Mar 16, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript March 16
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on March 16, 2021. Read the transcript of his full speech remarks here.
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Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:00)
Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming. And Democrats are so proud that the American Rescue Plan is already delivering help to millions of Americans. We said before, help is on the way. Now we can say help is here. Help is here because Democrats are delivering on our promises, just as we said in the campaign. Democrats’ promise put us in an office, you’ll get checks. They’re getting checks. Put us in office, the vaccines will start coming forward. Now over 2.4 million shots are being administered a day. Put us in office and we’ll do something about child poverty. The American Rescue Plan cuts poverty in half. We’re helping feed the hungry. We’re helping people stay in their homes. We’re helping our neighborhood restaurants and small venues weather this awful COVID storm. The American Rescue Plan is something every Democrat is obviously very, very proud of. We all came together and we got it done.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:00)
And there’s so much here for us to talk about. President Biden, Vice President Harris, members of the Biden Cabinet are barnstorming the country to tout what’s in the bill. Democrats kept our promise and we’re delivering real help to working Americans. Something not even talked about, the pensions. Last week, a gentlemen, a construction worker, depending on his pension, actually a Teamster when works in construction, depending on his pension was teary-eyed. He said, “If my pension goes down, I don’t mind that it hurts me. It hurts my family, my wife, my children, my parents. They’re all depending on me. Please save it.” We’ve saved it. We’ve saved it.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:45)
So we’re doing our job as promised. When we got into office, when we became the majority, everyone said, “How are they going to get it all done? You got to confirm the Cabinet. You got to do an impeachment trial and pass ARP.” Well, we have done an impeachment trial. We passed ARP. And with the nomination of Mr. Walsh, every Cabinet Secretary will have been installed, all 16. So we’ve kept our promise and so many other good things. Native Americans have far too long been neglected at the Cabinet level. Now there’s a strong voice in Deb Holland. Now they have a seat at the table. Small business needs money, as Isabel Guzman is being confirmed as Small Business Administrator.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:33)
We have to have a much tougher, stronger policy against China. Catherine Tai will be confirmed as Trade Rep. And on Thursday, we’ll confirm Javier Bissera to be HHS Secretary, and the House will send us a bipartisan bill on PPP. We Senate Democrats support it unanimously. We want it to move as quickly as possible. I just hope our Senate Republican friends will agree to pass the PPP extension without delay so that small businesses that need our help won’t fall through the cracks.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:09)
Senator Durbin. Let me put my mask back on.
Speaker 2: (03:15)
Senator Durbin: (03:15)
I will too.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:18)
And Senator Durbin, with or without mask as of his choosing.
Senator Durbin: (03:22)
Sans mask, as we say Illinois.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:22)
Sans mask, as they say in Chicago.
Senator Durbin: (03:28)
12 years ago, you remember when Mitch McConnell pronounced the beginning of the Obama administration, the one-term presidency, and then set out to deny any Republican votes for anything Obama wanted. It went on and on and on for months and even years. It was frustrating to be a Senator, even worse to be an American looking to the Senate for results. So what plan did the Republicans have in this round? It appears it’s the same McConnell playbook. We are not going to play. We are not going to participate. And look what happened. We passed the American Rescue Plan without him. And the American people now get a look at what Mitch McConnell and his Senate Republicans refuse to support. It addresses the most fundamental concerns families have across America. First, the pandemic, second, the economy, and third, a myriad of other issues, whether it’s schools ready for kids or whether it’s individuals that receive enough cash to make it through the next few months.
Senator Durbin: (04:29)
These are the bottom-line issues for America, and McConnell stays on the sidelines. He refuses to participate. I hope he’s wrong. I hope enough Republicans decide this is not the right approach, that they’ll join us in bipartisan efforts. There are many things we can’t do by reconciliation. We need a bipartisan approach. And I hope they’ll see that it’s in the best interest of this country for us to come together. And the argument that this bill, this American Rescue Plan with 1.9 trillion or so is full of pork is full of beans. When you get down to it, this bill really does what it says it does, it helps the Americans directly, no sleight of hand, no hidden tricks. It just basically comes through with the money when they need it. It’s not only good for them, it’s not good for our communities, but it’s good for America. The economists tell us we need to get up off the floor and move forward again together. We’re going to do it with the American Rescue Plan.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:24)
Senator Patty Murray: (05:31)
Thank you. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something that Vice President Kamala Harris said recently. She made the point and I’m paraphrasing that while we’ve got to get back to normal when it comes to things like sending our kids off to school safely, or hugging our kids and grandkids who aren’t in the same household, visiting family from out of town, and just not having to worry about a terrifying deadly virus. We’ve also got to recognize that going back to normal doesn’t make sense when normal wasn’t working in the first place. Normal hasn’t been working well for working parents, especially moms, even before this pandemic. Normal wasn’t working for communities of color and tribes who faced deeply, harmful, longstanding and equities across healthcare, and education, and economic opportunity long before this pandemic started. Normal hasn’t been working for our essential workers, many of them who kept our country running this year while making poverty-level wages, or people with disabilities who long-faced ableism and inequity when it comes to accessing healthcare, getting a job, or receiving a quality education. I could go on.
Senator Patty Murray: (06:40)
But what I’m glad of is the American Rescue Plan will help our country not just get back to normal but set a course towards a fair, stronger country and economy where all of our families and communities can succeed, not those just at the top. Expanding access to affordable childcare, direct payments, tax relief for families, making healthcare more affordable, and so much more that’s in the American Rescue Plan are ways to help our families weather the storm of COVID-19 and ensure our economy works for all of us. We’ve got a lot of work ahead, and we are far from the finish line when it comes to COVID-19. But we are going to stay clear-eyed about the challenges that we face, make sure that Biden-Harris administration is fully staffed and able to put in all of their all into ending this pandemic, and continue putting workers and families first in everything we do. Thank you.
Senator Debbie Stabenow: (07:45)
Thank you. Help really has arrived for the majority of people in our country and certainly for the majority of people in Michigan, and that’s what I speak to for a moment. Consider a single mom who has two young children, a three-year-old and a six-year-old. She lost her job a number of months ago because of the pandemic. She’s been worried sick wondering how she’s going to pay the rent, keep the heat on, which becomes an issue in Michigan in the winter, as well as making sure that lights are on, and buy groceries for her children. Well, today, things have changed for that Michigan mom. When she checked her bank account today, she had an additional $4,200 in her bank account. Just think about what that means. She can make the rent, she can pay some critical bills, even buy some new shoes for her children who seem to grow out of them every single week.
Senator Debbie Stabenow: (08:40)
And that’s just the beginning because the American Rescue Plan goes far beyond $1,400 checks. This mom has been surviving on unemployment, and now she knows that this support will last until September and she’ll continue to get an additional $300 a week. Like so many other Americans, when she lost her job, she lost her healthcare. Not anymore. The American Rescue Plan is paying for her COBRA payment for the next six months. She no longer has to worry about her family that they’ll lose their home because the American Rescue Plan provides emergency aid to cover back rent. And she’s less worried that they’ll go hungry because SNAP benefits alone have increased by about $75 a month for her family, which is critically important when she goes to the grocery store.
Senator Debbie Stabenow: (09:35)
The American Rescue Plan also helps cover the cost of childcare so she can have some help while she’s doing a job interview. And she’s relieved that her first grader is going to be able to go back to school full-time because his teachers and his bus driver and the other people that work at the school will be able to get vaccinated and they’ll address other safety measures under the funds in the American Rescue Plan. So today, a lot has changed for this Michigan mom. She no longer feels alone. She feels like somebody has got her back. For this Michigan mom and so many others, help has arrived.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (10:23)
I like to just thank … I thought my colleagues gave it all. Patty, Debbie, Dick, great talks. Good job. Yes.
Speaker 6: (10:30)
Can I ask if you have a response to Leader McConnell saying today that a change in the cloture rules would turn the Senate into a hundred car pile-up with nothing moving? And secondly, on that point, do you agree with Senator Durbin’s view that the filibusterer has become the death grip of democracy?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (10:42)
Okay, let me answer both. First, Senator McConnell is always looking for a diversion. He knows how popular ARP is. He knows he and his whole caucus opposed it and that the American people, even Republicans, we just surveyed in New York State, 55% of Republicans are for the ARP now that it’s passed. So he’s always looking for a diversion.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (11:01)
As for the issue, we Democrats, all of us believe we need big, bold change. As I’ve said before, we hope our Republican colleagues will work with us to produce that change. We will try to get them to work with us. But if not, we will put our heads together and figure out how to go. And everything is on the table.
Speaker 7: (11:22)
Leader Schumer. After this slate of Cabinet nominations is finished, is it your intention to put your China bill on the floor immediately, and will it have the support of the necessary 10 or so Republicans?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (11:35)
Well, first, we are going to sit down and talk to the … Our caucus is going to sit down and talk together about where we should go next. Right now, we’re still filling the President’s Cabinet, the last few nominees, and that’ll take this week and next week, as well as passing PPP. But we will sit as a caucus and with the Biden administration and decide exactly where to go next. We have a lot of things we want to do.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (11:59)
On the China bill, we have good bipartisan support on that. My instructions to every one of the chairs who’s working on the China bill is to work with your Republican colleagues. The centerpiece is a bipartisan proposal, The Endless Frontiers Act proposed by myself and Todd Young of Indiana and he’s very enthusiastic. The semiconductor piece is bi-partisan. Lots of the other parts of it are bipartisan. And we hope to have it as a bipartisan bill.
Speaker 8: (12:26)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (12:26)
Nope. She’s next.
Speaker 9: (12:29)
Mr. Leader, two questions, one on the issue of immigration. Obviously, there’s an emergent crisis at the border, but why don’t you think that there is the will right now to fix it in a big way in your chamber? I mean, just yesterday, Senator Durbin said that there’s little chance of passing the president’s bill. So what do you think is doable?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (12:47)
We believe … Look, I think the president’s bill is great. And as you know, it’s not that different from the bill that Senator McCain and I worked in the Senate with the gang of eight. Dick Durbin was a member of it. And so we’re going to try to do everything we can for as bold an immigration bill as we can get. Plain and simple. We’ll see where our Republican colleagues are.
Speaker 9: (13:08)
Also, just very quickly, I have a follow-up.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (13:10)
Next. Next. No, no, no, no.
Speaker 10: (13:12)
On Friday, you called on Governor Cuomo to resign. But earlier in the day, you had not reached that point. What changed for you over the last several hours to reach that conclusion?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (13:21)
Look, as I’ve said, New York State under this COVID crisis needs safe and they need secure and safe and strong leadership. The women have come forward. I’m proud they have. They’ve made some serious allegations and they should be listened to. Because of these allegations, the governor has lost the confidence of his governing partners and of many New Yorkers, and he should step down.
Speaker 10: (13:50)
Have you spoken to him?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (13:51)
Speaker 11: (13:52)
Following up on the immigration question, I’d like to hear from Senator Durbin on this well, both of you.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (13:56)
Speaker 11: (13:57)
I mean, isn’t it a problem though, aren’t there divides in your caucus? You said yesterday, Senator Durbin, that the situation on the border made it harder to move a bill. And you said too, that the bill is similar, the comprehensive demand is real similar to 2013. But we’re dealing with a border issue now, therefore, shouldn’t that reflect what is going on there now, and to your point, does that make it tougher?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (14:20)
Senator Durbin: (14:24)
It’s a challenge and the new administration deserves an opportunity to respond to it. And I think it’s going to be part of the conversation about immigration. Let’s assume for a second they’re successful in doing it and six weeks from now, we don’t have a situation that’s as challenging as the one today, does that mean the Republicans will come forward for immigration reform? I’m not sure. But I think we need to deal with this reality at the border. I said to the administration, come forward with your plan. Mayorkas is testifying maybe tomorrow in the House of Representatives.
Speaker 11: (14:54)
Senator Durbin: (14:54)
And I’m looking forward to what his suggestions are. We want to work together.
Speaker 11: (14:58)
But do you think at that end thought that-
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:00)
No. Stop. We don’t … One question each. Yep.
Speaker 12: (15:07)
In order to get a meaningful immigration reform done that may include measures for the southern border as well, are you able to do that in a comprehensive package or does that have to be done piecemeal?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:13)
Well, look, my strongest desire is to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I’ve felt that way since 2013 when the house blocked it. And we’ll do everything we can to explore that area. The House hasn’t sent us the comprehensive bill yet. They’re in the process of sending us other legislation. We want to do as much as we can to make immigrants welcome in America, to make sure that America integrates immigrants into our system of government, and we’ll keep fighting to get as bold and strong the bill as we can.
Speaker 13: (15:47)
Would you be open to doing another one?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:47)
Speaker 14: (15:49)
We’ve some time now talking about the challenge of immigration, we talked about infrastructure. I’m curious with Chairman Sanders suggesting perhaps budget reconciliation needs to be used on a transportation infrastructure bill. What do you see getting done in the Senate on a traditional 60 vote margin?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:07)
Well, as I said, we’re going to try to work with Republicans wherever we can. The China bill is a bill. There are others, bipartisan bills that we’re talking to our Republican colleagues about. And when we can work with our Republican friends, we will. But we must get bold change. And if our Republican friends block it, we’re going to put our heads together and figure out the best way to go. Everything’s on the table. It’s plain and simple. Okay. Thank you, everybody.