WILMINGTON, Del. – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) joined Chuck Todd on MSNBC to discuss the continued efforts to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Coons highlighted recent $17 billion legislation that would waive repayment on Small Business Administration-backed loans for six months. He also emphasized the need for quick and decisive action to alleviate the burden on workers, families, and businesses.
“[T]he bill we just passed and the President signed provided for two weeks of paid sick leave, and another ten weeks of family medical leave, but what was put out on the table by Majority Leader McConnell yesterday would weaken that, would reduce the benefit, would cut into that,” said Senator Coons. “We've got to get our values right and we've got to fight for families and workers in this bill.”
“I am very proud of a bipartisan bill that I think is going to be in this package that would push back for six months small business loans,” Senator Coons said. “I'm optimistic we'll come together over a new proposal to put $300 billion out the door for small businesses and nonprofits to help them pay their payrolls and to help them keep people employed.”
Full video and audio available here. Full transcript provided below.
Q: Let me talk to Democratic Senator Chris Coons from Delaware. He’s also on the Appropriations Committee; knows a lot about how you move money out the door. Senator Coons, good to see you. Let me start first with, where we are on negotiations? It's 5:29 right now. If you want to agree upon it this evening, are we going to see an agreement before midnight tonight?
Sen. Coons: Well Chuck, let me start by extending my condolences to Crystal and to everyone who knew and worked with Larry at NBC News. That is just a bracing reminder of how many are facing illness and loss in this context and how seriously we all need to take this. And I couldn't agree more with what former FEMA Director Fugate just said which is we could spend time bickering or we could spend time figuring out how we're moving forward together. I have seen the Senate and the House, the Democrats and Republican leadership work together at lightning speed to pass the $104 billion supplemental that was just signed into law Monday, and I'm optimistic we're making real progress but there are different values at the core of the proposal that Mitch McConnell laid out last night after developing it with his colleagues and his caucus only. And there's different values that Democrats bring to the table in terms of putting workers and families and public health and public employees first. I just want to remind you that as many of us are sheltering in place at home, as many have children home from school, every morning public employees like paramedics and nurses, doctors, folks who are first responders are going out the door and putting themselves at real risk to keep us safe and to respond to this, so I'm optimistic. On the Small Business Committee where I'm both on the authorizing and the appropriating committees, I am very proud of a bipartisan bill that I think is going to be in this package that would push back for six months small business loans. And I'm optimistic we'll come together over a new proposal to put $300 billion out the door for small businesses and nonprofits to help them pay their payrolls and to help them keep people employed.
Q: Alright, let’s...look I think where there seems to be real agreement is getting some direct cash into those that are essentially having to isolate at home through no fault of their own and to get that out the door. Is there some -- what I'm trying to figure out is why are you trying to do all of this at once? Should the money, the idea of checks out the door since that's the biggest need immediately, I think people -- we're asking people basically to be out of work for the month of April. Do you separate that out from the industry bailouts now since that is going to be politically trickier, take -- and, frankly, we don't know how much these industries still need. We do know the money that people need now.
Sen Coons: That's right. Well, Chuck, I have been on conference calls all day, much of the week with small businesses, with nonprofits, but also with companies and organizations like Amtrak and American Airlines. And part of the challenge is from small restaurants and neighborhood coffee shops to nonprofits like Goodwill or Boys and Girls Club all the way up to the largest airlines in North America, they're all seeing their revenue drop precipitously and so saying let's do this piece today and then recess and then come back in a week or two or three and do the next piece, we may not have that time. Chuck, we also don't have provisions to vote as a Senate remotely. That's one of the things that was discussed after 9/11, but never really solved. And we don't have provisions for vote by mail. One of the things I'm pushing and Senator Klobuchar and Senator Wyden are working with me on is, we just saw five states delay their elections. We need to make sure that in this package we push out money so that states are ready to vote in November, even if this pandemic is still roaring along.
Q: Senator Coons, if I’m reading between the lines here, you’re concerned that this may be your one shot for a few weeks if not a month to pass some legislation. It sounds like you think this thing should be even bigger and broader because we don't know if the Senate is going to have a quorum?
Sen Coons: Well, that is a concern, frankly, because you've got two members of the House who have tested positive and you have two dozen members of the House who are in quarantine. That hasn't happened to members of the Senate yet, but frankly, we should be practicing social distancing. And that makes it hard for you to bring together from all over the country 435 members of the House. And so once we go into recess, we need to figure out how we're going to do a fourth and a fifth round. Let me get back to your core point. Yes, we need to get resources out to people promptly. But the bill we just passed and the President signed provided for two weeks of paid sick leave, and another ten weeks of family medical leave, but what was put out on the table by Majority Leader McConnell yesterday would weaken that, would reduce the benefit, would cut into that. And I don't think sending one check of $1,000 replaces strengthening unemployment insurance and strengthening paid sick leave. We've got to get our values right and we've got to fight for families and workers in this bill.
Q: Are we going to assume you -- that this will end up probably -- Americans will see multiple checks, maybe one check a month for six months, some people at some point, because of this? Is that what you want Democrats to fight for?
Sen. Coons: When it comes to the direct support for families, I do think if folks know that they can count on not just one check but a series, if this continues for months, I think that would provide a floor under the anxiety that I'm hearing from lots of folks who are either about to be out of work or already out of work. Strengthen unemployment insurance, strengthen public health, strengthen paid sick leave and provide some repeat support to individuals and families, yes.