises and investing in research and development. They’ve gotten pretty good at taking our ideas and monetizing those ideas and using them to compete against American businesses. We know China is the worst offender, we are seeing now a more active administration on enforcement of trade laws, as we pass this legislation. Just in the past three weeks, the US trade rep [inaudible 00:17:20], the legislation that was connected to the USMCA has gone after companies that have undermined American workers. That’s what this bill is too.
Senator Sherrod Brown: (17:28)
Ohio workers know all too well what happens to their jobs in their community when they’re forced to compete with Chinese companies that cheat the rules, that pay poverty wages, that are propped up by the Chinese government. As Senators Peters said when he was speaking, he just whispered and told me that, that this legislation includes strong buy America provisions that are bipartisan. That will matter. That came out of his committee. We’re going to build the success of the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act. American tax dollars, because of this, are going to be used to buy American products made by American workers. We need a coherent, investment driven strategy to compete with China. This is a huge step together that we’re taking to do that.
Speaker 11: (18:15)
Leader Schumer, Leader Schumer, and for Senator Menendez, for both of you. Is the Biden administration doing enough to calm the violence in the Israeli Palestinian conflict?
Chuck Schumer: (18:26)
Well look, I rest by the statement that I agreed to yesterday and support completely, that Senators Murphy and Young put out. Bob.
Senator Menendez: (18:36)
Look, I think the administration, both Secretary Blinken and the president himself are engaged in robust diplomacy that is behind the scenes, that is directly with the Israeli government, that is directly with Egypt and a series of other partners in the region, to bring an end to the conflict. And I trust that their diplomacy will yield effect.
Speaker 11: (19:01)
Are they on the brink of a ceasefire? [crosstalk 00:19:03]
Speaker 12: (19:03)
Hi Senator Schumer, what did you make of the letter from Senators Manchin and Murkowski on S1 through regular order? And will you bring it to the floor if Manchin isn’t supportive of an advance?
Chuck Schumer: (19:13)
Okay. Here’s the bottom line. The letter that Senator Murkowski and Manchin talked about, which was the Voting Rights Act is actually authorized through 2032. So their letter to us saying, “Authorize it,” well, it’s pretty much done. We’ll all be in the Senate here in 2032, and I think we look forward to voting on it.
Chuck Schumer: (19:33)
Look, the bottom line, as I said, the S is very, very important to our democracy. You cannot let millions of people’s rights be taken away. Senator Peters gave a little presentation also on how would it affect elections in key states and how it would have changed things dramatically. One of the things that stuck out in my mind was that Senator Baldwin mentioned, we had a great meeting, a Democratic lunch Thursday, which so many people participated. In Wisconsin, the vote in the House of Representatives, 53% of the vote was Democratic, but the Republicans had some huge percentage of the seats, I think it was two thirds. These kinds of things just are abhorrent to our democracy and we must change them, and we will. And as I’ve said before, failure’s not an option and everything will be on the table. We’re continuing to have the discussions within the whole caucus. Go ahead. Last one.
Speaker 13: (20:33)
Senator Schumer, We just got a briefing in the White House on the jobs bill and the infrastructure bill. In both cases, the first for you and Senator Menendez also, will you support any of those bills and demand that the SALT repeal or a partial cap is part of any final legislation?
Chuck Schumer: (20:50)
I am strongly for the SALT repeal, the cap be removed, and will do everything I can to get it done.
Senator Menendez: (20:58)
Yeah look, absolutely. I’m with Senator Schumer on that, this is essential. Many states, like New Jersey, are blue chip states. Why do I say that? Because we create more revenue and give more money to the Federal Treasury that we get. Why do we do that? Because we make investments in the best public school education in the nation. We make investments in our transportation. We make investments in our research and development, and that generates for us the revenue that we share with the rest of the nation. To continue to make those investments, you need the state and local property tax deduction, the oldest deduction in the IRS code. It needs to be restored, that’s what fairness and equity demands.
Chuck Schumer: (21:38)
I would just say it was a dagger aimed at the heart of blue states. Good job.