EXCLUSIVE: One-on-One With Senator Chuck Schumer

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Andy has an exclusive interview with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to break down what’s at risk if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice: the ACA, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, and labor rights. Senator Schumer provides insights on Mitch McConnell, a contested election scenario, and the health consequences of a hearing with Senators who have tested positive for COVID.

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Follow Senator Schumer on Twitter and Instagram @SenSchumer. 

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Chuck Schumer: [00:00:00] So this is just awful. And McConnell is proud of it. He has defiled the Senate. He used to consider himself, he said, oh, I care about the Senate. Well, he so changed the rules that they can rush this through. We’re going to use every tool we have in the tool box to stop it, but there aren’t many tools left because McConnell has changed the rules.

Andy Slavitt: [00:00:24] Welcome to In the Bubble. This is Andy Slavitt. That clip you just heard was from my conversation you’re about to hear with Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader from New York. And it is an exclusive one-on-one conversation, very much in the conceit of our original concept for In the Bubble. And that was a conversation that I had planned to have with regard to the current hearing of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. I will introduce that in a second. But first, I want to talk about a couple of topical things and then get to that conversation. Trump and his sickness. Yes, I’m talking about the COVID sickness. That continues to play out. Continues to dominate the news. And I’m wondering what impact it has on people and on all of you and on voters in general. You know, is it a big deal that the man has a house that he couldn’t keep safe? Is it symbolic to people that he clearly infected other people and had a super spreader event in his house? Is it important, as we’re learning, that he wasn’t getting testing done as he expecting everyone else to get testing and he was off going places knowing that he’d been exposed to the Coronavirus? Does that add to our body of knowledge of the president and his handling of the virus or not? Is it just, you know, one more thing? Or are people’s minds made up one way or the other and you kind of excuse the worst among the people you like and you criticize the best among the people you don’t like as often happens this close to the election.? 

Andy Slavitt: [00:02:26] I do know just from talking to Rahm Emanuel in a conversation you will hear at some point, we have the lowest number of undecided voters in the history of presidential elections. That’s not a surprise to me. So I really do wonder how much these things matter. Still, it bothered me the disregard for human life. It bothered me. I have to tell you, if my neighbor behaved that way, I would give him a talking to because I think that’s irresponsible. And I say “him” because I can’t see a woman behaving that way. Am I wrong? Am I wrong that that’s just callous behavior that you only see from certain types of people? People I have come across my whole life, people you’ve come across your whole life, people who just think about themselves and don’t think about other people. That’s how it hit me. And I think this is a pandemic that we’re all involved in and we’re all connected to. We all impact one another. And I understand when people who are, you know, don’t like it, I understand that people are occasionally grouchy about it. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:03:29] You know, I don’t understand people knowingly exposing people to circumstances where they’re going to get sick, they could die. I mean, I just don’t get it. I wouldn’t get it if it was the flu. I wouldn’t get it if it was a cough, I wouldn’t get it if it was a venereal disease. I don’t get it when it’s COVID-19. So that’s strange. There are some other interesting things that happened relative to his sickness that I think are interesting and worth paying attention to. So this cure he received, this cure he received from Regeneron that he talked about, this is actually monoclonal antibodies. We’ve talked about this on the show before. Now, interestingly enough, these are not available to the general public, although an EUA he was just filed and a second EUA was filed from another set of monoclonal antibodies. This is really promising news. I mean, of course, it’s horrible that we have a system where one person can get something that’s not available to everybody. But look, the way I look at it, they wouldn’t have given it to him if it wasn’t something that they had a lot of confidence in. And we’ve talked with David Agus on this program before, who was pretty confident in it. We’ve had Zeke Emanuel on on Monday and he was somewhat confident. So, look, this is a promising test. 

Andy Slavitt:  [00:04:45] I think it’s going to be an expensive therapy. Bob Wachter talked about that. All these episodes I just talked about, go back and listen to all of them again and again and again and tell your friends. There’s just so much information in them. No, you have to listen once. I will listen multiple times because I like to listen and criticize how I sound on these shows. But you don’t have to listen to them again. What you should know is that scientific advances like that are coming. And there’s more there as well. We’ve got vaccines that are hitting the latest stages. We have one Johnson & Johnson, which has hit the pause button. I don’t think the news should be hyperventilating around that. I was on CNN this morning talking about that. And then testing. Very interesting. You know, we’ve had several shows about testing. There’s a new type of test that may be hitting the market at some point that works like a breathalyzer. So imagine being able to breathe into something, blow into something, and two minutes later, have a highly accurate look at whether or not you have COVID-19. Imagine being able to bring something like that around with you. So that on the scientific front is very positive. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:05:58] We’re now in the run up to the election. I will say that in the next few weeks we’re going to have episodes that are focused, as we have been, on what’s happening with some of the science. We’re also going to have interspersed some of the episodes or we’re talking about politics, because that’s where we are right now. And, of course, where the two converge. That’s where we are today with Senator Chuck Schumer. I will tell you the beginning of the interview is funny because let’s just say that I spent my days in Washington — if you got a call from Chuck Schumer in Washington and you were part of the Obama administration, he had something very specific on his mind he wanted to tell you, and he wanted you to hear it, and you’d be sure that you heard. Wasn’t necessarily a lot to say in return. So I had my share phone calls from the senator where he was expressing his sometimes strong point of view. And I did a lot of listening. So this was a pretty funny start to this episode. We kind of messed up how we had the settings. And so he was on the screen and he was talking and I was not able to hear him. And let me just say there was a little bit of karma in that. I hope you like this episode. Let’s bring up Chuck Schumer. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:07:17] Hello. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:07:17] Hey, how are you, Chuck? 

Chuck Schumer: [00:07:19] Hi, Andy. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:07:20] Sorry about that. Although I have to admit, I enjoyed being able to talk with you, not be able to answer me. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:07:25] Andy, that’s always been true of you. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:07:28] I think not. I think not. OK, so let me get this straight now, we have the Senate can’t meet until October 19th because three Republican senators are ill. One of the Republican senators is on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Chuck Schumer: [00:07:47] Two. One didn’t come in person and one did. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:07:53] Yet somehow Senator McConnell believes that we can hold a hearing. So how is that? How does that work? What kind of danger is he willing to put people in in order to make that happen? 

Chuck Schumer: [00:08:05] Oh, they are hell-bent on pushing this nominee through. And they know the longer she is out there, the less popular she will be in good part because she has been very clear that she wants to overturn the ACA, that, as you know, there is a Supreme Court case seven days after Election Day that will determine this. And she could be the very swing vote that says that ACA is no longer valid. And guess what will happen? 20 million people will lose their healthcare. 40 million seniors will pay more for drugs because the ACA closed the so-called donut hole. And the worst of all, 130 million Americans who have preexisting conditions will now have the protection from insurance companies ripping them off because they have a preexisting condition gone. The insurance company could say they don’t want to give you any insurance or they could charge you much higher. And this is the situation. A mother or father has a son or daughter with cancer, can’t get insurance. They have to watch them suffer. It’s appalling what they will do. But that’s what they’re hell-bent on doing. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:09:12] And by the way, this Amy Coney Barrett is going to be regressive in a lot of ways. She’s a disciple of Scalia who wanted to turn the clock back a hundred years. So, for instance, women’s right to choose would be in real jeopardy. Woman’s healthcare in general would be in jeopardy. Even contraception, IVFs would be really in trouble. Labor rights. The right wingers on this court would like to make America a right-to-work country where there’d be virtually no unions. That would be awful for working people in this country. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:09:46] Well, what about seniors? I mean, the all the talk from President Trump on prescription drug costs. Doesn’t the ACA save seniors something like a thousand dollars by closing the donut hole? What will happen to seniors?

Chuck Schumer: [00:09:57] Yes, seniors, if you have drug expenses, 40 million seniors will pay more for their drugs who are on Medicare. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:10:07] Wow. I also think that 130 million number of preexisting conditions after COVID may seem like a quaint number of the past when you have all of these people who have contracted COVID and maybe they’re college students and maybe they feel no symptoms today, but in five years from now, something happens to their heart, their lungs, their brain, their kidney, their blood circulatory system, they get asthma, they get aching joints, an insurance company is going to be able to tie that to COVID. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:10:37] Absolutely. There is no doubt that insurance companies will make having COVID a preexisting condition. So here it was bad enough they tried this before COVID, but it makes us even worse for COVID. And it’s just appalling to me. They’re rushing through this court nominee to take away people’s healthcare. That’s the bottom line. The American people don’t like it and they know that this process is unfair. They know that Mitch McConnell would not let Merrick Garland even have a hearing even though that was nine months before the election, because he said a president ought to decide. And now that we’re already voting — I see you’re wearing your I voted sticker. Thank you. Everyone should vote. But now that people are already voting, they’re rushing through this nominee. It’s appalling. It’s just appalling. And as you said, they’re put a lot of people at risk who work on the Hill. Mike Lee came. He’s had COVID. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:11:32] But second, they’re setting such a poor example, just like Donald Trump sets a poor example, showing Americans they don’t need to take precautions. And, you know this, you’re much more of an expert than me, Andy. This is one of the reasons that COVID is coming back, because the president has discouraged mask wearing. The president has discouraged social distancing. He sort of ridiculed it. And now COVID is increasing again in this country. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:12:16] I think many Americans are bothered by so many things. I think you started with probably the most important one, which is people are worried sick that they’re going to wake up soon and if someone in their family is ill, they’re just not going to be able to afford to take care of them again, something that they’ve had the ability to do to, to leave their job, to be able to tell people when they’re sick instead of keep it a secret, which, of course, is a public health emergency, is a crisis. At a base level, you brought up Merrick Garland, a lot of people remember when Senator McConnell then said it was inappropriate to have a hearing in an election year. And a lot of people are bothered by that. I mean, they’re really viscerally bothered by that. Is there anything he says in private or is there any way he describes this that is anything other than, hey, he who has the gold makes the rules?

Chuck Schumer: [00:13:09] He’s proud of it. He brags about it, which is just awful. With a straight face he tries to say it’s different now because we have two parties of the same, which is totally fabricated and made up. Look, here’s the honest truth, Andy. The hard right-wing that doesn’t want to pay any taxes. That wants to just do whatever they want. These very wealthy people for 30 years wanted to get hold of the Supreme Court, get to control it, because they realize that their agenda is so far to the right, not just even of Americans, but even if the Republican Party, that when they had the elected branches of government, the House, the Senate, the president, they couldn’t get their will. So that’s why they’re hell-bent on getting the courts, because you can have for a generation a court that will undo, an unelected body, undo the rights that Americans have treasured for a very, very long time. So this is just awful. And McConnell is proud of it. He has defiled the Senate. He used to consider himself. He said, all I care about the Senate. Well, he so changed the rules that they can rush this through. We’re going to use every tool we have in the tool box to stop it. But there aren’t many tools left because McConnell has changed the rules. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:14:21] You know, I think it’s something that causes people to obviously lose confidence that there’s going to be something fair that goes on. I listened to some of the opening hearing and to the remarks from the Republicans and the Democrats, and the Republicans seemed to say one thing in particular over and over again, that the Democrats are anti-Catholic. Now, by my count, there’s five Supreme Court justices that are that are Catholic. Many, if not all, voted for it with Democratic support. There’s also a Democrat nominee for the president of the United States for the Democratic Party that’s a Catholic. Can you answer that question? Are the Democrats anti-Catholic? 

Chuck Schumer: [00:15:02] No, it’s a diversion. They want us to get into an argument about this, but they know that the American people are on our side on healthcare. They know the American people are on our side and women’s reproductive rights. They know the American people are on our side on climate or LGBTQ rights, all the rights that this court now would place in jeopardy. So they want to change the subject, and they make this up out of whole cloth. Not a single Democrat talked about that issue. Not a single one. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:15:28] Yeah. That I think that felt very much like a straw man put up. And I just want to give you a chance to respond to that. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:15:37] The issue should be healthcare and the substantive views of Judge Barrett, not her personal beliefs, not who she is as a person, but what she will do as a justice. And we have a good we have a lot of knowledge ahead of time on the ACA. She wrote an article when she was a professor that said Judge Roberts wrongly decided it. She actually said it right then and there. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:16:00] We’ll put a link up to the paper she wrote. But she did write an opinion, as you suggest. Do you hold out much hope that enough Republicans can be convinced to stop the process, hold off, vote against her or push this later? And if you’re listening to this and want an outcome like that, is there anything you can do? Or is it too late? 

Chuck Schumer: [00:16:25] Look, it’s an uphill fight. There’s no question they know Donald Trump wants this. They know he’s vindictive. The two Republicans who had the guts, the conscience, the principle to not just go along with him were cast out. Jeff Flake, a conservative, and Bob Corker, a moderate from Tennessee, middle of the road, at least for Republicans. So they’re afraid and they go along. But you never know. A lot of these people, the preexisting conditions is the biggest issue in their elections that are coming up. So they care about this a lot. They’re on TV saying, oh, they want to protect preexisting conditions. But here they will be voting for a justice that has already said she’d get rid of them. She said she’d get rid of those protections. And so there’s always hope. And let me give you two thoughts on this. Number one, when they tried to repeal this in the Senate, as you know, they tried to repeal the ACA. Everyone said, forget it, you’re going to lose. We kept fighting and fighting. And at the last minute, I was able to persuade John McCain to change his mind. And he voted no in ACA is here. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:17:33] Some of us watching that on TV, what did McCain say to you when he walked over you? 

Chuck Schumer: [00:17:37] Well, he just winked at me and nodded because we had talked about it a few hours before. But a second example, this is about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there’s a great movie called On the Basis of Sex. Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from law school in a very male-dominated anti-woman profession. And I asked her children and grandchildren if it was all true when I saw them at the memorial service — she’s our neighborhood girl for us. She went to James Madison High School, as did I, as did Bernie Sanders, as did some Minnesotan who is no longer, I’m glad, in the Senate, Norman Coleman. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:18:11] But in any case, she was told when she went to Harvard Law School, they brought the nine women to have dinner. They asked the nine women to have dinner with the Dean named Griswold and all the fancy faculty. And they made each one stand up and answer the following question asked by the dean: why are you here? Why do you deserve to take the place of the man who should be here? OK. That’s what she was up against. But she fought. She wanted to end gender discrimination. Against all odds in a terribly male-dominated profession, she fought and fought, found a brilliant legal theory, found the right judge and won. She’s an inspiration to us. So is this an uphill fight? Yes. Should we make it and wage it with everything we have? Yes. And what can your listeners do to help? Very simple. Get you and every one of your friends to call Republican senators, particularly if you’re in a state with a Republican senator, and tell them they want them to vote against Amy Coney Barrett until after the election. That’s all. And if Joe Biden wins the election, he will not nominate her. If Trump does, he will. But the voters will have spoken. I don’t think she belongs in the court at all, whether Trump wins or not, I’d never support her, given how regressive she is. But the simple message to Republican senators is simply have the decency, the honor, the consistency to wait and let the people vote. And I am confident enough Joe Biden will win the election that she’ll never get on the court. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:20:06] One thing that’s got to be equally troubling, if not even more troubling, is this idea of the president picking someone for the bench who would, in turn, he believes, pick him to be president in a disputed election. It feels like the democracy faces these perilous moments that would be one of them to even a far greater extent than what we faced in 2000 and that we face during the Trump presidency. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:20:30] Let me comment on that first. Yesterday, I called for her to be recused, to not be allowed to decide this, because clearly he’s picking her on that basis. And clearly, it doesn’t show the lack of bias that judges should have. Donald Trump is an autocrat. Fortunately, our country still has checks and balances, he’s uprooting every one of them. I really fear for this democracy, if he’s reelected, it will not be the same democracy that we have known for two hundred and some odd years in this grand experiment for the United States. And so it’s outrageous. That’s another reason that they’re rushing it through. And that’s another reason we should resist it. And it’s like dictatorships where you change the rules to meet your own needs at the last minute. So I hope she’d be recused. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:21:19] So one of your most important jobs is recruiting candidates to run for Senate around the country. And as I look at the slate of folks, whether it’s John Hickenlooper in Colorado or Bullock in Montana or an astronaut Kelly in Arizona, this is an incredible lineup. Amy Harrison. So I’m wondering if you want to just offer a minute on all of them face close elections. And, you know, you’ve got to know all of these folks personally. What can you tell us about some of these folks that will give insight as people vote? 

Chuck Schumer: [00:22:00] I’ll tell you one thing. Every one of them is committed to keeping the ACA and preventing Americans from losing the protections that they need to get decent health care. They’re great people. They fit their states very well. They’re independent thinking, they’re hardworking and they care about average people. You know, the Republican incumbents they’re running against, it’s amazing how they have voted against the interests of the people of their state. The good news is we have a very good chance, a decent chance, a very decent chance of taking back the Senate. There are only 10 Democratic seats up, 25 Republican seats. Of the 10 Democratic seats, we’re struggling in one or two, but they’re struggling in the half of their seats, 12 or 13. So we have a good chance of winning. And I would certainly urge your listeners to vote. And if you care about the issues that I’ve been talking about, please vote for a Democrat. And get your friends, particularly younger people, to vote. Younger people, this new generation is overwhelmingly Democratic. But a lot of them are cynical or just — I don’t blame them in a certain sense — saying I don’t know if it’ll do any good. Well, it will do good. Vote, vote, vote. The best way to prevent Donald Trump from stealing this election is a large margin for Joe Biden. So I urge people to vote. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:23:15] I’ll also put up a link for people who want to support Democratic senators in general, because I think there’s a very convenient way to do that without having to pick and choose races that you’ve been coordinating. So we’ll make sure people have access to that if that speaks to them. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:23:30] Right. Well, thank you, Andy. And keep up the good work. I know you did a great job when you were in Washington. You helped millions of people and now you’re helping in a different way. So thank you very much. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:23:42] Thank you. We’ll look forward to talking soon. I won’t jinx anything but everyone will be rooting for you. 

Chuck Schumer: [00:23:47] Thank you. Appreciate it. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:23:58] Thank you to Senator Schumer. We will be following that hearing closely. Let me say what’s coming up. We got another show coming up on Monday with Rahm Emanuel. Now you’re going to say, wait a minute, didn’t you just do that episode on Monday? No, that was Zeke Emanuel. That’s Rahm’s brother. Now we’re going to talk to Rahm. It was a discount. We got to talk to both of them. No, I kid. I kid. What Zeke is to medicine and science, Rahm is to politics. 

Andy Slavitt: [00:24:27] He practices the dark arts of politics. And with all of the potential presidential scenarios coming up, I thought it would be useful for me to share with you how a guy like him thinks. These are the kinds of conversations that I have fairly frequently and I think a lot of people do, and I don’t think they often get expressed publicly. So I enjoyed doing that. I think that will be fun to do on Monday. Wednesday show is Alex Gibney. And let me just tell you, totally under control. Everything is totally under control. Remember that expression? It’s everything’s totally under control. That’s what President Trump said in the Roosevelt Room one day when asked about what was happening with COVID-19. He said everything was totally under control. That was like March. So things weren’t totally under control. Totally Under Control now is the first documentary on COVID-19. Alex Gibney is a Oscar-winning documentarian and we got a preview of it first. And so we’re going to talk to him. And then next Monday, we have two guests for the price of one. Gary Mendell and Steph Wittels Wachs. We will have them separated by a plexiglass wall in between, but they are both going to be talking about the same topic, a long overdue conversation that we need to have about mental health and about the conditions that are making life challenging for people and what to do about it. 

[00:26:03] Andy Slavitt: Thanks for listening to In the Bubble. Hope you rate us highly. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen, produce the show. Our mix is by Ivan Kuraev. My son Zach Slavitt is emeritus co-host and onsite producer. Improved by the much better Lana Slavitt, my wife. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs still rule our lives and executive produce the show. And our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, and additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me @ASlavitt on Twitter or @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you like what you heard today, most importantly, please tell your friends to come listen. But still tell them at a distance or with a mask. And please stay safe. Share some joy and we will get through this together. #StayHome.


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