Jul 21, 2020
Chuck Schumer & Senate Democrats Press Conference Transcript July 21
Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats held a press conference on July 21. Read the press conference transcript here.
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Leader Schumer: (00:00)
… And will be struck down by the courts. Attempting to weaponize the census for political gain is yet another racially driven attack by a president and an administration that wrongly views immigrants as the enemy, when they are a vital part of our society. This heartless order will only stoke fear and deprive already underfunded communities across America have much needed federal resources across all of our government, including education, transportation, infrastructure, and more. It’s mean. It’s vicious. It’s typical of Donald Trump.
Leader Schumer: (00:38)
Now, on the issue of COVID. And first, I am glad that Senators Durbin and Stabenow have joined me. So, it’s been over 60 days. 60 days since the House passed the Heroes Act, which provides crucial relief and help for education funding for hospitals, and medical workers, for essential workers on the front lines, for state and local governments, and much more. But Republican senators have told us to wait, and wait, and wait. Faced with the biggest health crisis in 100 years, the biggest economic crisis in 75 years, the Republican leader has put the Senate on pause for three months. Three months. As more people die, as more people get sick, as more businesses go under, as more people are unemployed, put it on pause. What kind of attitude is that? Every week that Republicans delayed the crisis got worse and worse for the American people.
Leader Schumer: (01:44)
Now that Republicans are finally, finally feeling the heat to do another relief bill instead of working with Democrats, leader McConnell has decided to write the bill behind the closed doors of his office. The same partisan, one-side only process that has failed time and time again to produce successful legislation in the Senate. It only delays action. Worse, with time ticking away, Republicans can’t even get their own act together. The White House and Senate Republicans are divided and fighting over which corporate interests to please first. Earlier today, I said that Republicans were divided. I want to amend that the Republicans are in complete disarray. And now Americans are experiencing needless pain and uncertainty because of Republican incompetence and division.
Leader Schumer: (02:40)
Even after all this time, more than two months after the Heroes Bill passed, the President’s Chief of Staff today said that Republicans were “On their own 20 yard line when it comes to their proposal.” What is going on here? This party is incapable of governing at any time, let alone when we have such great health and economic crises. They’re just totally incompetent, totally in disarray, totally at war with one another. Well, we don’t have time. We don’t have time for this mess the Republicans are in. Congress needs to act quickly, but right now the Republicans are playing a dangerous game of chicken with pandemic relief, fighting with each other, writing their own corporate-focused bill and refusing to engage with Democrats in either chamber. I urge my Republican colleagues, all of them, or at least the saner of them, to abandon their one party, one chamber approach, and immediately begin bipartisan, bicameral negotiations on the next round of COVID legislation. They shouldn’t waste everybody’s time constructing a partisan bill that benefits corporations and big special interests, and instead work with us on something that can pass.
Leader Schumer: (04:01)
One final point. President Trump is committing one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in our nation’s history. It may be the greatest failure, maybe rivaled by Buchanan exacerbating the divisions in the country before the civil war, but nothing else. Trump hasn’t focused on addressing the problem. There’s no national testing strategy. He hasn’t used the DPA to make more PPE. He has pushed states like Arizona, Texas, Florida that reopened too quickly. Now he’s trying to cut the funding for testing, which even some Republicans want. And now things are a lot worse because president Trump doesn’t have a plan to deal with the situation. He’s just saying he’s just waiting for COVID to disappear. It ain’t disappearing. Leader McConnell, in a rare act of distancing himself from Trump, had the “courage” to say that COVID is still with us. The president can’t even model good behavior and encourage Americans to wear masks. When the COVID crisis taskforce briefings resumed this afternoon, the administration should keep Trump away from the podium. Every time president Trump speaks to the American people about COVID-19, he is a threat to public health. Senator Durbin.
Senator Durbin: (05:38)
Most of us remember those speeches on the floor of Senator McConnell. They go back almost three months ago. It was before there was any specific provision that they were talking about in terms of the next COVID bill, but there’s one thing that Senator McConnell wanted to make abundantly clear to everyone that served in the United States Senate. He had a red line. Remember? There will be nothing done for COVID unless you respect the red line. And what was the red line? The immunity. The immunity of businesses across America when it came to liability for COVID-19. How many times did he give that speech? Day after day after day, he talked about the red line when it came to immunity for any kind of liability. Well, I paid close attention to it because I was anxious to see the McConnell proposal when it came to immunity. And I waited and waited and waited.
Senator Durbin: (06:39)
And the best we could come up with so far was a report from the special interests lobbyists on K street that McConnell and the Republicans had been trying out a couple ideas on immunity on them first. We’re still waiting to see the language of this so-called immunity provision from Senator McConnell, but this much we know. The statements that he’s made on the floor about the flood, the tsunami of lawsuits that were going to be filed because of COVID-19, the vulnerability of some of the most innocent business owners and individuals across America to these crafty lawyers who were rushing to the courthouse. Well, we have some numbers to report on that. Let me tell you about the tsunami. We live in a nation of 330 million Americans. So far, we know that there’ve been three and a half million Americans infected by COVID-19. Three and a half million.
Senator Durbin: (07:35)
Here comes the tsunami of lawsuits. There have been 15 consumer personal injury cases filed in the year 2020 related to COVID-19. 15, not 15,000. 15. How many medical malpractice cases have been filed in the United States of America mentioning COVID-19 as one of the elements in medical malpractice cases. What would you guess in this tsunami of lawsuits? how many of doctors and nurses and hospitals have been sued across the United States of America? Six. When it came to those 15 consumer personal injury lawsuits, 11 of them involved cruise ships. Does that sound like an outrageous number when you consider the thousands of people who were marooned at sea on those cruise ships, which were floating Petri dishes for the COVID virus? 69 unsafe workplace lawsuits. 69 across the United States. Well, let me tell you, the numbers tell the story. There is no tsunami. There is no flood. What Senator McConnell is trying to do is capitalize on this moment of uncertainty in America to close down the responsibility of businesses, to make certain they do everything reasonably possible to protect their customers and employees.
Senator Durbin: (08:56)
That’s what it comes down to. 28 States have already passed legislation. They want to make sure that their States are on top of it. But Senator McConnell doesn’t care what these States think. He wants to preempt their lawsuits and their laws, and basically say that businesses across America will be immune. What standard do they have to work toward? What do they have to do to make sure their businesses are safe? Any standard will do, according to Senator McConnell. Could be local, could be state, could be federal, could be anything. Good enough for him. That just tells you that when it comes down to fundamental issues, like the ones we’re facing on the next stage of COVID relief, Senator McConnell has one thing in mind, protecting corporations and big businesses.
Senator Durbin: (09:41)
Well, the American people know better overwhelmingly, they’ve said, “If you go along with the McConnell approach to things, what is the incentive for a business to do the right thing?” It’s far better for us to have a reasonable standard based on public health. And for good businesses… And there are many of them, the majority are good businesses. They can live up to that standard with a clear conscious they’re doing everything they can to protect their employees and their customers. When we finally get to see this McConnell red line legislation, the bottom line question is this. How will you protect America, Senator McConnell, when you try to give immunity to businesses, which could lead to even more infection and death?
Senator Stabenow: (10:22)
Well, while Senator McConnell is trying to protect corporate interests, people across America are just saying, “We need help.” They’re struggling. They have hardships. Some folks call this package, we’re talking about a stimulus… It’s survival for people. That’s really what it is. And people are looking to see what the Republicans are going to do. Do they care? Well, Mitch McConnell cares about corporate special interests, but so far, Americans have seen them turning their backs on them and their families. So when we look at… And we’ve just put out a democratic policy communications report yesterday on some of what people are facing just this week, as well as going into the next two weeks. And when we look at it, you see the fact that 30% of Americans didn’t make their housing payment this month. 30%. And by the end of the week, by Friday, that protections that allow them to stay in their home during COVID-19 go away if we don’t act. They’re gone.
Senator Stabenow: (11:29)
Does Mitch McConnell care about that? Do the republicans care about that? About people having a home in the middle of all this? At the end of the week, the additional $600 in health for people on unemployment goes away. That’s about 60% of the income of the people, the millions of people that are getting help right now through unemployment insurance. It goes away. 60%. Does Mich McConnell care about that? The Republicans care about that? So far, they’re just turning their backs. And every single day, moms and dads are worried. I’m worried as a grandparent about whether or not my grandkids are going to be able to go back to school safely, whether or not members of my family who are teachers are going to be able to be in the classroom and teach and be safe. And the clock is ticking. A lot of schools go back in August.
Senator Stabenow: (12:26)
And so far, we have nothing coming from Republicans. They’re talking about it, but schools are having to make decisions. Parents are having to make decisions about what’s going to happen. When are they going to act? And so far, all people see is that they’re just turning their backs on them. And that goes for food assistance. That goes for state and local services, and people who have those jobs who are on the edge right now. They need help, and it’s real simple. All they’re saying, is, “We need help in the middle of this crisis,” and what they’re seeing from the Republicans is simply that they are turning their back on them. Well, we’re not turning our backs and we’re going to fight every single day and do the very best we can because we understand what’s at stake. The bill’s not about stimulus. It’s about survival. We get it, and we’re going to work as hard as we can to make sure people have as much as what they need to be able to survive during this pandemic.
Leader Schumer: (13:31)
Thank you both Senators Stabenow and Durbin for great statements. Yes?
Speaker 4: (13:36)
Leader Schumer, I have one question about the President, and one about unemployment. First, why is it that you don’t believe the President should be involved in these daily health briefings from the White House?
Leader Schumer: (13:46)
Well, I don’t think people should take bleach. I don’t think hydroxychloroquine is a cure. I think that warm weather does not make this go away. The President’s called it a hoax. He misleads people. When you look at foreign countries in Europe and Europe and East Asia, developed countries, why are they much better off than us? Because they had leadership, and this president shows no leadership. And when he gets up, he speaks of mistruths. He tries to muzzle the scientists. Better he stay away. We’d do better without him.
Speaker 4: (14:20)
Thank you. And then on unemployment insurance, would you be open to a middle ground, perhaps not renewing the entire $600 in expanded unemployment benefits, but something a little lower?
Leader Schumer: (14:31)
Look, if you look at the statistics, the unemployment insurance that we passed has kept more people out of poverty than just about anything else that’s been passed. People need to feed their families. People need to pay the rent. And what the Republicans are talking about, drastically cutting it, and then coming up with this idea, “Well, we’ll give you money for back to work.” If you’re going back to work, you’re going to be paid a salary. The bottom line is we believe the provision in the Heroes Act is a fine provision, and we’re sticking with it.
Speaker 4: (15:01)
So you’re not open to a middle ground?
Leader Schumer: (15:03)
I said what I said,
Speaker 5: (15:05)
Hi Senator, I was wondering what the minimum price tag you’re willing to accept for the next COVID relief [inaudible 00:15:10]?
Leader Schumer: (15:10)
We think this. We think the Heroes Bill is the right place to be, and that’s our position. Unlike Republicans, Democrats are united, House and Senate, behind the Heroes Bill. It has overwhelmingly broad support. Yeah, are there a provision here and there that one or two might not like, or a couple of provisions people want to add in? Sure. But it has huge support. Compare that to the feuding, fractured Republican caucus and the fact that the President and the Republican senators can’t agree. It’s a quite a contrast.
Speaker 6: (15:42)
We might have one sliver of common ground here. Mitch McConnell just said in the GOP plan he expects direct payments to US residents to be included. So, is that something you want, but also more importantly, do you envision this being around $1,200 like last time?
Leader Schumer: (15:56)
Look, we’re not going to negotiate against ourselves. The Heroes Bill had a provision far more generous than what McConnell is talking about in terms of direct payment
Speaker 7: (16:05)
Former Vice President Biden recently suggested that he would be open to supporting eliminating the filibuster. If Republicans obstruct his agenda, where do you stand on that? Are you more receptive to taking a look at doing that?
Leader Schumer: (16:17)
Look, job number one is for us to get the majority. We don’t take anything for granted, but it’s looking better and better, and once we get the majority, we’ll discuss it in our caucus. Nothing’s off the table.
Speaker 8: (16:29)
Hi, yeah. So today, Senator McConnell did outline the initial GOP proposal, and it would include another round of direct payments. Does that development encourage you when it comes to [crosstalk 00:16:39]?
Leader Schumer: (16:39)
Well, the proof of the pudding is in the details. We’ve had a written legislative plan that’s passed the House for two months. We’re waiting to see the specifics of their plan before commenting.
Speaker 8: (16:51)
But does that development encourage you, at least when it comes to getting [crosstalk 00:16:54]?
Leader Schumer: (16:53)
You have to see the specifics. Who knows what it is? You never know. Especially in this case where they listen to corporate lobbyists before they listen to the needs of the American people. We’ll have to see the plan. Yes?
Speaker 6: (17:06)
Yeah. Through this immunity, I mean, is that a line in the sand for you guys? Is that a complete non-starter?
Leader Schumer: (17:11)
The bottom line is, and Dick outlined did very well, McConnell’s bill is extreme. It’s been written by lobbyists and bigshot corporate interests. Our number one goal is to protect workers and for McConnell to make this the number one issue when 20 million are out of work and need help, when people are losing their homes and need help, when people can’t feed their kids and need help, when small businesses are going under and need help, shows where he’s at. He’s not for helping average Americans. He wants to help the big corporations ahead of anybody else,
Speaker 7: (17:45)
[inaudible 00:17:45] Payroll tax reduction? I mean that we don’t know if that’s going to be in their final plan, but-
Leader Schumer: (17:47)
Well, let’s see what’s in there. We don’t know yet. They, they can’t even get their own act together. They can’t even put a bill together among themselves. Last one.
Speaker 4: (17:55)
Any thoughts on the federal forces that have been going into various cities?
Leader Schumer: (18:00)
I think it’s despicable. Senator Merkley has legislation that broad number of people in our caucus support, including me, and it would say no unmarked cars. It would say no unmarked police. And federal agents want to protect federal property, they should be on that federal property. And if they want to be in any other place, they need permission of the mayor or governor executive who has jurisdiction over the area. I thought what the President did is two things. First, it’s despicable. It’s like a third world, despotic country. You pick up someone, no identification, drag them somewhere, and he doesn’t even know, or she doesn’t even know what’s doing. And second, it’s so typical of Trump, he can’t solve the COVID crisis. Testing is a mess. The whole country realizes he’s an abject failure. So he tries to do a diversionary thing, but this one is a despicable diversionary thing and it will backfire on him. Thank you. [crosstalk 00:19:01].