Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is dubious about the Heroes Act.
In today’s Congressional Corner, WAMC’s Alan Chartock speaks with Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ed Markey. This interview was recorded on May 19.
Alan Chartock: Here we are with Senator Ed Markey in the Congressional Corner. We're hearing that The Heroes Act, Senator Markey, the latest coronavirus bill that passed the House is dead on arrival in the Senate. Is that true?
Senator Ed Markey: Well, there's no question that we need a big bill to pass. And the heroes act just fits the bill. It's $3 trillion in economic relief package that's much, much needed. $875 billion for cities and states that is absolutely 100% needed. Additional unemployment insurance, more of a onetime direct cash payments for families, as well as food security funding for programs, such as snap plan. It's a bailout of the Postal Service and also provides funding for election security. And so what Mitch McConnell is saying is that the bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. But I believe that Republicans are going to hear from their constituents and they will be forced to ignore corporate interest and bailouts for oil and gas companies, and that we will actually have ultimately a relief package that reflects the urgency of the moment. Mayors and governors in red states are going to be suffering from the same economic conditions as blue states. And I think that ultimately, the pressure is going to mount dramatically, so that we ultimately are able to pass a very substantial package.
Now, I hope you're right. But we all know that sooner or later, the proponents Nancy Pelosi and McConnell will sit down and it'll be reached, but I want to know is what do they want? What do the Republicans want that would get the bill passed?
Well, again, I'm concerned that the Republicans, obviously would want to bailout oil companies and gas companies. They may want tax breaks for wealthy people. I mean, getting inside the internal workings of Republican brains at this time is not easy. But at the same time, they are absolutely feeling tremendous pressure because our economy is heading towards depression level unemployment levels. And so we are not in a situation right now where the Republicans can afford to just ignore it the way Herbert Hoover did, because ultimately they will pay a tremendous political price if they ignore the economic catastrophe which is hitting ordinary American families.
Now, Senator Ed Markey, we sit up here in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, where I'm talking to you from right now. And there's a primary election going on. What do we have at stake here for electing Ed Markey?
Well, I'm, I'm obviously running on my record. You know, I grew up here in Malden, Massachusetts. I'm sitting here in my living room in Malden right now where I grew up. The values which I've learned, were those at the kitchen table here. My father drove a truck for the Hood Milk company. My mother was a housewife. My father grew up in Lawrence, on the first floor of a triple decker, five brothers and sisters in the shadow of the mills and that triple decker. My mother, she had to She was raised here in Malden. It was an immigrant family, mother and father five daughters, but my grandmother died when my mother was 17 and so she had to give up her dreams of going to college to stay home to take care of the three younger sisters. So I'm still here in Malden, but the values of my mother and father, the sacrifices which they made are a big, big part of who I am, and who I fight for every single day. Those kids on porches in Malden and Lawrence, but Pittsfield, in every community all across the Commonwealth. And I've done that every day, fighting for a Green New Deal so that we can deal with the climate crisis. I'm the leader on that, with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that's transformed the way in which people look at climate issues in our society right now. I was successful in December in adding $25 million to the federal budget so that we could, at the Centers for Disease Control for the first time begin the study of the causes of gun violence in our society, so that hopefully we can reach a day where we say to the NRA that you really stand for “Not Relevant Anymore” in American politics. I’ve been successful in adding the funding to find the cure for Alzheimers. 5 million Americans have Alzheimers right now. 15 million baby boomers are going to have Alzheimer's. So it's absolutely critical that we put in the funding in order to make sure that we find that cure by the year 2025, which is what my legislation calls upon the NIH to do. So on many issues I've been leading and delivering for the people of Massachusetts. My background coming from Malden, helps me to understand what the ordinary struggles are of families like those in Pittsfield and North Adams and all the communities out in western Massachusetts.
I have to say, I grew up much like you did. My parents were not wealthy. They probably had a little bit more than yours did. But now you're running against a Kennedy. How does one run against a Kennedy in Massachusetts?
Well, what I do is I run on who I am, what I've done. As I've just said, I have worked hard to deliver for the people of Massachusetts, I have stood up for them, fought for the things which they tell me is critical for them. So for example, in February, I was able to announce $10.2 million in federal funding to expand broadband access in western Massachusetts, awarded through the Federal Communications Commission's Connect America fund. On March 31, because of my work, Charter Communications, cable subscribers in Berkshire County, now have access to WWLP, the Springfield, Massachusetts NBC station. Yeah, so I've worked very hard in order to accomplish that partnering with Senator Warren and Congressman Richie Neal And ultimately I was able to put that package together. And in the Cares Act, I was able to secure $789,000 in community development block grants for the city of Pittsfield. So I worked on an ongoing basis to help the communities of Western Massachusetts, and I think that's why Mayor Tyer in Pittsfield has endorsed me. Mayor Bernard of North Adams has endorsed me, because they know I work to help those communities to get what they need.
Now you're going to debate Congressman Kennedy, your opponent on June 1. Now has the pandemic changed the way you are going to approach that debate?
Well, obviously, we are going to have to address issues that have been created because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but all of the other issues that were there before are still on the table. So, obviously this is going to be a debate that is colored by what the Coronavirus has done to our state and to our nation. And in and I think that it will be a good discussion which we’ll have.
So now given the pandemic, should voters have a mail-in option in the November election?
Yeah, I introduced legislation with Senator Amy Klobuchar and with Senator Ron Wyden more than two months ago, calling for billions of dollars of federal money to be spent to help make it easier to facilitate mail-in voting. And, and, and I urge that to happen in addition to having longer, earlier voting times so that we make it more accessible for people to be able to participate in the elections of this year,
Senator Markey, we're out of time for this segment. I do want to say to you, you are very impressive and you've worked very hard, and I hope that you have the good luck you're entitled to. So we'll be talking again. Thank you for this.
No, thank you, sir.