WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined FOX News to discuss Congress’s next steps to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I saw the $104 billion Families First Coronavirus supplemental bill go from an idea to a bill to being passed here in Congress to being signed by President Trump last night in record speed, and that’s getting out support for sick workers through paid sick leave, expanded unemployment insurance, support for Medicaid, support for students who are home from school and who rely on school lunches.” Senator Coons said.
“We’re going to need to provide several rounds of stimulus to sustain our economy and to make sure that we’ve got the resources for states and localities to respond, and for our public health system to be strong,” Senator Coons said. “I’m hearing from Delaware and from lots of fellow senators about just how hard this is hitting our families and our communities, and we’re ready to work together to deliver a response.”
Full audio available here. Full transcript available below.
Q: So how would you like to see the President, who has now tapped these emergency powers, use them?
Sen. Coons: Well Sandra, I’ve been hearing from folks up and down my home state of Delaware, public health officials, our governor's office, our governor directly, as well as physicians and front line health care workers saying we are facing, as many other states are, a critical shortage of personal protective equipment – of masks, and of ventilators, and of other resources, test kits in particular. I hope that the president will work with us in Congress – we’ll provide the financial support, the appropriations, and he’ll provide the authority – and we will quickly ramp up U.S. based production of some of these critical issues. I’m on the Small Business Committee and just two weeks ago Chairman Rubio held a hearing about how our supply chain for both medical equipment and pharmaceutical components is critically reliant on China. Earlier in your broadcast you were showing how Wuhan, the province in China where this came from, or the city, is now showing no new infections. That’s encouraging because frankly we are critically reliant on China’s production for us to be able to respond to this crisis and going forward, Sandra, I think we should look hard at providing incentives to American manufacturers and small businesses to bring back to our country some of this critical manufacturing capacity.
Q: Meanwhile, the numbers continue to go up here in New York City, one of the hardest hit areas in the country, cases doubling overnight. I want to read you a tweet from the President just a moment ago, Senator. He said, “We are going to win, sooner rather than later!” As you well know, Americans across this country are fearing what is next with all this. What do you say to them this morning to assure them that the government is going to get this and that we are going to come out of this better than we went into it?
Sen. Coons: Well, Sandra, I saw the $104 billion Families First Coronavirus supplemental bill go from an idea to a bill to being passed here in Congress to being signed by President Trump last night in record speed, and that’s getting out support for sick workers through paid sick leave, expanded unemployment insurance, support for Medicaid, support for students who are home from school and who rely on school lunches. We are now working very hard on a much bigger stimulus, as much as a trillion dollars. Majority Leader McConnell is going to release his text later today. I’ve been working with the Small Business Committee on a plan that would push a lot of liquidity out quickly to help vulnerable small businesses and encourage them to keep people on payroll so that families have got a floor underneath them. We’re going to need to provide several rounds of stimulus to sustain our economy and to make sure that we’ve got the resources for states and localities to respond, and for our public health system to be strong. I’m hearing from Delaware and from lots of fellow Senators about just how hard this is hitting our families and our communities, and we’re ready to work together to deliver a response.
Q: Senator, meanwhile this virus is making its way to Capitol Hill, now two members of Congress testing positive, Florida Republican Mario Díaz-Balart has tested positive for the coronavirus as well as Utah Democrat Ben McAdams. Here is the letter sent by the Capitol Attending Physician on that. Senator, it reads, “The Office of Attending Physician has identified the offices and locations that were found to be at risk and they have been treated by the Architect of the Capitol...Other instances where the affected Members may have briefly come into contact with other colleagues on the House Floor would be considered to be low risk exposures and no additional measures are required other than for them to report any illness should they become ill.” What is your response to those two Members of Congress now testing positive, and where this all goes next for you and your colleagues?
Sen. Coons: Well Sandra, this raises a critical issue which is after 9/11 lots of work was done here to provide for Congress to meet and vote somewhere other than the Capitol in the event there were a successful attack on our Capitol, but they never came to agreement on emergency procedures that would allow the Senate or the House to vote remotely. That’s now being actively debated. I’ve reached out to the affected members of Congress and conveyed my concerns to them and their staff, but frankly the Capitol is almost empty right now. Almost all of my staff is working remotely, the rest of the Delaware Congressional Delegation staff is working remotely, we are practicing social distancing and many are sheltering in place and teleworking, but frankly we don’t have a provision that allows us to take up and pass some of the significant bills that provide support for families and workers and communities. We also need to pass, Sandra, a bill that would allow for vote by mail. I’ve introduced one yesterday, it’s being led by Senator Wyden. In the middle of the Civil War, in the middle of the second World War we were able to carry out elections and get ballots to our troops in the field and allow them to still vote. We just saw the Ohio primary delayed abruptly. We need to make sure we are making provisions and providing resources so that our elections at the state and federal level aren’t interrupted by this pandemic.