On CNN’s State of the Union this morning, Sen. Mark Warner had some interesting things to say, including:
- Asked about the bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation Sen. Warner supports, and which Sen. Bernie Sanders says he can’t support because it has liability protections for companies, Sen. Warner responded: “Sen. Sanders, respectfully, is not involved in these negotiations and his characterization is just not accurate…That somehow $908 billion…bigger than the whole TARP package is not enough for a 4-month emergency extension; I’d like to see somebody make that case to people who, if we don’t act, will be put in harm’s way.”
- Asked about Trump considering issuing a wave of pardons, including to himself, Sen. Warner said the pardons are not appropriate “at all,” that Trump has “flaunted the law on a continual basis,” and “I think we’re ready to move beyond Donald Trump, whether it is his flaunting of the laws, whether his willingness to undermine democracy…I think the American democracy came through this with flying colors, with the exception of frankly a sore loser in Donald Trump.”
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 6, 2020
CNN’s State of the Union
JAKE TAPPER: Welcome back to “State of the Union,” I’m Jake Tapper. With the pandemic exploding and job growth slowing considerably, Congress gets back to work tomorrow with momentum building for a new $908 billion stimulus package. It could be the last chance this year to help the millions of Americans who have not suffered like this since the Great Depression. Joining us now, is someone playing a critical leadership role in these bipartisan negotiations, Democratic Senator Mark Warner of the great Commonwealth of Virginia.
Senator Warner, you’ve been a critical part of this team negotiating the $908 billion deal. President-elect Biden told me he thinks it should pass but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it just starting point for further negotiations. Are they, at this point, hindering your ability to get this deal done?
SEN. MARK WARNER: Well Jake, this is a compromise. There has been a group of eight of us that has grown to ten that have worked over the last two weeks, every day except for Thanksgiving. We are going to have another multi-hour call today. For those of us who are Democrats, we would have preferred a bigger plan. For my Republican colleagues, they would have liked the plan that Mitchell McConnell put out at about $500 billion. This is a compromise. Neither side is going to get the full amount or all of the component parts that they wanted. But as you pointed out, with the economy weakening, with 200,000 additional cases of the virus yesterday, and with so many of these initiatives from the first CARES package running out as soon as the day after Christmas, you know, it would be – what I call – stupidity on steroids if Congress doesn’t act and we are going to keep at it. I think $908 billion for a targeted, four-month relief plan for a bridge to a Biden administration – I think this is the direction that Congress needs to move in.
TAPPER: In October, the White House reportedly offered Congress a $1.8 trillion deal but Democratic leaders said no, they wanted $2.2 trillion deal. Now you’re looking at about half of what the White House offered and we don’t even know if you can get that passed. It seems as though the negotiating strategy of the Democratic leaders, Schumer and Pelosi, blew up in their face to the detriment of the American people.
SEN. WARNER: Well, I will say this. A number of my Republican colleagues dismissed those efforts by the President right before the election because they thought he was trying, in a sense, buy a win before the election. There are lots of what if’s – what we should have done, could have done. Where we are right now is in early December and the clock is ticking. We have got to make sure we pass legislation to make sure that government continues to be funded, a defense authorization bill, and I think potentially, the most critical component is this $908 billion that will give targeted relief for the unemployed, for people in food insecurity; rental assistance; small businesses that have run out of their PPP funds, we put funds particularly for those minority businesses that have been extraordinarily hard-hit. We put additional assistance in, finally, for broadband, which we all know is an economic necessity, additional dollars around the vaccine distribution, assistance for hospitals. I think we have got the categories and I think we have got the topline numbers done. We are working right now on language so that we can have as early as tomorrow a piece of legislation and, again, if there are folks on either end of the spectrum that say it’s too much or they don’t want to go forward, we just have to push through and I think commonsense may this time win out.
TAPPER: As you know, the legislation you’re working on, as of now, does not provide direct payments to Americans and it does include some sort of liability protections for companies. Senator Bernie Sanders said that because of that, he can’t vote for it. He said, “This proposal provides 100% legal immunity to corporations whose irresponsibility has led to the deaths of hundreds of workers. It would continue to provide a get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.” What is your response to Senator Sanders?
SEN. WARNER: Well my response is, you know, Senator Sanders, respectfully, is not involved in these negotiations and his characterization is just not accurate. We are looking at trying to give some level of a time-out to allow states, if they want to put in place standards. We have already, for example, in Virginia, put in COVID standards. That part of the discussion is vigorous and ongoing and those who want the direct stimulus checks, that will be something a president-elect Biden will grapple with. We are looking at a four-month emergency relief package and I would say to any politician in either party – are they really going out and tell the tens of millions of unemployed workers who lose their unemployment check on the day after Christmas, people that will be kicked out of their apartments without rental assistance come January 1st, the small businesses and restaurants who have been trying to struggle through as the weather gets colder and won’t be able to do as much outside dining, that somehow $908 billion, $908 billion – bigger than the whole TARP package – is not enough for a four-month emergency extension? I’d like to see somebody make that case to people who, if we don’t act, will be put in harm’s way.
TAPPER: Your deal yet does not have buy-in from President Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Is McConnell going to be willing to allow there to be a vote on this?
SEN. WARNER: Well, that’s again, when you put a bipartisan group together, you’re going to end up taking incoming from both sides. I think that is what we signed up for. But, again, the same thing I said to – respectfully – to Senator Sanders, I’d say to leader McConnell. Do you really want to send us home without even a vote on something that I have pretty high assurance would get way beyond 60 votes?
The number of Republican Senators, both publicly and privately, who have said, ‘Hey, you guys have done the right thing – we’ll be there,’ goes up every day. And I think, again, there are a variety of reports of Republican senators who are talking to President Trump about this issue. I think we will get there. I think we may have to go through a few more days of drama. We are going to keep our head down working on getting the product out, let the American people weigh in, let all of our colleagues weigh in and I think it’s a great bridge to the Biden administration.
TAPPER: Senator, before you go, I want to ask you – President Trump is reportedly considering issuing a wave of preemptive pardons for family members and allies like Rudy Giuliani and potentially even a self-pardon. Do you think those pardons are appropriate? Do you think they would be legal?
SEN. WARNER: I don’t think they are appropriate at all. This individual, Mr. Trump, has flaunted the law on a continual basis. Whatever happens on a going forward basis, that ought to be done by a Justice Department decision. I’m not going to weigh in and whatever is going to happen in New York will happen or not.
I think we are ready to move beyond Donald Trump, whether it is his flaunting of the laws, whether it is his willingness to undermine democracy. I know we talked off air, Jake. I actually think the American public stepped up and voted in record numbers. There was not foreign interference. We have seen election officials, like the Lieutenant Governor in Georgia and across the country, do their job. We did not see, thank God, the potential violence, both before the election and after the election, we didn’t see Trump supporters on election day – give them credit as well – for not showing to intimidate voters. I think the American democracy came through this with flying colors, with the exception of, frankly, a sore loser in Donald Trump.
TAPPER: Senator Mark Warner from the great Commonwealth of Virginia, thank you for your time today. We appreciate it as always.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Jake.