Mar 25, 2021
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Press Conference Transcript March 25
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference on March 25, 2021. He discussed voting rights, gun reform, and more. Read the transcript of his full speech remarks here.
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Chuck Schumer: (00:01)
[inaudible 00:00:01] my first true love. Well, or my first girlfriend. I don’t know if she’s true love. Okay. In any case, nice to see you all. Okay. Just to be serious. Okay. Thank you everyone for coming. Well, as you know, we’ve had a busy and extremely productive few months here in the Democratic-led Senate. When Democrats took over the majority on January 20th, the question was, “How are we going to get three big things done at once?” I think a few of you labeled it, the impossible task. Confirm Biden’s Cabinet Secretaries, hold a fair impeachment trial, pass robust emergency COVID relief. I’m very proud to say Democrats stuck together, and we got the job done. We held an impeachment trial of Donald Trump, which I think showed what a despicable man he is, and got a bipartisan conviction vote. We confirmed all 15 of Biden’s Cabinet Secretaries faster than the previous two administrations had done. We passed the American Rescue Plan, historic legislation that will keep millions of American workers and businesses and families afloat while boosting our economic recovery.
Chuck Schumer: (01:25)
The American Rescue Plan is nothing short of transformational, and delivers real help to American families, the middle-class and those struggling to get there. It’s interesting, the contrast between us and the Republicans. The bottom 20% in our plan, we’ll get a 20% increase in their income. The top 1% in our plan, zero, nada. The opposite of what the Republicans did, where one estimate showed that 83% of their proposal went to the top 1%, when they had their big bill, their tax bill. That, in a nutshell, shows what each party is about. We were able to pass the plan in a focused way that got the aid to the Americans who needed it most. So, it’s been a busy two months, but we’re just getting started. The Senate must continue to make progress on the other major issues facing the American people. When the Senate returns in April, we’re going to begin to focus on three major areas, voting rights and civil rights, economic recovery, and jobs with an emphasis on climate change and building back better, and health and gun safety.
Chuck Schumer: (02:39)
We will try to work with our Republican colleagues on a bipartisan basis when and where we can. We welcome it. But if they choose to obstruct rather than work with us to deliver the bold help that American families need, we will push forward and make progress nonetheless. Failure is not an option. When the Senate … Let me go on each of these issues. When the Senate returns on April 12th, the first item we will consider our Senator Hirono’s COVID Hate Crimes legislation to combat hate crimes, especially in the Asian-American community, and confirming top positions at the Department of Justice, including the nominees for Deputy AG and Associate Attorney General. Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held the first-ever hearing on the Equality Act, landmark legislation passed by the House that would enshrine, as a matter of principle and of law, that no American shall be denied justice based on their gender or their sexual orientation.
Chuck Schumer: (03:44)
At the same time, the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committees have started their work, responding to the concerted nationwide attack on voting rights of millions of Americans that we haven’t seen since the era of Jim Crow. This week, the For The People Act, the bill critical to reforming art democracy, received its first-ever Senate hearing in the Rules Committee, ably chaired by Amy Klobuchar. The Senate Judiciary Committee will also soon begin its consideration of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. In the coming weeks and months, each of these bills will receive full consideration in committee and eventually on the Senate floor. On jobs and climate change, in the coming weeks and months, the Senate will also consider legislation to rebuild our infrastructure and fight climate change, boost R&D and domestic manufacturing, reform our broken immigration system, and grow the power of American workers. Senate committees are marking up legislation to invest in clean water, environmental justice, transportation, and broadband systems and more.
Chuck Schumer: (04:50)
Every one of these seems to have bipartisan support. Committees are also finalizing legislation to bolster American competitiveness and create good-paying jobs by making investments in emerging and critical industries here, and countering the growing economic threats we face from across the globe, especially from the Chinese Communist Party. We will also continue to coordinate with President Biden and his administration on their proposals to Build Back Better. We expect to learn more details in the coming days on the President’s budget and his Build Back Better proposal, focused on economic recovery, jobs and climate change, a very powerful threesome. Finally, on health and gun safety, the Congressional Review Act is one of the tools we have at our disposal to undo damage done by previous administrations, and help the bold change our country needs. Specifically led by Senator Murray, the Senate will use the CRA to repeal the new burdensome and dilatory Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rule that gives employers an unfair advantage over workers when settling discriminatory claims.
Chuck Schumer: (06:07)
Additionally, Senators Heinrich, King and Markey will lead, and we will hold a vote to overturn President Trump’s rollback of limitations on methane emissions from oil and gas, which will be an important step to combat climate change. And finally, and sadly, we also must take action to deal with the epidemic of gun violence that has plagued this nation and gone unaddressed by the Senate for far too long. I’m speaking with my colleagues, including senators, Murphy and Blumenthal, two of our leaders on this issue, to discuss the best path forward. I’m talking to them today. So, we’ve accomplished a lot, but we’re just getting started. Ready for your questions. We’re going to start and work our way around.
Speaker 2: (06:53)
Senator Schumer, you mentioned it briefly, but I didn’t see it in your letter or in the speech on the floor, immigration reform. A very real situation, no matter what you call it, at the border. So, I wonder just exactly what do you plan to do because it’s only going to get worse in the weeks ahead, and are you yourself going to go to the border
Chuck Schumer: (07:10)
Well, look. The bottom line is that I believe in comprehensive immigration reform. I’m a full supporter of the bill Menendez had. This house has sent us other bills and we’re going to meet and figure out the best way forward, where we can get the most done.
Speaker 3: (07:27)
Do you personally support getting rid of the 60-vote threshold on most legislation?
Chuck Schumer: (07:33)
I believe that big, bold action is an imperative. We must get that done, and we prefer our Republican colleagues to work with us on these things. Many of the things I mentioned are bipartisan, in the sense that a majority of Republicans support them. But if they don’t, our caucus will come together and we will discuss the best way to produce that big bold action, and as I’ve said before, everything, everything is on the table. Yes?
Speaker 4: (08:02)
Thank you, Senator. There’s been a lot of conversation about the Biden agenda, sort of hearkening back to the days of FDR and the New Deal, and LBJ and the Great Society. Your agenda, Sir, seems to tap into some of those things-
Chuck Schumer: (08:15)
Speaker 4: (08:15)
What makes you think the American people want a return to big government?
Chuck Schumer: (08:20)
Just look, if you just go out there and talk to them. American people know we need big, bold change. COVID has shown that the private sector can’t do it alone. Those Republicans on the hard ride who said, “Do nothing,” were discredited even by their own party and even by former President Trump. So, we need big bold change, and the federal government has to be a big part of it. I believe the American people want it and are ready for it. COVID has shown so many of the problems in our society that existed before COVID. So, yes, I believe that America is ready for big, bold, comprehensive change. That’s what Joe Biden has proposed. His proposals are very popular. That’s some of the things we have done, the ARP, the most progressive, most comprehensive piece of legislation in decades. I believe the last survey I showed, showed 60% of Republican voters support it. Yes.
Speaker 5: (09:16)
Are these two background check bills that the House passed, that are now moving to the Senate sufficient, or do you support President Biden’s call for a ban on assault weapons?
Chuck Schumer: (09:27)
I was the author of the Assault Weapons Ban in the House, and of the Brady Law. We need to move forward, and as I said, I’m going to sit down with Murphy and Blumenthal this afternoon, and we’re going to plot the best way to go forward, to get the most done. Yes. Yes. Go ahead.
Speaker 6: (09:45)
Mr. Leader, I want to ask you about Building Back Better Infrastructure, the game plan here. You said in your letter that you’re going to go through the [inaudible 00:09:52] order process on the surface transportation water, and-
Chuck Schumer: (09:56)
When we can get … I’m sorry.
Speaker 6: (09:58)
But, the President’s talking about trillions of dollars in spending. says, he’s ready to go into reconciliation for that. How are these processes coming together and interacting?
Chuck Schumer: (10:07)
Well look, I have said repeatedly, in areas where we can work with our Republican colleagues, we will. Even in ARP, the first amendment I put on the floor as Majority Leader, that’s the power the Majority Leader has what to put on the floor, was a bipartisan amendment that was strong. It was the Restaurants Act, sponsored by Senator Sinema of Arizona and Senator Wicker of Mississippi. So, when we can get even parts of the bill where Republicans will work with us, good, and maybe they’ll work with us on more and more and more. Infrastructure is traditionally been bipartisan. I think the American people know we have to do infrastructure in a new green way, and hopefully we can get them to work with us. But as I said, if we can’t, we’re going to have to move forward.
Speaker 7: (10:53)
Senator Schumer, some of your colleagues like Manchin and Angus King say there should be some offsets to the infrastructure package. You’ve said that bringing back the SALT deduction is one of your top priorities. Will you move it as a tax reform bill, with the infrastructure package?
Chuck Schumer: (11:07)
We’re discussing all of this with the White House. Our discussions have just been preliminary.
Speaker 8: (11:12)
Senator, when you were in the minority, you joined plenty of efforts to filibuster legislation. So, why is it okay for you to join those efforts? Secondly, are you willing to live in a minority, assuming you’re the minority again sometime-
Chuck Schumer: (11:26)
Let me answer your question.
Speaker 8: (11:27)
… and give up that potent tool?
Chuck Schumer: (11:28)
The big difference is that we were always willing to negotiate in a bipartisan way. Mitch McConnell isn’t. The bills he puts on the floor, even when he calls them bipartisan, aren’t, like the first CARES Bill, like the Policing Bill. There’s no discussion, no discussion. We are sitting down. I am encouraging my colleagues to sit down with Republicans and move forward. There’s a big difference in how we’re conducting things, and the way they’re conducting things, and we’re going to put these bills on the floor. We’re going to see votes on them. So, I believe, [crosstalk 00:12:03] I believe, as I said, as I said, we need big, bold action, and we will figure out the best way to go. Everything’s on the table. That’s all I’m going to say to you.
Speaker 9: (12:13)
How do you plan to pay for an infrastructure bill, and are you open to tax increases?
Chuck Schumer: (12:18)
That’s one of the things that we’re going to discuss with the President
Speaker 10: (12:23)
Senator Schumer, last week, Senator Durbin gave a challenge to members, to senators on both sides of the aisle, that if you believe you can pass an important bill, subject to the filibuster, let’s do it next week. He said, “Well, let’s debate it. Let’s amend it. Let’s vote. I don’t think that that’s reasonable to ask.” Why not do that on gun legislation this week? Bring it up-
Chuck Schumer: (12:42)
As, I said, we want to pass the strongest bill that can pass. And I’m going to sit down with Murphy, Blumenthal and others, and figure out how to go.
Speaker 10: (12:49)
Why not strike while the iron’s hot?
Chuck Schumer: (12:49)
Go ahead. Yeah.
Speaker 11: (12:51)
Leader Schumer, your party doesn’t seem to be on the same page on raising the minimum wage. How do you raise the minimum wage if you guys aren’t on the same page?
Chuck Schumer: (12:58)
We had a good discussion yesterday. Not yesterday, Wednesday. In the room were Senator Sanders, who wanted the meeting, Senator Murray, Marie Wyden and myself, all of whom believe in the bill that was on the floor, as well as each of the eight Democrats who voted against it. We began to discuss areas in which we might move forward. I thought it was, it was the first meeting. It didn’t resolve everything, but it gave me some hope that we might be able to come to an agreement. Everyone in that room agrees that we have to try to come to an agreement to go forward, and right now there is still differing views on that. But we’ve made some progress. Yes?
Speaker 12: (13:40)
Mr. Leader, thank you. Just as you get ready to take this break, what percentage of Senators are vaccinated at this point? And when do you hope that the Senate can return to more [crosstalk 00:13:53]
Chuck Schumer: (13:52)
Well, it’s not just the Senators. Yeah. [crosstalk 00:13:55] It’s not just the senators. It’s the staff. It’s the people who clean. It’s the people who serve the food. We need to have everybody safe, and then a decision will be made. I’m going to leave that to the authorities, to Dr. Monahan, to our Sergeant at Arms, to our Secretary of the Senate. I do not know the answer to your first question.
Speaker 12: (14:12)
What is your best hope?
Chuck Schumer: (14:14)
The sooner, the better, but only safely.
Speaker 13: (14:17)
I want to talk to you about January 6th.
Chuck Schumer: (14:18)
Speaker 13: (14:18)
Some of the committees are investigating, the Peters Committee is investigating. [inaudible 00:14:26] committees. You took a report on this and what are those bipartisan commissions hope on that happening at all?
Chuck Schumer: (14:32)
Well, it’s been Speaker Pelosi who has proposed the bipartisan commission. I told her I support the concept. She’s trying to work that through in the House. I don’t know if they’ve had any results. Now, what we have been doing in the Senate is letting our committees take the lead. Senator Klobuchar, Senator Peters, Senator Warner. There’s one more, all of whom have some jurisdiction over this are looking into this in a serious way and are coordinating with each other. That’s how we’re proceeding at this point.
Speaker 14: (15:04)
You talk about your discussions coming up with Senator Murphy and others about the gun legislation. I’m just curious. How did you tell skeptical Democrats that this time really will be different, when the Senate tends to go in these cycles on gun bills every time there’s a mass shooting and now you’re going [inaudible 00:15:22]
Chuck Schumer: (15:22)
Look, here’s what I’d say to you. Mitch McConnell, after the terrible shootings in Las Vegas and El Paso said, “We’re going to have a debate and a vote.” We never did. He was afraid to put those bills on the floor. This is a different Senate. We are going to debate and everyone’s going to have to vote. 80% on a background check bill, 90% of the public, 80% of gun owners are for it. So, it’s different, and we’ll see if we can make progress. We’re going to figure out, as I mentioned, the best way to make progress and move forward on that. My job is to find the most forward progress that we can get done. That’s my job. Thank you everybody.
Speaker 15: (16:06)
What are you doing at recess?
Chuck Schumer: (16:08)
Traveling New York State. Starting to visit my counties again, 62 counties.
Speaker 15: (16:15)
Come to Cattaraugus.
Is there an election [crosstalk 00:16:16]
Chuck Schumer: (16:15)
I was just talking to the Senator Tribe. Is what?
Is there an election next year?
Chuck Schumer: (16:21)
Do I visit every one of the 62 counties, every one of the 22 years I’ve run? Burgess, yes or no?
So, you’re not concerned about a primary challenge?
Chuck Schumer: (16:34)
[inaudible 00:16:34], Burgess.
Senator Grassley said there’s more counties in Iowa, so he’s not going to be too impressed.