November 22, 2020


NEW YORK - In case you missed it, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries appeared on CNN’s Inside Politics to outline the need to renew existing unemployment benefits and deliver a robust COVID-19 relief package for everyday Americans suffering from this pandemic. 

DANA BASH: […] Let's start with this question of relief on the way. A lot of people are waiting for it. The House Speaker said this week she's optimistic about a new stimulus bill. But as you well know, you need the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, to make that happen. Where does her optimism come from?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: She's working incredibly hard and we're prepared to stay in Washington for as long as necessary to arrive at a coronavirus pandemic relief package because as you've just described, the situation on the ground requires it. The pain, the suffering and the death being experienced by the American people, the unemployment, the food insecurity, the housing uncertainty—that's not getting better. It's getting worse. That's why House Democrats acted initially in May with the Heroes Act and then acted again on October 1.

Now, Mitch McConnell has seemed to publicly send some messages that he's prepared to do something. It's our hope over the next few weeks when we return to Washington in the aftermath of the Thanksgiving recess that they come to the table with genuineness and authenticity, meaning Senate Republicans committed to finally getting this done.

DANA BASH: I know that that table is not yet been approached in this round, but still, having said that, what are you promising or what do you believe unemployed Americans who are watching right now who are about to lose their lifelines should realistically expect at a bare minimum?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: We need to extend out the eligibility for unemployment. That's the deadline that's getting ready to expire, and we need to renew the enhanced $600 per week emergency unemployment insurance benefit. That is the benefit that expired because Republicans allowed it to on August 1. We need to renew that, make it retroactive back to August 1 and then, of course, extend out the eligibility into next year because this is a once-in-a-century pandemic. It requires a once-in-a-century response.

The other challenge that we face, quite honestly, is that President Trump is missing in action. He seems to have quit on the American people. It's an extraordinary thing to witness. Hopefully when he sees House Democrats and Senate Republicans negotiating as we are currently on a new spending agreement so we can avoid a government shutdown—and I'm very confident that we're going to reach a meaningful and robust spending agreement—that will lay the foundation for then transitioning to completing the negotiations on the COVID-19 relief package.

DANA BASH: Let me ask you. The President might be missing, but his treasury secretary made a comment this week and actually said that the Fed should return unused funds from stimulus programs set to expire at the end of the year. Mitch McConnell in the Senate says he supports it. What's your take?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: It's an irresponsible decision as indicated by the President-elect and the incoming Biden administration. We should repurpose the funds. I think that the wealthy and the well off, the megacorporations, they're doing just fine. But small and medium sized businesses, mom-and-pop shops, family-owned businesses, black-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses are struggling. More than 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed in the midst of this pandemic, and as we enter into this intensifying winter wave, it's clear that they're going to need additional relief. I certainly believe that repurposing the unspent money is the right thing to do for American businesses, particularly small businesses who have been hit incredibly hard and are the heart and soul of the economy.

DANA BASH: Let me ask about what's going on right now with President Trump. A big part of his campaign's unsubstantiated claims is about fraud inside Democratic run cities. For example, this is a tweet that he sent out this past week. "In Detroit, there are far more votes than people. Nothing can be done to cure that giant scam." And you see that, what goes through your mind?

CHAIRMAN JEFFRIES: The scam that has been perpetrated on the American people for the last four years is Donald Trump's presidency. That's the scam. He's in the midst of a massive meltdown right now. It's extraordinary. The biggest problem that we confront as a country right now is that many mainstream so-called Republican leaders are going along with it. The party of Lincoln is gone. The party of Reagan is gone. The party of McCain is gone. The cult of Trump is here. Many of us thought it would go away. It's here to stay, apparently, and that's frightening for our democracy.


Watch the full interview here.