Oct 20, 2020
Democrat Senate Leadership Press Conference Transcript October 20: Covid Relief
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on October 20 with other senate Democrats. They discussed coronavirus relief and Amy Coney Barrett. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:21)
Them too. Yeah. Okay. Thank you everybody, and let me thank Senators Durbin, Stabenow, Warren for joining us. We want to talk about what’s happening to our country and the votes as they relate today and tomorrow. Our country is in enormous pain. We’ve had 220,000 people die, millions sick, the number’s going up who gets sick, 6 million Americans missed their rent payment last month. Millions are losing their jobs. Small businesses are going under left and right. We have so many different problems, and what do the Republicans do? Leader McConnell? A stunt. They can’t get anything done. Their caucus is divided. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are the major barrier to preventing us from getting a bill, because even when Minutian calls them up, they say, no, they’re not going to do anything. What was really indicative of what happened was what happened at the appropriations committee.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:23)
Pelosi said, “Well, our number’s 143.” Minutian says, “We can get up to 119.” So they decided to have the appropriators get together. The Republican appropriators said, “Our instructions are to start at zero. We don’t have any other instructions.” So, when the American people are suffering, to put this political stunt on the floor, a second time is cruel, is harsh, and it shows a complete lack of leadership and caring for the suffering of the American people. Now, what are we doing? We are making an effort to bring to the floor of the heroes to bill. The bill that passed the house. That would have a realistic chance of helping people, and it has many things in it that are not in either bill that is being brought up today and tomorrow by the Republican Senate stunt. Let me remind you what they are. Some of them. We’re going to focus on three here. One is healthcare.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:26)
We need more testing. We need more tracing. the Heroes Bill has $75 billion, and more important even than the money, is a plan laid out to how to do it because the administration’s been incompetent. We gave the money last time. Do you know 9 billion is still sitting there for the States to do tracing and they haven’t even distributed it yet? Even though it was passed in the original cares bill. So, we need money for testing and tracing, but we need money for our hospitals. The doctors and nurses and healthcare workers. We can’t leave them behind. We need money for patients who are sick. None of that, first area, healthcare testing and helping our healthcare institutions and helping the American people when they need healthcare. Second is schools. We need our schools to reopen safely. Safely. Everyone wants to reopen them and we cannot leave our school children behind. We cannot leave our teachers behind, and those who work in the schools, nor can we leave all the parents behind who have jobs at work, but if their kids aren’t in school, what are they going to do?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:37)
And the third area we’re focusing on today is small business. This PPB bill leaves out so much that the Heroes Bill has in it. No targeted aid for restaurants, no targeted aid for stages, no targeted aid for minority businesses, no targeted aid for local news media, critical access hospitals and nonprofits, no idle money. The money probably that smaller businesses used easiest of all because it’s a grant. And so, there are so many places where their bills are inadequate and don’t meet the need. So, it’s a sham because nothing’s going to pass. McConnell can’t even put a real bill on the floor. All he can do is put in a motion to table and then vote against it. A sham a stunt if there ever was one, and it’s the second time they’re doing it. Didn’t work from the first time. Won’t work for them again. And then there, they put poison pills in their bill tomorrow that they know Democrats won’t accept, and my colleagues will address some of those as well. So, every day families are left behind in so many different ways.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (04:50)
So, we Democrats later today are going to turn up the pressure on Republicans. They’re all going to have to cast the vote, whether they want to vote on the Heroes Bill or not, which is comprehensive. 72% of Americans, according to New York Times Sienna, support another $2 trillion stimulus package like heroes, half the Republicans do. So, Americans will see exactly where Senate Republican values are. Whether they really care, or they just want to go through a game and pretend they’re doing something while actually doing nothing at all. It’s a damn shame what they’re doing. Senator Durbin.
Senator Durbin: (05:32)
Idiots. Idiots. That’s what president Donald Trump called the public health experts who work in the federal government, and he put Dr. Anthony Fowchee in the same sentence. I don’t think they’re idiots. I think they’re experts, and this president is uncomfortable around them because they are warning us. We were about to see a surge in infections and deaths in America. America, sadly America, with 5% of the world’s population and 20% of the COVID-19 deaths. America, just South of a nation of Canada. We have two and a half times the number of people dying from COVID-19 as Canada. What’s wrong? There’s no leadership.And that’s what it comes down to in this debate. This president says he’s tired of talking about this COVID thing. His people were having rallies. They’re not worried. Sadly, they endanger their lives every time they show up at one of his rallies. We know that and he obviously doesn’t care. So, the medical imperative of more and more infections and more and more deaths is a reality. Do we take it seriously?
Senator Durbin: (06:42)
So, seriously that Nancy Pelosi passed her COVID Relief bill five months ago. Mitch McConnell, as he brought it to the floor, refuses to. All the offers are any skinny versions that don’t address the real issues. But there’s a second reason that this has now made the calendar for Mitch McConnell. He got the hell kicked out of him last week at the hearing of the Senate judiciary committee. Witness after witness made it clear, this should not be the breakneck priority of the United States Senate. COVID-19 should be our priority if we’re ever going to save lives and reopen the economy. And so, his vulnerable members needed some cover and that’s what they’re going to get. An opportunity for a vote, but we know what’s missing. What’s missing is more testing at a time when we desperately needed, more contact tracing at a time we desperately needed and help for hospitals and clinics and medical professionals all across this country. What’s missing in help for families? Dramatic cuts by Senator McConnell when it comes to unemployment benefits, food stamps, SNAP program, rent help, stimulus checks, all left out when it comes to the McConnell proposal.
Senator Durbin: (07:59)
And the bottom line I’ll leave you with is this. He did put his red line in this bill just to make sure that it wasn’t going anywhere. You’ve heard him say it over and over on the floor, “Nothing’s going to pass unless I can have immunity for liability for the biggest corporations in America when it comes to COVID-19.” The American people see through that. If McConnell creates that kind of immunity, what’s the likelihood those companies will do the right thing to protect their employees and our customers? We are determined to get a real bill that addresses a very real problem.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (08:32)
Senator Stabenow: (08:34)
Thank you. Good afternoon. The people in Michigan, the people across America need help and they need it right now. They needed it yesterday, and it’s really not stimulus. It’s about survival for Michigan families. It’s about survival for our businesses, and under the Republican bill, too many people are left behind. That’s the bottom line. Instead of giving people the help they need, they’ve introduced a bill that ignores our urgent testing and other healthcare needs our families, our children, and far too many of our businesses. If we want parents to feel confident that their children can go back to school safely, if we want people to feel they can open their businesses safely and get back to work, Republicans can’t leave millions of people behind, and that’s exactly what Mitch McConnell’s bill does. Right now it’s not safe. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths are spiking. Hospitals and nurses are struggling to get enough PPE. Our healthcare professionals are exhausted and stressed and at severe risk of burnout, but the Republicans leave them behind and their abilities, millions of families behind.
Senator Stabenow: (09:56)
The extra $600 a week provided in the cares package was a lifeline and it needs to be extended. A survey last month found that more than 25% of Michigan residents, one out of four thought they were going to be evicted or have their home foreclosed on in the next two months. Mitch McConnell’s bill also leaves hungry children and families behind. We have 40% of those who are on SNAP food assistance in our country. Who’ve gotten no additional help through this entire process of COVID. And finally, they are leaving far too many businesses behind and the employees that work for them. Restaurants, and gyms, and craft breweries, and theaters that have revitalized Michigan small towns all across our state. These small businesses need help now. In the initial round of PPB, we also, as Democrats fought for $30 billion in dedicated funding to support minority owned small businesses and underserved communities and nonprofits. That also is not in there, and they are left behind.
Senator Stabenow: (11:07)
We need to approach this pandemic and the economic pain it’s unleashed with the seriousness and boldness it deserves. Our healthcare providers, our children and families and businesses need help right now. This is not the time to leave anybody behind and Democrats are fighting to make sure they aren’t.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (11:28)
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (11:30)
Thank you. 220,000 Americans are dead from COVID-19. Millions more have contracted the disease and continue to suffer. We have tens of millions of people across this country who are either unemployed or afraid they’re about to lose their jobs. Parents who are struggling because can’t get daycare. They can’t get their children into school. Small businesses that have shuttered and not sure if they will ever be able to reopen. Restaurants who can’t see a business plan going forward. Minority owned businesses that have been hit the hardest, and what does Mitch McConnell do? Plays politics instead of helping people. This bill that he’s putting on the floor again, is not a bill about helping people. It’s a bill about leaving people behind who does Mitch McConnell want to leave behind? He wants to leave behind every single person in this country who is worried about COVID-19. No help for our hospitals. Not enough for tracing, not enough for testing, not enough for our doctors and nurses. Just leave them behind.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (12:40)
And what about parents? School children. No money here for the kids who are caught in between having to try to study from home parents who are struggling with that. Just leave them behind. And this bill leaves millions of small businesses behind, restaurants behind, minority owned businesses behind. There are so many left behind in the McConnell bill, but understand this. The McConnell train does have some first-class tickets in it. First-class tickets for giant corporations. For giant corporations, a release of liability. No matter how irresponsible they are, they don’t have to worry about making their own employees or their customers sick. Sick to the point of dying. Mitch McConnell says those folks get a first class ticket on the McConnell train. And how about parents? Wealthy parents who want to send their kids to private schools? The McConnell train says, “Let’s have the taxpayers pick up the bill for that.” Full tax credit for sending your kid to a fancy boarding school. How about that?
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (13:50)
In other words, what McConnell’s doing here is playing politics of the ugliest sort. He wants to stand up and claim that he’s helping the American people. No. He’s playing the same old game, no help for the people who need it and lots of help for the people who don’t. Well, that’s not where the Democrats are. The Democrats are here for working families, for people who are struggling, for small businesses, for restaurants, for minority owned businesses, for our doctors and nurses, for the people who are in public health who are trying to get their arms wrapped around this COVID crisis. This is what it’s going to take not only to deal with this immediate healthcare crisis, but also the economic crisis that is tumbling behind it. That’s why the Democrats will be voting no today.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (14:38)
Questions on this subject? Yes.
Speaker 6: (14:42)
Senator McConnell said that if speaker Pelosi and the white house do reach some sort of agreement, and that there’s a bill that passes the house, we’ll take it up in the Senate, that doesn’t mean that Republicans will support it. But I’m wondering, are you in talks with him at all about the negotiations that are happening?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:00)
Leader McConnell has been Dr. No when anyone approaches him, including the administration. He has said, “No, no, no.” So, we’ll have to see if this latest thing is a change, or just another ruse and other trick like their bill today.
Speaker 6: (15:13)
But you `haven’t spoken to him at all about that?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:15)
No. He doesn’t speak to many people about these things,
Speaker 7: (15:17)
Senator, I’m just wondering how you see this particular issue playing out after the election? Since it seems like this is not going to happen before the election.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:28)
Well, we democrats want to get a big, bold bill that will meet the American people’s needs as soon as we can. So, Nancy Pelosi’s fighting to get one now. And as you know, we’ve been met just with intransigence by the Republican Senate. We will try to get one in the lame duck and we will try to get one should we win the presidency and win the Senate after that? The sooner, the better, but it needs to not leave people behind. It needs to be a strongly built bill. This the greatest economic crisis in 75 years, the greatest healthcare crisis in 100 years, we need something that meets that, that rises to that occasion and meets the moment and we’ll fight for it. Okay? Yes.
Speaker 8: (16:09)
How about anything for PPB funding itself? If this giant bill doesn’t go through or get support, I mean, businesses are just hurting out there, and some of them are wondering if you’re going to be able to make it.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:20)
The PPB, first of all, we want to leave anyone behind period, because you do one thing. What about everybody else? And what about the people some Republicans may say “I did that and I don’t have to do anything else.” We can’t do that as a country, not as a party, but as a country. We need to include all the people who need help. You’re going to tell the mother who can’t feed their kids, “Forget it?” You’re going to tell someone being evicted from their home, “Forget it?” You’re going to tell a school that can’t open, “Forget it?” Not us. Yes. .
Speaker 9: (16:50)
[inaudible 00:16:50] The Barrett hearings?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:52)
Sure go ahead.
Speaker 9: (16:53)
Some progressive groups have spoken out criticizing Senator Feinstein for [inaudible 00:16:57] of the hearings. I was wondering when you made those criticism, and do you plan to make any changes to the judiciary committee?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (17:03)
Okay. I’ve had a long and serious talk with Senator Feinstein. That’s all I’m going to say about it right now.
Speaker 6: (17:08)
Okay, I thought I’d [inaudible 00:17:09].
Senator Chuck Schumer: (17:10)
Speaker 10: (17:11)
Sure. Can I ask you about North Carolina? Republicans… Oh, sorry, Republicans,
Senator Chuck Schumer: (17:15)
Speaker 10: (17:16)
Sorry. Sorry about that. Republicans have seized on the Cunningham’s extra marital relations.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (17:25)
Speaker 10: (17:25)
And I just wanted to see, are you still confident that Cunningham can win in North Carolina?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (17:30)
The biggest issue in North Carolina is healthcare like it is across America. The need of Americans to be protected from pre-existing conditions, the need of senior citizens to be able to afford their drugs, the need of people who don’t have healthcare to get it. That’s the number one issue in North Carolina, and that’s why we’re going to prevail. Yes.
Speaker 11: (17:47)
And on that topic. You’re obviously running this campaign against the Supreme court nominee based on healthcare. How is the decision made amongst democratic leadership to focus so specifically on healthcare? And is any concern-
Senator Chuck Schumer: (18:01)
There’s a number of issues, but the number one issue of salience to the American people. Supreme court, the American people say, “Oh.” Healthcare, this court will take away your healthcare, Uh-Oh.” And that’s why the American people want us to delay overwhelmingly. We’re in the middle of a great crisis, a pandemic. People have needed help with preexisting conditions long before the pandemic, be it, they want to get insurance. A mother or father whose child has cancer. Doesn’t want to be told by the insurance company, “You can’t get insurance.” And watch their kids suffer. We believe that’s a such an important issue that it’s one of them, but we have talked about a woman’s right to choose. We have talked about labor rights. We have talked about environmental rights. We have talked about voting rights. We have talked about civil rights. We have talked about LGBTQ rights. They’re all important, but healthcare has been the number one issue out there in the country. And we chose to emphasize it. Thank you everybody.
Senator Durbin: (18:57)
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (19:06)