© 2022
1078x200-header-mic.png
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is optimistic Build Back Better can pass

warren_headshot.jpg
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

Massachusetts Democrat continues to press for student loan debt forgiveness

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren said she is optimistic that a compromise will emerge to lead to passage of the Build Back Better Act – the sweeping social policy and climate change bill.

In an interview Friday with WAMC, the Massachusetts Democrat said she is looking for a path around the Senate’s filibuster rules to advance voting rights legislation.

Here is the full interview with WAMC’s Paul Tuthill.

Paul Tuthill 

The US Supreme Court ruled this week that OSHA cannot enforce a vaccine requirement for employers because there was no congressional authorization. Is that something you would like to see Congress act on?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

Well, I, I would, because I think it would be helpful if we could have vaccines all across the country, mandated. But I just want to say I disagree with Supreme Court on this. The statute is pretty clear that what we had in mind in Congress is that worker, employers have a responsibility to keep their workplaces safe. That's why you don't go into workplaces that have you know, asbestos falling out of the ceiling, or places that have mildew and mold on the walls. And that also, in my view, means keeping them safe during a pandemic. That's how we keep businesses open. That's how we keep our economy moving. And that's how we promote the health of the American people. So I disagree with the Supreme Court, I'd like to see Congress fix it.

Paul Tuthill 

You filed legislation to help restaurants struggling with the impact of COVID and the the omachron variant? What will your bill do?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

Well, restaurants have been hit particularly hard by COVID. You don't do restaurant, you know, by Zoom, you really have to be there. And back in the spring, the American Rescue Plan, put a lot of money into supporting our restaurants, about $28 billion into the restaurant revitalization fund. And about 2500 restaurants here in Massachusetts got help from that. And, and it helped. But COVID has gone longer than many anticipated that it would, as you know, this latest Omicron, a new burst again. so a lot of restaurants are really struggling. So I am a co sponsor of putting money into that fund we established before this time, so that people who didn't get any money before have a chance to get it, or people who got the money, but it just isn't enough to see them through the lengths of this crisis.

Paul Tuthill 

How would you grade the Biden administration's handling of the pandemic ?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

Let's start with the two most important things. And that is vaccines are available everywhere. And that is because we put the money in last spring and that American rescue plan to make sure that there would be free vaccines available for all Americans. And that has happened, and that truly has saved countless lives across this country. The second is, we have really saved the economy as well. Do you know in the first year of the Biden administration, more new jobs have been created than at any presidency in American history. Our jobless rate right now is very low, unemployment is very low, the economy is strong. Now, that doesn't mean we can all sit back on our laurals you know, and rest here. It means we still have a lot of work to do. But the foundation on the health front, the fundamentals are right. And the fundamentals on the economy, that we have a strong economy, low unemployment, that part is right. There's still a lot of work we need to do. We need to do it on the economy, I pushed hard for build back better than childcare and reducing the cost of prescription drugs, reducing the cost of insulin, so nobody pays more than $30 a month for it. And making sure something I put in that giant corporations have to pay at least a minimum tax rather than paying nothing. All of those were important things still to be done on the economic front. And then one other thing in front of us, and that is the need to protect the vote. Because of all this happening in the state legislatures around the country, where Republican majorities in the state houses are trying to take away the right of American citizens to vote. We now have to tackle that problem as well. And that's, of course the struggle we're in right now. To get the right of every American citizens to protect it to vote, to have that vote counted and to give them districts in which they could vote that have not been gerrymandered to favor one party over the other.

Paul Tuthill 

On the economy -- the President said this week that while gas prices and food prices have fallen, some prices,as a whole, remain too high and are squeezing family budgets, what should be done there?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

Sure. So, you know, there are a lot of things that are happening at once. And a lot of this is pandemic related. So for example, there are kinks in the supply chain. And those kinks cause prices to shoot up. And that's something the administration is working on making sure that there's transportation that we're keeping the ports open. So that's a part of what we do. Over the long arc, we also have to look at how concentration in different industries has permitted some companies to get in there and engage in price gouging. So look at an area like meat packing. You know, basically, now, there are four big meat packers, and they have been able to increase their profits dramatically. Not because they're passing along costs. In fact, the cattle ranchers are not getting any more money. But they see an opportunity here, everybody's talking about inflation, and so they can get in and price gouge, we're watching the profit margins for big corporations increase, and there's no reason that should be happening. Just because of increased costs. In fact, profit margins should stay the same or even shrink. But for two thirds of the publicly traded companies in America right now, profit margins are substantially fatter than they were before the pandemic. Now, that you're not going to be able to fix in an hour and a half, that's going to take more work. But I raise it because I'm very glad to see the Biden administration, putting people in place who will enforce the antitrust laws. And that means breaking up some of these giants getting some real competition, getting little businesses a chance to get in there and compete. And stopping unfair practices, and price fixing that drives up prices. So there's a lot of work to be done work in the short run work in the long run. But I think the Biden ministration is headed in the right direction.

Paul Tuthill 

Is there a path forward for both the voting rights legislation and build back better given the filibuster obstacle in the Senate and the fact that a couple of your Democratic colleagues, Senator Sinema says, no dice on changing the filibuster rules?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

Well, let's, let's just start with how important it is to protect the vote. This is the foundation of our democracy. And Senate rules are not going to matter, procedural rules are not going to matter if we actually lose our democracy. And right now, having been spurred on by Donald Trump, and The Big Lie, Republican led state legislatures all around this country, are just aggressively trying to figure out ways to keep certain people from voting, black and brown people, students, people who are likely to vote Democratic, and they're being pretty overt about it, and doing it with surgical precision. They also trying to give themselves a second bite at the electoral apple -- that is, if in a state that's controlled by a Republican legislature, the good citizens vote for a Democrat for an office, the Republican legislature wants to be able to go back and call the election itself or put its own people in charge to certify the election. And some of these people are running for office saying they will never certify a Democrat. They don't care what the voters say. I mean, there's no democracy in that case. And then there's the question about gerrymandering. That gives a minority of voters control over our legislative body and potentially over the presidency, because of gerrymandering. So all of these are a real threat to our democracy. Here's the good news. All 50 Democrats are entirely on board for a voting protection law. We're there we've got it worked out. We know what we need to do. The problem is Senate procedure, and we've got two Democrats who aren't there on getting rid of the filibuster. There are potentially alternative paths. And we're all working really hard right now, to continue to talk about those to keep the lines open, and to try to bring this together. Because it is so important. This really is our democracy that hangs in the balance.

Paul Tuthill 

So are you optimistic on either Build Back Better or and the voting rights bill?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

I am doing everything I can on the voting rights bill. Right now, that is the total focus because it is so important. I think we are still trying to find the path. And I just very much hope that we do I should say on Build Back Better, it's not a filibuster issue. Remember on Build Back Better ( I don't want to get all Senate procedural on you) but it's a it's a reconciliation package. On that one, we just have to agree on what the details are. And you know, I want to make sure we cover childcare, I want to make sure that we're covering lowering the cost of prescription drugs, we've particularly focused on insulin. There are some key pieces in it. And it's kind of like I look at it like working 1000 piece puzzles, you ever work one of those? We are down to the last four or five pieces. And if we can get those fit in place, then I think we can go. The good thing there is this is a big bill. It's a complex bill, but it means there's something in it for everybody. Nobody gets everything they want. But everybody gets something they want. And so I'm optimistic we're going to get a Build Back Better through. But we need to protect the vote. Democracy is our first responsibility.

Paul Tuthill 

Just one last question, Senator, how are you doing in your efforts to convince the president to cancel student loan debt?

U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren

Well, you, you know, the issues here, we've got nearly 900,000 people right here in Massachusetts, who owe about $30 billion in student loan debt. If we cancelled $50,000 of student loan debt, that would totally wipe out debt for 84% of the borrowers here in Massachusetts. That'd be about three quarters of a million people. I mean, that would be just amazing. So I much I'm going to keep pushing on this. Every opportunity I talked with the White House about it. And so far, they have continued to push off the resumption of student loan payments. So nobody's having to feel the brunt of that right now. And I’m going to work really hard to say, let's not keep doing that, that happens in May. Let's get this resolved once and for all, and let's do it with a big bite on the cancellation and we're still talking about it.