REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES CALLS ON CONGRESS TO TAKE ACTION AND PASS MORE STIMULUS FUNDING

WANTS AID FOR TESTING, TREATMENT AND TRACING TO HELP RESTART ECONOMY  

CALLING FOR ANOTHER ROUND OF DIRECT STIMULUS CHECKS FOR AMERICANS

CONFIDENT DEMOCRATS WILL FIND COMMON GROUND WITH GOP

New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is a leading voice in Washington calling on Congress to pass more coronavirus stimulus relief. He and fellow House Democrats recently approved the HEROES Act, which would send another round of stimulus checks to Americans, provide billions for state and local governments and help renters and homeowners alike. It would also include aid for testing, treatment and tracing to help restart the economy. But will Senate Republicans get on board with at least some of what Democrats are calling for? And what could it all mean for the future of New York? Congressman Jeffries joins us to discuss the fight over the next stimulus package as well as his efforts to get New Yorkers tested.

Aired on May 29, 2020.

TRANSCRIPT

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JACK FORD.

WHEN IT COMES TO THE NEXT ROUND OF STIMULUS RELIEF COMING OUT OF WASHINGTON, NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN HAKIM JEFFRIES HAS BEEN ONE OF THE LEADING VOICES URGING CONGRESS TO ACT AND ACT QUICKLY.

CONGRESSMAN JEFFRIES AND HIS COLLEAGUES IN THE HOUSE APPROVED A $3 TRILLION PROPOSAL THAT WOULD PROVIDE AMONG OTHER THINGS STIMULUS CHECKS TO CITIZENS, BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN AID TO STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT IS, AND HELP FOR RENTERS AND FOR HOME OWNERS.

THE QUESTION NOW BECOMES WHAT WILL THE SENATE DO WITH THIS PROPOSAL?

IS THERE ROOM FOR NEGOTIATION AND COMPROMISE?

IS THERE A WILLINGNESS TO NEGOTIATE AND COMPROMISE?

IF SO, WHEN?

WHAT MIGHT THE FINAL PRODUCT LOOK LIKE.

WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE CONGRESSMAN JEFFRIES JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT THIS AND SO MANY OTHER THINGS.

HE REPRESENTS NEW YORK'S 8th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT AND HE'S THE CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS.

CONGRESSMAN, ALWAYS GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US.

I HOPE YOU ARE WELL.

GREAT TO BE WITH YOU.

LET ME START OFF WITH THE PROPOSAL THAT CAME OUT OF THE HOUSE, A $3 TRILLION PROPOSAL WITH A VARIETY OF ASPECTS TO IT.

CAN YOU GIVE US AN UPDATE ON THE STATUS OF NEGOTIATIONS WITH MEMBERS OF THE SENATE ABOUT THIS PROPOSAL?

THIS IS AN EXTRAORDINARY CRISIS WE FIND OURSELVES IN.

A PANDEMIC OF EPIC PROPORTIONS, A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS AND AN ECONOMIC CRISIS THAT HAS INFLICTED PAIN, SUFFERING AND DEATH IN NEW YORK CITY AND THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.

MORE THAN 100,000 AMERICANS DEAD.

OVER 40 MILLION OR SO UNEMPLOYED.

THE ECONOMY IN DEEP DEPRESSION-LIKE CONDITIONS.

THE HOUSE ACTED WITH THE URGENCY OF NOW.

THE SENATE IS ON VACATION THIS WEEK.

THE PRESIDENT IS FOCUSED ON OTHER THINGS.

THAT'S PROBLEMATIC.

IT'S OUR VIEW WE NEED TO COME TOGETHER NOT AS DEMOCRATS OR REPUBLICANS BUT AS AMERICANS TO ADDRESS THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT.

AND THE HEROES ACT WILL PROVIDE RELIEF TO EVERY-DAY AMERICANS, SUPPORT OUR FIRST RESPONDERS, AND INTERVENE IN A WAY THAT WILL HELP US DEFEAT COVID-19 PANDEMIC THROUGH TESTING, TRACING AND TREATMENT.

SO IT'S MY HOPE THAT WHEN THE SENATE GETS BACK INTO SESSION IN JUNE, THEY WILL HAVE IN GOOD FAITH TRY TO FIND COMMON GROUND WITH HOUSE DEMOCRATS SO WE CAN GET SOMETHING DONE ON BEHALF OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

SOME REPUBLICANS HAVE INDICATED THERE'S A RELUCTANCE TO ESSENTIALLY SPEND MORE MONEY AND ADD TO THE NATIONAL DEBT.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM AND TO OTHERS WHO MIGHT NOT BE REPUBLICANS, WHO MIGHT SAY, YES, THIS IS A TERRIBLE NATIONAL TRAGEDY.

IT'S A HORRIBLE NATIONAL CRISIS, HOWEVER WE STILL NEED TO BE COGNIZANT OF SPENDING MONEY WE DON'T HAVE RIGHT NOW.

SUGGESTING THAT ADDING TO A NATIONAL DEBT THAT IS HOVERING SOMEWHERE AROUND $25 TRILLION RIGHT NOW WOULD CREATE AN UNDUE BURDEN ON FUTURE GENERATIONS.

HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

CHAIRMAN JEROME POWELL OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE HAS MADE CLEAR THAT CONGRESS NEEDS TO ACT, WE NEED TO ACT IN A BOLD WAY, AND WE NEED TO MEET THE MOMENT WITH THE MAGNITUDE OF OUR RESPONSE.

CHAIRMAN POWELL HAS ALSO INDICATED THAT GIVEN THE INCREDIBLY LOW INTEREST RATES THAT NOW IS THE TIME FOR CONGRESS TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT ENSURING THAT WE PROVIDE THE RELIEF TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WITHOUT BEING OVERLY TIED TO FISCAL CONCERNS AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT.

THE ENTIRE WORLD IS FACED WITH A SIMILAR SITUATION.

THE WORLD IS ACTING, AMERICA MUST ACT AS WELL.

THE OTHER THING, JACK, THAT I POINT OUT, IT'S QUITE RICH FOR MY REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES TO NOW TALK ABOUT FISCAL CONCERNS WHEN THE FIRST THING THEY DID IN 2017, WHEN THEY CONTROLLED THE HOUSE, THE SENATE AND THE PRESIDENCY WAS TO PASS A $2 TRILLION TAX SCAM WHERE 83% OF THE BENEFITS WENT TO THE WEALTHIEST 1%. SADDLING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WITH $2 TRILLION WORTH OF DEBT FOR NO REASON AT ALL.

IT WAS THE LARGEST GIVEAWAY IN AMERICAN HISTORY.

NOW YOU HAVE AMERICANS DYING ACROSS THE COUNTRY AND THEY WANT TO LECTURE US ABOUT FISCAL RESTRAINT?

IT'S A PHONY ARGUMENT AND ONE WE DON'T TAKE SERIOUSLY.

AS YOU KNOW, WE LIVE IN A HYPER PARTISAN TIME.

NOT JUST IN WASHINGTON BUT ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

YOU HAVE BEEN ONE OF THE -- ONE OF THE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WHO BEGINNING OF EACH TERM HAS SAID IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO REACH ACROSS AISLES, TO RECOGNIZE THE NOTION THAT A REPRESENTATIVE, TWO-PARTY DEMOCRACY CAN ONLY SUCCEED THROUGH COMPROMISE AND NEGOTIATION.

YOU HAD SUCCESS IN AREAS OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE DOING JUST THAT.

UNDERSTANDING THAT BACK DROP AND WHERE WE ARE NOW IN TERMS OF OUR HYPERPARTISANSHIP, ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC THAT WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE HERE THAT LITERALLY THERE WILL BE A NEW PACKAGE COMING OUT OF WASHINGTON THAT WILL PROVIDE SOME OF THE SUPPORT AND ASPECTS OF WHAT HAS BEEN APPROVED SO FAR BY THE HOUSE?

I'M ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENT THAT WE WILL BE ABLE TO FIND COMMON GROUND WITH MY COLLEAGUES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE AND SENATE REPUBLICANS AS WE HAVE DONE IN THE PAST ON A WIDE VARIETY OF ISSUES, INCLUDING CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM AND THE RENEGOTIATED U.S. MEXICO CANADA TRADE AGREEMENT THAT WAS SIGNED INTO LAW BY PRESIDENT TRUMP IN DECEMBER.

EVERY SINGLE STEP THAT CONGRESS HAS TAKEN DURING THIS PANDEMIC HAS BEEN BIPARTISAN.

WE PASSED FOUR BILLS WITH DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT AND REPUBLICAN SUPPORT SIGNED INTO LAW BY TRUMP.

WE BELIEVE AT THIS MOMENT IT'S NECESSARY FOR THE HEROES ACT TO MOVE FORWARD AND THAT IS WHY WE PASSED IT IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.

I'M HOPEFUL, YOU'RE STARTING TO SEE MANY OF THE REPUBLICAN SENATORS BEGIN TO PUBLICLY EXPRESS THE POSITION THAT GIVEN THE RISING UNEMPLOYMENT NUMBERS, GIVING THE RISING DEATH RATE, GIVEN THE TROUBLING FIGURES CONNECTED TO THE ECONOMY WE NEED TO ACT AND ACT DECISIVELY AND HOPEFULLY WE'LL CONTINUE TO FIND THAT COMMON GROUND.

AGAIN, SPEAKING WITH NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE H HAKEEM JEFFRIES, REPRESENTING THE 8th CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT AND REPRESENTING THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS ABOUT WHAT'S GOING ON IN WASHINGTON.

ONE LAST QUESTION ABOUT THE PROPOSAL AND THEN A COUPLE OTHER THINGS I WANT TO CHAT ABOUT.

AN ISSUE RAISED COMING OUT OF THE SENATE IS THE IDEA OF PROVIDING LIABILITY PROTECTION FOR BUSINESSES THAT REOPEN.

EVERYONE IS SAYING WE NEED TO GET BUSINESS GOING AGAIN.

BUSINESSES REOPENED, ESPECIALLY SMALL BUSINESSES THAT ARE SO MUCH IN DANGER OF DISAPPEARING.

A CONCERN BY MANY OF THOSE BUSINESSES IS WAIT A MINUTE, IF I OPEN UP HERE, I CAN'T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR SOMEBODY WHO WALKS IN TO MY DELI AND SUBSEQUENTLY GETS, UNFORTUNATELY, COVID-19 AND IS GOING TO SUE ME AND WE KNOW THOSE TYPES OF LAWSUITS ARE POSSIBLE OUT THERE.

WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON PROVIDING SOME SORT OF PROTECTION AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THE NEXT BILL COMING OUT OF CONGRESS TO PROVIDE PROTECTION FOR THESE FOLKS?

IT'S IMPORTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT'S IN THE HEROES ACT AS A FOUNDATION FOR GETTING THE ECONOMY RESTARTED CORRECTLY.

WHICH INCLUDES RESOURCES FOR TESTING, TRACING AND TO MAKE SURE EVERY AMERICAN AFFLICTED WITH COVID-19 WITH RECEIVE HIGH QUALITY TREATMENT.

WE ALSO HAVE TO PROVIDE RELIEF TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BY ANOTHER ROUND OF DIRECT STIMULUS CHECKS GIVEN THE ECONOMIC PAIN THAT PEOPLE ARE EXPERIENCING AND THAT'S WHAT THE HEROES ACT WILL DO.

THE 8$875 BILLION THAT WE ALLOCATED TO SUPPORT STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IS TO SUPPORT PLA POLICE OFFICERS, FIREFIGHTERS, TRANSIT WORKERS, SANITATION EMPLOYEES AND THOSE WHO HELP KEEP OUR CITIES, TOWNS AND COUNTIES RUNNING EVEN IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC.

THESE ARE CRITICAL THINGS THAT ARE THE FOUNDATION OF THE HEROES ACT ALONG WITH 1$175 BILLION TO MAKE SURE THAT TENANTS AND HOMEOWNERS CAN STAY IN THEIR APARTMENTS OR HOMES.

THAT SAID, IT'S APPROPRIATE FOR US TO LOOK AT THE THINGS THAT CONGRESS DID IN THE AFTERMATH OF SEPTEMBER 11th TO DEAL WITH THAT TYPE OF TRAGEDY IN THE CONTEXT OF ENSURING THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE RECEIVED FAIR, ROBUST AND JUST COMPENSATION WHEN THEY ARE WRONGED, OR HURT OR KILLED.

BUT AT THE SAME TIME NOT OVERWHELMING THE SYSTEM BECAUSE OF THE NATURE OF THE CATASTROPHIC EVENT LIKE WHAT HAPPENED IN 9/11 AND WHAT IS OCCURRING IN THE CONTEXT OF THIS PANDEMIC.

SO WHAT CONGRESS DID WAS CREATE A VICTIM'S COMPENSATION FUND IN THE AFTERMATH OF SEPTEMBER 11th.

CONGRESS ALSO CREATED A FUND TO PROVIDE SUPPORT FOR FIRST RESPONDERS WHO WERE AFFLICTED WITH ILLNESS AND CANCER AS A RESULT OF WORK THAT WAS DONE IN THE AFTERMATH OF SEPTEMBER 11th, AND CONGRESS CREATED A TERRORISM RISK INSURANCE PROGRAM.

SO THOSE ARE THREE MODELS THAT CAN PERHAPS BE LOOKED AT AS CHAIRMAN JERRY NADLER OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE INDICATED IN THE CONTEXT OF WHAT WE MIGHT DO HERE.

WE CANNOT PROVIDE BLANKET IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY WHICH WILL JUST INCENTIVIZE SOME BAD ACTORS NOT TO DO THE RIGHT THING, FOLLOW THE PUBLIC HEALTH PROTOCOLS AND ENDANGER THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

LET ME BRING YOU BACK LOCALLY FOR A MOMENT.

ONE OF THE IDEAS YOU'VE BEEN CHAMPIONING IS IN LINE WITH THE CONCEPT OF HAVING TO GET TESTING DONE AND MAKE IT AVAILABLE FOR PEOPLE.

THE IDEA OF TESTING BEING MADE AVAILABLE IN CHURCHES.

HOW HAS THAT BEEN WORKING?

WE INITIALLY IDENTIFIED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GOVERNOR CUOMO APPROXIMATELY 25 OR SO CHURCHES THROUGHOUT THE FIVE BOROUGHS THAT COULD SERVE AS NEIGHBORHOOD LOCATIONS FOR CORONAVIRUS TESTING.

SO THAT OUR HOSPITALS AND CLINICS WEREN'T OVERWHELMED AND THAT PEOPLE WHO MAY NOT FEEL COMFORTABLE GOING TO A HOSPITAL IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC CAN STILL ASCERTAIN THEIR STATUS IN ORDER TO TAKE THE APPROPRIATE STEPS OR RECEIVE TREATMENT IF NECESSARY.

SO THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE IN NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE EAST NEW YORK AND BEDFORD-STUYVESANT AND IN QUEENS HAVE BEEN TESTED AS A RESULT OF THIS UNIQUE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE STATE, CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION AND HOUSES OF WORSHIP AND I KNOW GOVERNOR CUOMO IS LOOKING TO SCALE IT UP EVEN FURTHER BECAUSE WHAT THE DATA HAS SHOWN US IS IN COMMUNITIES OF COLOR THAT ARE LOW INCOME OF NATURE YOU HAVE HIGHER RATES OF INFECTION.

AND WE NEED TO LET THE DATA DRIVE THE RESOURCES.

SO UNDERSTANDING WHAT HAS TAKEN PLACE WILL BE IMPORTANT BY PROVIDING ACCESS TO THIS COMMUNITY-BASED TESTING IN CHURCHES.

CONGRESSMAN JEFFRIES, ONCE AGAIN, IT'S ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU WITH US TO SHARE SOME OF YOUR THOUGHTS.

THERE'S SO MUCH MORE GOING ON OUT THERE, SO MUCH MORE I WANTED TO TALK WITH YOU ABOUT.

MY HOPE IS WE'LL GET YOU TO COME BACK AND JOIN US AND CONTINUE OUR CONVERSATIONS SOMETIMES.

THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU ARE DOING AND ALL THAT EVERYBODY IS DOING DOWN IN WASHINGTON TO PROVIDE THIS ASSISTANCE THAT IS SO DESPERATELY NEEDED.

AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU AGAIN REAL SOON.

YOU BE WELL.

LOOK FORWARD TO IT.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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