Feb 2, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript February 2: COVID Relief
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on February 2, 2021 with Senators Dick Durbin and Patty Murray. They discussed the COVID relief package. Read the transcript of his full speech remarks here.
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Senator Schumer: (00:00)
Proud to be joined by members of my leadership team, Senators Durbin, and Murray. Now we had a really good virtual caucus meeting with two very special guest speakers. It was great to have President Biden and Treasury Secretary Yellen Join our meeting. President Biden spoke about the need for Congress to respond boldly and quickly. He was very strong in emphasizing the need for a big, bold package. He said that he told Senate Republicans that the $600 billion that they proposed was way too small. I think it is his belief, it is Secretary Yellen’s belief. That is our belief. If we did a package that small, we’d be mired in the COVID crisis for years. And we are not going to make the mistake of 2009 and have too small a package that took too long and it took four or five years for the economy to recover.
Senator Schumer: (00:57)
President Biden said he told Republicans he’s willing to make some modifications, but he’s very strong that the full American rescue plan get us through this crisis. Secretary Yellen said the Republican 600 billion wasn’t close to enough and specifically noted that it didn’t do enough to help low-income families because it excluded the EITC and the CTC. She also said we can’t repeat the same mistakes of 2009. The whole country, maybe except some in the Republican caucus seemed to understand that. And by the way, it was pointed out at our lunch that there is overwhelming support for the ARP. Democrats, Republicans, independents, all by a majority support a bold plan and support going through reconciliation if we have to. So this is a bipartisan plan if you go talk to Democrats, independents and Republicans out in the country, for sure. The Senate new majority is now ready to get to work.
Senator Schumer: (02:04)
We’re unified behind the goal of delivering desperately needed emergency relief to the American people. We’ll begin the process this afternoon with a vote on the motion to proceed. I’m confident that will pass. And then we roll up our sleeves and get to work, taking the large numbers that are in the budget plan and crafting them. We share President Biden’s desire to advance this legislation in a bipartisan way, but the work must move forward. We are not going to dilute, dither or delay, because the needs of the American people are just too great. Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We are focused on the substance. That’s getting emergency relief to people as we promised we would do as soon as possible. That was a universal campaign of Democrats in Georgia, the Biden presidency and across the country. And I’ve been saying from the beginning, some of you didn’t believe me, that the Senate must deal with three things simultaneously.
Senator Schumer: (03:16)
Nominations, we’re confirming to more nominees today. A fair impeachment trial, the House today filed their brief and delivering emergency COVID relief. That process starts later today. Senate Democrats are executing on all three of these priorities. Now on one somewhat unrelated point. Today, I, along with Senator Martin Heinrich and other Senate Democrats introduced a Senate resolution related to domestic terrorism, which we saw rear its ugly horrible head on the 6th of January. Our resolution does two things, it condemns domestic terrorism, violent white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-government militias and dangerous fringe conspiracies like QAnon. We call on the FBI to review the threat posed by domestic terrorist groups, including examining the growth of such groups and the use of social media and other forms of communication to recruit new members and organize and plan acts of violence. Senator Durbin.
Senator Durbin: (04:33)
I want to thank Senator Schumer for that resolution. Happy to join it. The Senate judiciary committee will be holding a hearing on domestic terrorism. One of our earliest priorities, as soon as we have the transition and I actually become chairman of it, but we are planning to do that as quickly as possible. The second thing I want to say is I spoke to one of my Republican friends who was in on the White House meeting yesterday. I didn’t probe him for any information and specifics, but I asked him what it was like. And he said the president was very respectful. He understood the issues as a person who had served in the Senate and he understood the process very well. He listened and gave two hours to the group, showing that he really valued their importance and I do as well. I know many of the senators who were in on that meeting and I believe many of them are meeting in good faith.
Senator Durbin: (05:25)
I have worked with them in conversation and Zoom calls in previous months. I know they asked the right questions, important questions that need to be asked and answered. But I also know something that’s basic. It’s as basic as a lesson learned by every parent who takes their child to the doctor. If the child is sick enough to go to the doctor’s office and the doctor says, “Now I’m going to give you five days of antibiotics. Now your child’s going to start feeling better on the second day and by the third day, you’re sure they’re out of the woods, but take the medicine for five days. Because if you don’t take enough of the medicine, you’ll be back again to see me with the child sick again.” That’s what America faces right now. What President Biden has proposed with the ARP plan is a course of medicine for our economy and for the pandemic to cure the problem.
Senator Durbin: (06:16)
We don’t want to get lulled into the feeling we’re doing just fine and we can stop too soon. What President Biden has proposed is that we do enough to make sure that we finally can turn the corner in this pandemic that we keep businesses alive and put people back to work and sustain them until they are ready to get back to work. And then fundamentally, and I think this is an element that goes with it, to bring some economic justice to our economy so that more and more people whom we’ve said over and over again, are losing when it comes to income equality, have a fighting chance.
Senator Durbin: (06:47)
One of the briefings we just completed with Secretary Yellen talks about proposals that will change the tax code, that will eliminate, do I get this right, Chuck? Half of child poverty in the United States in the first year. Eliminate half the child poverty in the United States. Think about that as a landmark of the earliest days of the Biden administration. And that’s why it’s important for us to come together, I hope with Democrats and Republicans and pass this rescue plan in its entirety. All the medicine taken when we need it, so that we make sure that we can turn this economy around and get America moving in the right direction again.
Senator Schumer: (07:25)
Thank you Richard, and Patty.
Senator Murray: (07:30)
Thank you. We are in a race against this virus on just about every front. When it comes to our students, reports show compared to atypical year, the pandemic has set learning back by one to three months for white students and three to five months for students of color. Many students have lost access to critical resources like mental health services, school meals, counselors, and extracurricular activities. When it comes to working families, especially our essential workers, our already fragile. Child sex care sector is steering down mass closures and layoffs and already, one in six childcare jobs have been lost and we could lose as many as four and a half million childcare slots. Making it even harder for working parents to figure out how to support their families and take care of their kids right now, especially if they do not have any paid leave benefit. And new, more contagious strains of COVID-19 are emerging in communities across the country.
Senator Murray: (08:41)
As we are still seeing high infection rates and losing loved ones, we need to get vaccines in arms, much, much faster. These issues, learning loss, balancing work and family in a pandemic, and the lack of a comprehensive vaccination strategy from the prior administration are just a few of the many issues people face in our country today, especially communities of color who have experienced the most severe consequences by far as a result of long standing systemic inequities.
Senator Murray: (09:15)
Again, Democrats are in a race against this virus, because families and communities are in a race against this virus. We are in a race to get direct payments and help to people who are struggling safely, getting students back to school for in-person learning. Dramatically scaling up testing and vaccination capacity so we can save lives and ultimately, end this pandemic and more. That is why we are taking action this week to make sure serious, bold COVID-19 relief gets done. We welcome Republicans joining us in this effort. I know I and others will continue conversations on ways we can work together that truly help our constituents, but we are determined to get COVID-19 relief signed into law that matches the depth of this crisis and we are going to deliver. Thank you.
Senator Schumer: (10:09)
Thank you, Patty. And now we’re ready for your questions. Yes.
Speaker 4: (10:15)
Senator Schumer, two questions. The first, do you have the votes for reconciliation and is Biden on board with moving with reconciliation and also [inaudible 00:10:25] organizing-
Senator Schumer: (10:26)
Joe Biden is totally on board with using reconciliation. I’ve been talking to him every day. Our staffs have been talking multiple times a day and I believe that we will pass the resolution this afternoon. Yes. [inaudible 00:10:43] second question? Nope. One is fine. He’s being nice and deferring to you for your second question.
Speaker 4: (10:49)
It’s about the organizing resolution. We were told last week it was close-
Senator Schumer: (10:53)
It was set back when Leader McConnell made an extraneous demand, trying to tell our caucus how to run things when we’re in the majority, but we’re making progress and we’re getting close.
Speaker 5: (11:02)
Are you confident that every element of the president’s plan, including the aspect with the minimum wage survives reconciliation?
Senator Schumer: (11:09)
There’s going to be a process as we said. We believe we have very strong support for a bold, strong plan on the level of what the president proposed. All the details are going to be worked out as we go through the committee process and we hope Republicans will join us, but we are not going to dilute this, so it doesn’t help the American people get out of this crisis quickly.
Speaker 6: (11:34)
Senator Manchin said earlier today, he would support moving forward with reconciliation, but as part of a more targeted process. Do you think that you’ll have to pare down this package at all?
Senator Schumer: (11:43)
Look, we’re going to have amendments, but the belief of the entire caucus I believe is we need a big, bold, strong package. Yes.
Speaker 7: (11:52)
You been crystal clear that there’s going to be an impeachment trial with a target starting next week. My question is though there were a lot of conversation last week, Senator McCain and others, seeing the writing on the wall for the votes that may be, if he’s not convicted, do a censure of the president are you open to that, as long as he’s not convicted?
Senator Schumer: (12:12)
I think the president should be tried. I hope he will vote to be convicted. Anything past that is something we can discuss, but he deserves conviction nothing less.
Speaker 8: (12:25)
Senate Republicans who met with Biden yesterday got the impression that he would ask you [inaudible 00:12:32] to push back the reconciliation package a little bit to allow a bipartisan package would you be willing to put a bipartisan-
Senator Schumer: (12:38)
We’re moving forward under the reconciliation. That is what President Biden wants us to do. And that is what we’re doing.
Speaker 9: (12:46)
[inaudible 00:12:46] timing on the organizing resolution for the impeachment trial next week?
Senator Schumer: (12:50)
Well, there are two … the impeachment resolution on the trial has been set back because the president keeps switching lawyers. And so, we have to negotiate. If we want to get it bipartisan, his lawyers are part of the deal. But hopefully we can move forward. We’ve had good discussions on that issue. Yes?
Speaker 10: (13:12)
Can you give any details on timing on the organizing resolution for-
Senator Schumer: (13:15)
I just answered that question. I just answered that question. Last one.
Speaker 11: (13:19)
Senator Schumer, how concerned are you that the former president’s legal team is going to introduce once again his conspiracy theories about the past election and make that a part of his impeachment defense?
Senator Schumer: (13:33)
Well, I hope if they tried to do that and couldn’t answer the defense that Republicans would see that and realize that they have no argument against the charges brought by the House managers. Thank you everybody.