Sep 9, 2020
Senators Schumer, Warren, Casey COVID-19 Relief Press Conference Transcript September 9
Senators Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Bob Casey held a press conference on September 9 to discuss the proposed GOP coronavirus relief bill. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.
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Senator Chuck Schumer: (00:01)
True that, true that. Okay, I’m proud to be joined by my great colleagues, Bobby Casey and Elizabeth Warren, and welcome back everyone. I hope everyone got a little time off and here we are back again. Now I want to start with what’s been reported in the Washington Post and other places now and backed up by recordings. There is damning proof that Donald Trump lied and people died. This report is totally believable. We all know President Trump puts himself first, but this time the consequences were deadly. And when I think about how many people in my state died in February and March and April, it just makes me angry. I cannot believe he deceived the American people the way he did. How many people would still be alive today, if he just told Americans the truth. He had an obligation to tell them the truth. Ex post facto, he comes up with excuses. They don’t carry any weight. It’s the truth that matters, especially when it’s life and death.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (01:18)
In the early days of the pandemic, as we know, President Trump downplayed the threat of the coronavirus, he said it would just go away. He went on TV and said it’s no worse than the flu, but he knew that that wasn’t the case. He knew it was much more dangerous. What we know now is the President wasn’t ill informed, he was lying to the American people. He was deliberately downplaying the virus to the American people at a time when early steps would certainly have saved lives. People who believe him and follow what he says may have died because of his words. This just reveals that the President treated COVID-19 like a PR problem rather than a once in a generation health crisis.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (02:04)
And that takes us to another attempt by Republicans to downplay the current situation, as the pain, the economic pain for millions of Americans advances, Senate Republicans are actually moving backwards. Leader McConnell yesterday announced that by the end of the week, the Senate will vote on a new slimmed down version of an already skinny Republican bill. Facing the greatest economic crisis in 75 years, the greatest health crisis in a century, Leader McConnell isn’t searching for bipartisan progress, he’s looking for political cover. What we have now is a stripped down bill cobbled together, not as a serious legislative response, but as a check the box vote for vulnerable Republicans so they can pretend like they did something. It’s not going to work, people want real results, not political games. And when these senators go home and say, “Well, I voted for something.” They’re not producing, they’re not producing.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (03:07)
Leader McConnell at his press conference said, “Ask the Democrats what they object to in his bill.” How about the corporate immunity plan, which he’s known for months we would object to. That’s a poison pill, which shows you that he doesn’t want the bill to pass. How about the new Betsy DeVos school choice plan, which funnels money into private schools while cutting money from public schools, that’s a poison pill. We object to it Leader McConnell, take it out of your bill. He can’t because he couldn’t get the votes of the far right who didn’t want to spend any money, and this is the way he tried to get them to vote for the bill. Clearly, clearly, clearly Leader McConnell is not interested in passing a bill, not interested in helping the American people who are in pain, just scoring political points. He seems to be the secretary of cynicism, this is one of the most cynical ploys I’ve seen because people are dying, people are losing their jobs, people are losing their small businesses.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (04:13)
Well, McConnell’s ploy won’t work because he’s not producing any real results just doing what he seems most comfortable doing, which is playing political games. So now, instead of improving their offer to get bipartisan support, Senate Republicans have made it stingier and even less appropriate to the looming crisis. No money to support state and local governments, red States and Blue States are begging for help. No money to make sure hungry kids and families have food to eat. No money for rental assistance to help families struggle to stay in their homes. No funds to expand broadband for kids who need to go to school now. Not enough money to help schools reopen safely and the money they do have forces kids back into classrooms that may not be safe. It is impossible to look at this GOP proposal and not wonder, do our Republican friends see the damage in America? Or are they still trying to fool the American people by calling up a harshly partisan proposal bi-partisan?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (05:19)
The truth is if you wanted to draft a bill that was certain to fail, McConnell’s proposal is it, one of the most cynical moves I’ve ever seen in the midst of a huge crisis. While the Republican plan leaves many behind we’re going to keep fighting for a comprehensive plan that meets the needs of all those who have been hurt by COVID. If past is prologue, once the Republicans see they can’t intimidate us into voting for a wildly insufficient bill, they may come to the table and do what needs to be done as they did in COVID 2, 3 and 3.5. We hope that will happen because we want to pass a bill that meets the needs of America. Senator Casey.
Senator Bob Casey: (06:12)
I’m honored to be joined today by Senator Schumer, Senator Warren, to talk about this bill. I think if I had to summarize the bill, and there are lots of ways to do that, of course, but this Republican bill leaves out so many. It leaves families, working families, it leaves children and it leaves frontline workers behind. It does virtually nothing for any of those Americans. It provides immunity, broad, almost total immunity for corporations, but it does nothing to protect workers. As Senator Schumer outlined, the list of what is not in this bill is a lot longer than what’s in the bill. Just to give you four examples, no additional money for state and local government, despite a consensus a broad bipartisan consensus outside of the US Senate for that kind of support. And we know what will happen as sure as night follows day, if you don’t help the state government’s education cuts will continue and they will continue to lose money and public safety will be cut at the local level.
Senator Bob Casey: (07:16)
Number two, no new money for nursing homes and longterm care to get the death number down. Tens of thousands, at last count more than 70,000 Americans died in nursing homes or longterm care settings when you add up the workers who died, plus the residents. And no new money for home and community based services, it’s so important to seniors and people with disabilities. Senator Warren has worked so hard on that issue, I have and others, but no response from Republicans on that.
Senator Bob Casey: (07:49)
Number four, no additional support for matching dollars for Medicaid. So called, FMAP. At a time when States really need those dollars because they got a hole in their budget that was blown through their budget because of COVID-19. And no help for Medicaid more broadly since the second bill we did, The Families First Bill way back in the early part of March.
Senator Bob Casey: (08:12)
And forth, and just by way of example, no new money for SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. But I think probably better than I, maybe the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities can sum up at least two issues with real data. Here’s a report they issued last night at 8:25 PM. And just in pertinent part, I’m quoting from the first page of the report, “Some 19 million children, fully one in four, lived in a household in which people weren’t getting enough to eat, that was behind on rent or mortgage or both.” 19 million children. And then you go to page four of the report and they talk about the impact that I mentioned before about state and local governments supporting the impact on education.
Senator Bob Casey: (09:05)
Quoting here again from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “States and localities have started making cuts. Indeed they’ve cut 1.1 million jobs between February and August, about 60% of them in K through 12 and higher education.” So the cutting by state and local governments in the education sector has already started, 1.1 million jobs. And that’s just the beginning, we don’t know what will happen in the next few months and certainly we don’t know what will happen in 2021. So no matter what way you look at this, this bill that Leader McConnell is trying to ram through the Senate after sitting all throughout May, June, July, and August doing virtually nothing but nominations in a defense bill, his attempt to do this, I think, is a last minute, slap it together kind of bill, which does not meet the moment that we’re in.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (10:13)
Thank you very much for having me here today, Leader Schumer and thank you, it’s always good to be here with Senator Casey. We partner up on a lot of stuff and it’s nice to be in this fight alongside you. The American people are facing twin threats, threats to our health and threats to our economy. Right now nearly 200,000 people have died from coronavirus and more than 10% of workers in the United States are unemployed. What is Mitch McConnell’s response to this? For more than three months he has ignored the proposal that the Democrats passed through the house and have offered here in the Senate, and finally has come up with a bill that he intends to bring to the floor. And what’s in that bill?
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (11:05)
Well, what matters most is what’s not in that bill. There’s not a single penny to help tenants, people who are being moved out of their homes from evictions at a time when we are in the middle of a pandemic. There is no help to feed hungry families. There is no help for state and local government. State and local government that’s trying to support our schools, that’s trying to support public safety, that’s trying to support public health. There’s not enough help for schools that are trying to find a way to reopen safely. There is not enough help for safe elections, we’re bearing down on November 3rd. There is no help for worker safety, for people who are being forced into working conditions that put themselves and their families at risk.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (11:53)
But this bill has two features that the Republicans want to push. The first is to release liability for giant corporations when people get sick, no matter how reckless the actions are of those corporations, Mitch McConnell says they should get a free pass. That’s not going to make anybody in this country safer. The second is to say, let’s funnel money, desperately needed money out of public schools and into private schools. That’s not going to help our children safely get back to school and to get the educations that they are entitled to. This is about Donald Trump, but it is also about Senate Republicans who have for years now enabled Donald Trump. Even in the vaccine area, as he has pushed politics into the whole development of vaccines and trying to get us safe from the COVID virus, the Senate Republicans have backed him up on this.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (12:58)
Just this morning, we had a hearing in The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. I asked Dr. Collins, the head of NIH about what the effect was of having someone like Donald Trump, who stands up and touts conspiracy theories, who talks about a deep state at the FDA, what that does for the likelihood, even if we’re able to develop a virus in order to protect people, what it does to the likelihood that people will be unwilling to go out and get vaccinated? And Dr. Collins said, “He hopes that the American people will listen to the scientists and the physicians and not to the politicians.” Well, I hope that Dr. Collins is right, the American people deserve a safe and effective vaccine and they deserve a government that is moving only toward that not influenced by the politics of Donald Trump who pushes only for his own protection.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (14:05)
So I’m glad to be here today to talk about this, but you just reach a point in this where you want to say, “What’s wrong with these people.” Americans are dying across this country, Americans are out of work, families are hungry and the Republicans can only talk about releasing liability for giant corporations, no matter how reckless they are. They can only talk about how to divert money from public schools into private schools. It is time for the Republicans in the Senate to live up to their responsibilities to the American people, to set politics aside and to put the health and the economic wellbeing of the American people at the forefront. Mr. Leader, [crosstalk 00:14:51] direction.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (14:50)
Well said, both of my colleagues. Questions.
Speaker 4: (14:51)
Senator Chuck Schumer: (14:51)
Speaker 4: (14:51)
Do you support a CR into December?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:00)
We’re discussing what time the CR should go to, and we haven’t formulated our position yet.
Speaker 5: (15:08)
I know that you mentioned the Woodward book in your opening remarks, but also there’s an allegation in there that General Mattis claimed that he stated… I’m sorry, General Mattis stated that Donald Trump has “no moral compass”, do you have a response to that?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:23)
General Mattis is a man who speaks truth to power.
Speaker 6: (15:29)
I know sometimes in the Senate there’s one side that will do a bill and put something up and then the other side does it, and there’s a lot of back and forth until you kind of get to the end and then everybody comes together. Do you think with the time that you have left before the end of September, that you all leave for the election, that you all are gone from this place, that a deal will come together for emergency funding on COVID? And if not, an actual deal that actually makes both sides happy and unhappy because [inaudible 00:15:56] is the perfect, the enemy of the good here?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (15:59)
No, the Republicans are the enemy of the good. The bottom line is very simple, we already agreed to go down $1 trillion. We were at 3.4, That number did not come about by plucking it out of the air. We talked to school administrators, we talked to hospitals, we talk to people who feed hungry kids, we talked to people who are in housing experts and came up with a number that met the needs of the American people. We didn’t want to go down to 2.4, but in effort to compromise, we will. And they keep moving backward, so-
Speaker 6: (16:30)
Is no deal better than any deal then?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (16:33)
Well here is the view. First of all, this deal has poison pills. Anyone who thinks McConnell’s interested in getting a bill by putting this on the floor, doesn’t really know what’s going on around here, plain and simple. But second, what happened in COVID 2 and COVID 3 and COVID 3.5, McConnell tried the same bullying tactics, “If Democrats don’t do this, there’ll be no bill.” There was a COVID 2, there was a COVID 3, 75% written by us. There was a COVID 3.5, which added in all the needs for smaller businesses. I believe there’s a real chance Republicans are under pressure from the public, from their own governors, from their own nonprofits, from their own restaurants that they will be forced to do something.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (17:17)
The reason they came to the table now is because they were forced by the public, but they can’t because of their divisions come together. The 20 Republicans who say they’re for no funding had to be bought off with poison pills and with a low number that doesn’t meet the needs of the people. But if we defeat it, there’s a decent chance they will come back to the table and we’ll get a much better bill, that’s what we’re hoping for. But not a bill that doesn’t meet the needs of the American people, doesn’t come close, number one and number two, has pills that they know darn well the Democrats aren’t going to accept.
Speaker 7: (17:53)
Senator Schumer, to follow up on that, after tomorrow, do you and the Speaker intend to restart negotiations directly with Secretary Mnuchin-
Senator Chuck Schumer: (18:01)
Well, you can see that Trump is… They’re moving up a little bit, they’re getting closer to our 2.2. They started at one, then they went to 1.3, yesterday, I don’t know how real it is because Meadows wasn’t involved. Mnuchin said 1.5. If they come back and meet us in the middle we’ll be eager to talk to them. Yes.
Speaker 8: (18:18)
“If we can come back and talk about meeting in the middle.” Are you referring to still shortening the timeframe? Or would that still be when they move up their money, it’s still the normal [crosstalk 00:00:18:29]?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (18:29)
There’s going to be a negotiation, the first step is to come up with a number. That’s what Meadows told us when he opened up. And then there’ll be flexibility, there has to be on both sides on how to come up with that number. They can’t tell us, “You have to do with this way or that way.” On something we support like state and local governments and they have no support of. And by the way, it’s so revealing that they wouldn’t even use revenues, lost revenues. They wouldn’t even put lost revenues in there because it didn’t cost money, because the ideologues are just anti-government. The ideologues believe let the private sector do it. Maybe 5% of America thinks the private sector should do it, they’re so out of touch and that’s why that’s why they’re hurting. And that’s why I think they may have to come back and negotiate with us. Yes.
Speaker 9: (19:22)
The bottom line is, it sounds like you were saying you think that the negotiations with The White House are still alive?
Senator Chuck Schumer: (19:28)
Well, they can be alive. Two things have happened. Number one, the Republicans had to come up with some kind of proposal, they had to come to the table. They didn’t just sit there and say do nothing, even though they have such divisions and there’s such divisiveness. And second, Donald Trump is learning that he will not be able to get attention away from COVID with his appeals to violence, his appeals to disunity, his appeals to nastiness, it’s not working. So they may yes, be forced to come back to the table because COVID is the major issue that’s facing the American people. Last one.
Speaker 10: (20:03)
Senator Warren, you released a report today that prescription drugs have slowed by as much as a third this summer. Do you blame that solely on Mr. DeJoy or are there other causes at play?
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (20:16)
So this is a study, the study you’re referring to, is one that I deal with Senator Casey. And what we focused on were people who are getting their prescriptions by mail. And we just asked the principle providers in this country, what’s happening? And they have said that since the DeJoy came in, that the delivery times for prescription drugs have dropped measurably. And the consequence of this is both a threat to the health of people who rely on receiving their drugs by mail. It makes it harder for them to stay in compliance and that it’s driving up costs for the providers because they’ve had to rescind prescriptions, had to send prescriptions by Express Mail and ultimately those costs will likely be passed on to either the patients or to the federal government.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (21:19)
DeJoy is the one who is responsible for the changes in the post office. Now, let’s be clear, more people have moved to receiving their prescriptions by mail since COVID-19 hit and that quite reasonably would have put some stress on The Post Office. But the response to that should be to put more resources in so that The Post Office could maintain on time deliveries, instead DeJoy’s position was to cut resources, cut the mechanisms by which the mail is delivered on time. He’s gone in exactly the opposite direction. So that was a long way to get around to the point that yes, I blame the Postmaster General for the delays in prescription deliveries, that put the health of the American people at risk.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (22:18)
Once again, I call on the Board of Governors to reverse what he has done, to step up and do their jobs. They should remove the Postmaster General and they should be reversing the actions that he’s taken and put the resources in needed to be able to get deliveries on time.
Senator Elizabeth Warren: (22:41)
I understand that DeJoy is there to try to help Donald Trump and he thinks that if they can provide more tangle between now and November 3rd, that maybe some number of people will decide not to vote by mail and maybe won’t vote at all. I mean, let’s face it, the Republicans have decided that voter suppression is one of the principle ways that they may have a shot at winning in November. So DeJoy has clearly been handmaiden to Donald Trump in this, but the American people have seen it and they don’t like it in terms of voting, but it also has other consequences that they’re feeling directly in their health and wellbeing. And that means it’s time to put a stop to it, and that’s what we’re here for. Bobby, do you want to add anything, please.
Senator Bob Casey: (23:30)
Just real quick, just a reference to the report, page seven is probably the most alarming. We say in this report on page seven, about the increased delivery times of 18 to 32%. And then two paragraphs down, one of the companies that responded, we had four companies that responded meaningfully. One reported, and I’m quoting this company now, “We saw a marked increase in July in the number of patients experiencing shipment delays of seven days or more.” So this report, I think is evidence as to what we were all talking about all these last couple of weeks about delays. And obviously the reliance upon mail order prescriptions has been increasing during COVID.
Senator Chuck Schumer: (24:20)