Feb 23, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript February 23
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on February 23, 2021 with Senator Dick Durbin. They discussed the COVID relief package. Read the transcript of his full speech remarks here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Senator Schumer: (00:00)
I’m joined by our great whip, Senator Richard J. Durbin. Now, we just finished a very good virtual discussion in our caucus. And the Senate is working boldly and quickly to respond to the COVID crisis, deliver help to Americans who need it the most. Everywhere we go in our States, people were saying, “Get the bill passed.” A majority of Republican citizens are for the bill. The only people who don’t seem to be for the bill are Republican senators here in Washington. But we are on track to get this bill done and get it on the president’s desk before the expiration of the enhanced unemployment benefits, which is March 14th. We’re going to meet that deadline, and it’s going to be a robust, strong bill, just as we asked for, not exactly the same, but very close to the bill that President Biden proposed.
Senator Schumer: (00:53)
We’re also moving quickly to hold confirmation hearings on the floor with President Biden’s highly qualified and experienced cabinet nominees, Linda Thomas Greenfield and Tom Vilsack will be confirmed today, Jennifer Granholm, by the end of the week, Miguel Cardona and Gina Raimondo early next week. So, we’re making good progress in filling that cabinet. The bottom line is simple. When I became leader, people said, “You’ve got so much to do.” I said, “We can get all three things done, president’s cabinet, COVID relief, impeachment trial.” And as you’ve seen, we’re in the process of getting all of those done.
Senator Schumer: (01:37)
One thing is clear in this new Senate, the era of Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard is over. While the Republicans used their time in the majority to deliver tax cuts to the rich and take away healthcare for millions of Americans, the Senate Democratic majority is delivering help to Americans, just what Americans want. There is… sorry. There is tremendous, tremendous energy in our Democratic caucus to pass laws that will help our country, and help our people, and restore the faith in government that people had before Mitch McConnell started using it as a legislative graveyard and so many other Republicans tried to block things that help people.
Senator Schumer: (02:25)
So, today on our caucus call, I directed the chairs and members of our relevant committees to start drafting a legislative package to out-compete China and create new American jobs. The legislation will have as its centerpiece a bipartisan bill, bicameral, bipartisan bill, the Endless Frontiers Act, which I introduced last year with Todd Young and Representatives Roe Connor and Mike Gallagher in the House. And it will take the key cutting industries and make American investment so we will out-compete China in all of them. In addition, we will make serious investments in strengthening in the U.S. semiconductor industry to out-compete China and stop depending on foreign sources. Right now, semiconductor manufacturing is a dangerous weak spot in our economy and in our national security. That has to change. You’ve all seen auto plants throughout America are closed because they can’t get the chips. We cannot rely on foreign processors for the chips. We cannot let China get ahead of us in chip production. This will be part of the proposal that we will introduce.
Senator Schumer: (03:41)
We will also talk about the build-out of 5G and how America can remain number one there. And all of these have bipartisan support. The bill we will intend to introduce, and I talked to Senator Young about it, he’s eager to get it done, will be bi-partisan. Our intention is to put this legislation on the Senate floor for a vote this spring. To get a little more specific, the new legislation must achieve three goals, enhance American competitiveness with China by investing in American innovation, American workers, and American manufacturing. Invest in strategic partners and alliances, NATO, Southeast Asia, and India, and expose curb and end once and for all China’s predatory practices, which have hurt so many American jobs.
Senator Schumer: (04:31)
We’re looking at emergency funding to implement the bipartisan semiconductor program as part of this package. You all know about the chip shortage. I want this bill to address America’s short-term and long-term plan, which is protect the semiconductor supply chain and to keep us number one in things like AI, 5G, quantum computing, biomedical research, storage. All of these things are part of the bill and the Endless Frontiers Act. So. We need to get a bill like this to the president’s desk quickly to protect America’s long-term economic and national security. Senator Durbin.
Senator Durbin: (05:17)
My thanks to later Charles Ellis Schumer, who is-
Senator Schumer: (05:22)
Remember what his name was? I gave him a name a few weeks ago. Anyone remember? Come on.
Speaker 3: (05:27)
I don’t want to say it.
Senator Schumer: (05:29)
You get first question. You’ll get first question if you remember. This is a contest.
Senator Durbin: (05:33)
This is a serious contest.
Speaker 3: (05:35)
Senator Schumer: (05:36)
[Inaudible 00:05:36]. First question goes to him, goes to mister punchbowl.
Speaker 3: (05:43)
Senator Schumer: (05:45)
By the way… forget it. I’m going to give you my name and you remember it. Mine’s harder. Charles is usually [foreign language 00:05:54], but it’s not [foreign language 00:05:55]. [Foreign language 00:05:55] means life. Mine [foreign language 00:05:57] and that’s Isaiah. Next week, first question. Go ahead.
Senator Durbin: (06:04)
I know why we came, but I can’t remember. Last night, President Biden paid a tribute to the 500,000 that we have lost and their families as an acknowledgement of the pain and loss that America has sustained. This president is not running away from reality. He is facing it, and he’s asking Congress to join him in uniting and healing our nation. Last year, almost 12 months ago exactly, 96 senators, Democrats and Republicans, in a bipartisan show of support passed the Cares Act, a more than two trillion dollar rescue plan, the largest spending bill ever enacted by Congress. Then in December, when the measure came up for another 900 billion dollars that was needed, 92 senators voted, a strong bipartisan vote.
Senator Durbin: (06:55)
Can we expect anything less when President Biden brings us the American Rescue Plan? This rescue program is designed to put vaccine on the streets, in the clinics, and in the arms of Americans as quickly as possible. It has $1,400 more in cash payments promised to families across the United States. There is money in this as well to deal with the deadline that we face in terms of unemployment benefits on March 14th, help for those who are renting and can’t afford to pay, emergency provisions across the board for schools, individuals, families, businesses, and it needs to be passed quickly. I join Senator Schumer in asking the Republicans to put aside politics and to stand with Joe Biden and with the American people now.
Senator Durbin: (07:48)
The second point I would like to make is we concluded the hearing on Merrick Garland, the nominee to be Attorney General of the United States, today. There was a good, happy ending to it, but it wasn’t anticipated. Senator Thom Tillis, the Republican of North Carolina, didn’t make our hearing yesterday in person, but he wanted to come in today to say a positive thing about Merrick Garland and to announce that he was voting for him. There’s another Republican Senator who has told me the same. I think it is a growing trend. His presentation before the committee was as powerful as any nominee I’ve ever seen. He answered every question, and he did it with class, and with professionalism, and obviously with an understanding of the law. We need him now in the Department of Justice.
Senator Durbin: (08:35)
I hope that we can find a way to move him quickly. He is the last person in the team, when it comes to national security, who should be in place. We’ve taken a care of the Department of Defense, taken care of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Homeland Security. Let’s put an attorney general on the job as quickly as possible. I think we’ll be able to report him on Monday from the judiciary committee. And I hope Senator Schumer is successful in bringing this to the floor as quickly as possible.
Senator Schumer: (09:02)
Thank you. Just one other point that Senator Durbin reminded me. COVID crisis rages, a Republican president. Democrats come together with Republicans and pass two bills, or four bills, really. Democratic president, Republicans don’t even work with Democrats. If anyone doubts who is more interested in bipartisanship, just look at that. Raising your hand. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (09:26)
I want to ask about the minimum wage. There’s been a lot of talk about it in your caucus. Senator Manchin has said he is opposed to a $15 minimum wage, which you support. Would you support something less, $11 or something?
Senator Schumer: (09:37)
Okay. Look, the first step is to go before reconciliation, before the parliamentarian. That will occur on Wednesday. Bernie Sanders and I are arguing very strongly for $15 and for it to be reconcilable. We’re going to await her judgment before we go any further.
Speaker 3: (09:54)
But would you support anything less?
Senator Schumer: (09:56)
Next question. Yes.
Speaker 4: (09:58)
Thank you, Mr. Leader. I’m wondering if you can tell us any more about March 4th? There is chatter that there could be another potential plan, something like what we saw on January 6th. And is the security apparatus here ready for something like that?
Senator Schumer: (10:12)
Well, the security apparatus is a lot better than it was on January 6th. You can just walk around and see all the National Guards men and women. I see a whole lot of them from New York. So, that’s much better. Obviously, there’s more protection around the Capitol. And, obviously, the police forces are more alert. But you can always do better. And that’s why we’re having the hearing today. And that’s why we’re doing the thorough investigation as to what went wrong, and then try to make sure it’s improved so it never ever happens again.
Speaker 5: (10:48)
Senator, have you decided at this point, or do you have a preference for how you would deal with the immigration debate? Do you see it as a comprehensive debate or something more piece meal with the-
Senator Schumer: (10:58)
Well, look, I was proud to co-sponsor the Comprehensive Immigration Bill, along with Senator Durbin, Senator Menendez. I’d like to see a pathway for citizenship to 11 million. I’d like to see an America be more friendly to immigrants who are needed for both family reunification and jobs. So, my preference is to pass a comprehensive bill. But, if it is determined that the best way to go forward is to go forward in pieces and the House is thinking of doing that, it’s something I’d certainly look at. I want to get as much done as possible. Yes.
Speaker 6: (11:35)
Yu said over the weekend that you were going to work with the White House to find votes for Neera Tanden for OMB. What exactly are you doing, and where are you finding these votes?
Senator Schumer: (11:44)
Well, I’m not going to get into specifics and names, but we’re continuing to look. I think Neera Tanden would be an outstanding OMB nominee. And for Republicans who look the other way with the nastiest of tweets by their president, their leader for now to say Neera Tanden shouldn’t get in because of her tweets is a little bit of a contradiction
Speaker 7: (12:05)
Leader Schumer, chairman Sanders says there’s already discussion about a potential second reconciliation package for a jobs bill. It was reported by the Washington Post. This could be as large as three trillion. What do you think should be in that second package? And what do you think the timeline on that is going to be?
Senator Schumer: (12:18)
Okay. Well, look. I think we need to go further than just the American Rescue Plan, which deals with rescue, which deals with the immediate problems. But we need a strong stimulus to get our long-term economy going. If you read today’s Washington Post, real unemployment is still 10%. And one of the leading economists, I can’t remember if it was Powell or someone, said unemployment is going to stay with us a very long time. So, we need a strong stimulus that creates and builds jobs and pumps up the economy for a long period of time. And so, the Build Back Better Plan is something that I think we would turn to very soon after the American Rescue Plan is done. It should have big infrastructure. It should be green. It should include communities that are left out. It should deal with worker training. The purpose is to get the economy going at a fast clip once and for roll so we can have the growth that we had in the ’70s and ’80s, not the growth we’ve had since 2000, which has been very low.
Speaker 8: (13:24)
Senator Schumer: (13:25)
Speaker 8: (13:26)
What is your backup plan to the parliamentarian rule in favor of minimum wage?
Senator Schumer: (13:31)
First things first, we’re fighting hard to get it done.
Speaker 8: (13:35)
But what would you [crosstalk 00:13:36]-
Senator Schumer: (13:35)
We’re fighting hard to get it done. That’s what we’re fighting for now.
Speaker 9: (13:38)
Leader Schumer, I’m wondering what your thoughts were on today’s first open hearing on the January 6th attack. And what do you want to hear tomorrow from the acting Capitol police chief and acting Sergeant at arms? And what do you want to see?
Senator Schumer: (13:49)
Look, we want to see what went wrong and what we can do to make it better. It’s very good, I think, Senators Peters and Klobuchar have had a very good hearing, very comprehensive, lots of questions were asked. And we need to know what went wrong to make sure we know what we can do to make sure it never happens again. Yes.
Speaker 10: (14:09)
Leader Schumer, curious if you have heard of Republicans have apparently offered or have they made this offer about splitting an even split to this January 6th commission? And do you have any thoughts on that, as opposed to the format that Speaker Pelosi implemented?
Senator Schumer: (14:22)
Look, we need a commission that’s going to get to the bottom of this. And I’ve been talking to Speaker Pelosi about it, but I’m not going to get into details of what we’ve talked about.
Speaker 10: (14:32)
Do you think it should be a 50/50 split between Republicans and Democrats?
Senator Schumer: (14:35)
I think we need it to get to the bottom of what happened, and it should be fearless.
Speaker 11: (14:41)
Senator Schumer, if you could just talk about the role that Senator Manchin is playing in your Congress right now. Obviously with the $15 minimum wage and you’re attending, he has been the problem with Democrats getting some of these over the finish line. He’s become very powerful.
Senator Schumer: (14:48)
Look, I’ve made a pitch today to our entire caucus. And I said that we need to pass this bill. The American people, the American public demands it. And everyone is going to have things that they want to see in the bill. And we’ll work hard to see if we can get those things in the bill. But job number one is to pass the bill. Pass the bill, we must. And I have confidence. We will do it. Last one.
Speaker 12: (15:15)
So, were seeing with Senator Manchin, the power any one senator can have in a 50/50 split. What are you doing teammates for that everyone stays united in upcoming nominations and reconciliations?
Senator Schumer: (15:27)
This is my answer. I speak to my members all the time. And I have a leadership team that meets Monday night. On that leadership team are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, of course, Dick Durbin, and Joe Manchin, and Mark Warner. And we discuss it out. And so far, so far, we’ve had great unity. On impeachment, we had great unity. On the two votes that have come before us on reconciliation, we have had great unity. So, we’ve had a lot of unity and we need to keep it. With 50 votes, we need our unity. And we’re fighting to get it. And so far so good. Thank you, everybody.
Speaker 13: (16:04)
Can we ask Senator Durbin a question?
Senator Durbin: (16:05)
For those who are unfamiliar, that was a flip phone.
Speaker 13: (16:08)
Senator Durbin, can I ask you about immigration? You have this big immigration bill.
Senator Schumer: (16:12)
If you want to stay, you can.
Speaker 13: (16:14)
And also, your Dream Act proposal. So, do you think that both would be able to pass the senate? Or which one are you prioritizing?
Senator Durbin: (16:22)
Well, let me tell you, we’re watching first for the house action. We think the Dream and Promise Act will pass, we hope, as well as the farm labor bill will pass and be sent to us, which would certainly be a good starting place, I think, for immigration. What I am doing is reaching out, not only in my side of the aisle, but to individual Republican senators, some of whom would surprise you. I have gone to them and I have said, “I’ve never brought up immigration with you before. Can we talk?” And they said, “Sure. Let’s see what we can agree on.” So, there is a more open-minded approach than I expected on the Republican side. That doesn’t mean we have get 60 votes lined up. I’ve got to reach the point we do. And I agree with Senator Schumer. I want it all. I want a comprehensive bill. But, if we can’t get all of it, I want to get as many important elements together in a bill that can pass with 60 votes supporting it on the floor.
Speaker 13: (17:16)
Senator Durbin: (17:16)
Speaker 14: (17:17)
Can we ask you on the minimum wage, can we follow that question then?
Senator Durbin: (17:20)
Speaker 14: (17:20)
Senator Durbin: (17:21)
If he won’t answer it, don’t put me-
Speaker 14: (17:23)
Okay. But how about a question on Senator Manchin’s role inside the caucus then?
Senator Durbin: (17:29)
I talk to Joe all the time. I’m part of the group, I managed to sneak in the door, the group of 18 senators, nine Democrats and nine Republicans. And I’ve worked with them for months. And it’s a wonderful group. Joe has won the respect of many of the people in the group, as well as in his own caucus. But he’s an independent minded person. And I can sit down and talk to him, and I can’t always bring him to agreement. But he’s always willing to sit down and explain his point of view and be open to new thoughts. That’s the most any whip could ask of any member. Okay?
Speaker 13: (18:03)
Senator Schumer seemed to indicate that what he called his caucus at lunch was, we have to pass this bill, seeming like it’s a message to Manchin that he has to get on board. Is that how you interpreted what Schumer said?
Senator Durbin: (18:15)
It was a message to the whole caucus. When you get into this bill and see all the provisions and sections in it, I want to make some calls down to Schumer’s staff. There are two or three things that are important to me and two or three things that may be under attack here in the Senate. So, I’m sure that’s going on. And he’s begging all of us, despite any differences with any one section of the bill, that we hang together. This is the signature provision of the Biden Administration in terms of dealing with the pandemic and the economy. And we need to stick together. That’s it.
Speaker 13: (18:47)
Thank you, Senator.