What comes after the CARES Act?
In today’s Congressional Corner, New York representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from the 18th district, continues his conversation with WAMC’s Alan Chartock.
This interview was recorded April 14.
Sean Patrick Maloney, congressman from New York's 18th district. So Sean, we have we have a number of fixes. We have the CARES Act, and now we're talking about another COVID bill already. Do we need another one?
Yes, we do. But it shouldn't diminish what has already been done. Remember, there's been three major packages passed by the House. The first was the Families First Act which was intended to get free universal testing going, to get paid family leave 14 days for folks who need to care for themselves or a loved one, and to make sure that there was nutrition assistance for the most vulnerable people. That was followed by $8 billion to speed the development of a vaccine and to fight the fight the public health side of the Coronavirus through better research and funding those critical institutions like CDC and the National Institutes of Health. And the third package, which dwarfs the others was the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which had several major provisions. Most people will experience the direct payments that will come as a result of that $1,200 per individual $2,400 for a couple making about $150,000 or less, $500 for each child. That's the first thing. Secondly will be massive unemployment benefits for the 10s of millions of people who have suddenly and through no fault of their own found themselves out of work. Those will be expanded to cover more people and be more generous than ever. And the third major provision, which is critical, are the loans to small businesses, which will be forgiven. So they're really, really grants. The payroll protection provisions, which are designed to keep as many small businesses going to keep their employees on the payroll and to get us through this crisis. And then additionally, there's three major things. There's also $150 billion for our hospitals and healthcare workers. There's about the same amount for state local governments and we can do much more particularly in the area of helping the states who are hardest hit, so there should be more help to the state of New York and to the counties. There should be more help to hospitals because we're going to need it. We should undo things like the tax bill that screwed most New Yorkers on our state local deductions. We should get those back. We can invest in infrastructure to jumpstart this economy. President wants to drill a trillion dollar 10 year bill. I say Great, let's do it. Let's do it now. And put the politics aside and let's do what works. And those things are still on the drawing board. We've got to get that done next. So
Sean Packer Maloney, how does how do you get politics out of something like what we're going through right now? I mean, part of the democratic experience is that you hold people accountable for either what they did or didn't do. And you know, that's a tough one, especially if you're in a congressman in a in a purple district with both groups. Republicans and Democrats. You don't want to get mired down in that kind of thing. So how do you handle it?
Well, I guess I guess a better word would be partisanship. Right. In other words, there's nothing wrong with politics. We use it as a pejorative but what politics means is people getting engaged and having a say in how their communities are run, and being able to make a judgment about whether we had effective leadership from Washington during the pandemic. That's a good thing. That's democracy. That's the right kind of politics. I'm glad people are engaged in the Trump era. I'm glad that young kids are more engaged than probably anytime since the 1960s on issues from climate change, to immigration, to you know, the Me Too movement to things like things like those Parkland kids get involved in gun safety and we see a level of engagement. That's fantastic. I think we need the same level of engagement on issues surrounding the pandemic. And people should, should express themselves and get and get involved. That's good. I think partisanship or trying to do things for narrow partisan advantage, is the kind of thing we don't have time for.
Governor Cuomo says that the CARES Act, shortchanges New York State, which has its own budget problems right, now big budget problems. And he's been pressuring the congressional delegation, of which you are one, to do more for New York. Is that possible?
Yeah, I'm sympathetic to what the governor is saying. I think that he is speaking very specifically about the impact that the epidemic is going to have on the state budget. And that will be profound and he's right to be concerned about that. But no one should confuse what he's what he's concerned about properly with the enormous amount of benefit being directed towards the work in the CARES package. I mean, talk to the hospitals. Talk to the counties. Talk to the millions of individuals who received direct payments this week of $1,200 each or $2,400. a couple and other $500 per child. Tens of millions of people nationally but millions right here in New York will get expanded unemployment benefits, all the small businesses who will soon be able to access forgivable loans. There are trillions of dollars of relief in the CARES package. Tens of billions if not hundreds of billions of dollars that will directly and indirectly benefit New York. And when the dust settles, we will still have a real need for more help to state government. So the Governor is right about that. But let's not ignore, you know, the millions of dollars in education aid going to the school districts I represent that has already been in the Cares package or that the billions of dollars, four billions of dollars for our mass transit systems in New York like Metro North, there were there are huge and important pieces of the cares act that are helping the orc right now. And we got it done instead of having a long, drawn out fight. about making it perfect. But we have more to do and the Governor is right to say the state government needs help.
Now, how about opening up the economy we have this unsightly let's put it this way, sort of discussion going on between this country's governors, our Governor, Governor Cuomo, or your governor, I live in Massachusetts. And there's a question as to whether the president has the power to open up the economy, or whether it's the governors. What do you think?
Yeah, I think the whole conversation is kind of a stupid political fight that the press is in love with. I don't think any of it matters much. I mean, honestly, I think these are the kind of nonsense that gets kicked around on cable news. Here's the bottom line. All of us want to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. Most of us understand the common sense of the thing, which is that you got a public health emergency. That is the reason for the economic crisis. And until you address the public health emergency, you can't get back to a healthy economy. So you got to not knock the knees of the virus first. What’s working is the social distancing, and unfortunately, that's also shutting down the economic activity, but you got to march through Hell to get to Heaven here. I mean, you can't shortcut this thing because the virus will come back, if we do not put it out of business right now, when we have it on the ropes through the difficult measures we’ve taken. And so what's gotta happen is you just got to have some common sense and you got to follow the facts of the evidence and do it in stages. We are going to gradually turn this thing back on the way the way we already run some of the essential businesses now with better social distancing, with fewer people gathered, with more protections about you know, transmitting infectious disease. There's good models already at work out there. And we'll apply those to more businesses and we will work our way through this. But there's no on off switch. And the last thing we need is a bunch of politicians arguing about who's who gets to decide
Well, but I don't want to prolong this, but the Constitution in the United States gives Congress powers. You’re a congressman and gives the president powers. He says, “Nonsense. It's all me.” That that bothers me a little bit. Doesn't it bother you?
It should but like so much of the Trump era, it's also a distraction from what really is going on. And so I guess my reaction to that is I don't want to play you know, what do you think about the latest stupid thing the president said game when the real issue is, you know, people losing their jobs, people trying to hang on to their businesses, healthcare workers trying to protect their families and save lives at the same time, trying to get ventilators to the right places trying to get PPE done, trying to beat this epidemic. And this this sidebar academic political press game of the President said something stupid today, let's all kick it around and act like it's important. You know, what would make me happy? What makes me happy is if the people who were supposed to be fighting this epidemic like Anthony Fauci and Dr. Birx were given that two hours back every day that they have to stand there and listen to the President spout nonsense, and they could go do their jobs, which is fight the public health emergency. And people like me, I think serve our constituents better when we focus on what matters and less on the theater.
Sean Patrick Maloney, thank you so much for being our guest. Once again, you're always good about coming around and answering the questions and I so appreciate it. When we come back the next time, I want to ask you a tough question about Anthony Fauci.
Thanks for being with us.