Congressional Corner With Richard Neal | WAMC

Congressional Corner With Richard Neal

Aug 13, 2020

Will Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse be able to knock off Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal in next month’s Democratic primary?

In today’s Congressional Corner, Neal continues his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.

This interview was recorded August 6.

Alan Chartock - Richie Neal, when we were in a congressional corner yesterday, last time, you were talking about your friendship with John Lewis. I had one more question about him. You were one of the few who were honored to be selected to be at his funeral. But, you know, politically, you made a case about how close you were. How about personally?

Representative Richard Neal: Well, I think we were very good friends personally. I, to be very frank, I helped him out with a couple of tough campaigns that he had. I actually helped him with fundraising in Boston. I helped him with fundraising in Washington, and I was only too grateful and happy to do it. I think that he had a couple of challenges along the way. And he asked me for some help, and he knew I'd be front and center for him as he was front and center for me. And I think that that's the test of, again, an enduring, loyal friendship.

So you miss him?

Oh, I thought the world of the guy and I will tell you this, it was also the quiet certainty when you worked with him. He did this really nice thing for me after I'd helped him out in his campaigns. He gave me a copy of the famous Life Magazine cover of him crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge on that fateful day. And, as I noted in the really wonderful eulogies that were offered by Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, to John, Bill Clinton noted that John in his knapsack that day, carried a toothbrush, some fruit and nourishment because he thought he was going to jail. But that picture is so iconic, and he had it blown up and he autographed it and it hangs on my wall in Washington. I also have a picture of the two of us at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. I was with him as we retraced all these famous steps. And I think on a personal basis, I received from him a marvelous historic perspective on what he, Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement accomplished.

Let's go through the stimulus payment. I know as we speak, it's still being negotiated. So I want to know, who has the upper hand here? Is that a bad question? In other words, the Democrats politically, are insisting on 3 trillion while the Trump people say 1 trillion. I've long thought that you were gonna end up with 2 trillion but who knows?

Well, I think what's important to remember here is that we passed the Heroes Act 10 weeks ago, two and a half months ago. That should have given Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party ample opportunity to begin to either compete, contrast, or at least offer a proposal rather than offering a proposal just a few days ago. You need to extend unemployment insurance, it is perhaps the most important thing that we did. State and local governments are going to need the $1 trillion that we allocated in the Heroes Act. You’re going to need another round of payments in stimulus checks to members of the American family. That is a Ways and Means jurisdiction as well. And I also think the retention tax credit is terribly important because it allows employers to maintain employees and accept the tax credit for it. Until we defeat the virus, we are not going to get to a bold economic recovery. So again, it's essential that we go well beyond what Republicans are proposing and let me say this if I can because I think it needs clarification. The extra $600 that the Ways and Means Committee put in for unemployed Insurance is a supplement. You cannot quit your job to get unemployment insurance. There are not a lot of jobs out there right now. And people are going to run into trouble now with paying their rent, making more mortgage payments, which is a contagion that will cause problems for community bankers, credit unions. Big banks can absorb those losses, the small ones are not going to be able to. So I think being affirmative on what the committee did, by the way, there's ample testimony from Speaker Pelosi to the role that the Ways and Means Committee played and that I played in in developing this legislation. We need it. And we're going to need it because I think we should describe the period of time in which we're in is really about relief, and stability. The real issue is, how do we build the bridge to recovery? And I think that by allocating these dollars right now to keep liquidity in the system to keep cash flow in the system, making sure that people can pay for the basic sustenance of everyday life, and have food security, all of these ingredients are important if we're going to proceed to recovery.

And how are we gonna pay for it?

Well, I think one of the fortunate things is that Jay Powell at the Federal Reserve Board, he has indicated that interest rates would remain at next to zero. So I think there's going to be substantial borrowing for the immediate future. And after we get to the other side of the pandemic, and get back to recovery, I think that we can have a full discussion. But remember this this is important as I listened to some of the words on the other side. They borrowed, borrowed $2.3 trillion at the end of 2017 for their tax cut. 87% of the benefits of that tax cut went to upper income Americans. So for them to suggest we need to have a wait and see attitude about getting money into the hands of the people in the middle and the bottom, while simultaneously suggesting that their tax cut was fair and just, not only is a mistake, but it doesn't square up under again, the magnifying glass of analysis.                                                                                                                

I ask your opponent, Ricky Neil, Mr. Morris, whether or not he would vote for Nancy Pelosi, if he were elected. And he hemmed and hawed a little bit, I have to say. What kind of job is she doing? Okay.

She's done a great job. She's the best speaker of the house I have served with. She guided us through the aftermath of the collapse of 2008. She has guided us through the pandemic, and she has been a very substantial force against the overreach of Donald Trump. She holds together a caucus that is multi-varied in terms of opinions. And yet we've passed the Secure Act. We passed USMCA. We have passed extensions of family leave. We have past all sorts of COVID related, the CARES Act, the Heroes Act. She has great discipline within the Democratic Party. I think she's been a magnificent leader. And I want to say this, she's also a good dealmaker, and she certainly outmaneuvered them in the CARES Act. And that's why I think that they're hesitant about negotiating some of these agreements with her in the Heroes Act. I talked to her last Sunday evening for 40 minutes. She sought my advice and counsel on some of the issues. And I want to tell you that if Alex Morse is saying he wasn't sure whether or not he'd vote for Nancy Pelosi, that alone tells you about his candidacy. There is not a Democrat in the House who wouldn't vote to reelect Nancy Pelosi.

Well, Richie Neal, I can't tell you how fortunate we are to have you with us. We are delighted you came and took some time out for us. And, again, I can't tell you how much personal respect I have for you but so thank you so much for being with us.

Always pleased to be with you, Alan. Thank you.