Sen. Cardin on stimulus talks: 'This is a major economic crisis that we’re in'

Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat from Maryland joins the On the Move panel to discuss the latest news on a deal with stimulus relief.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: Well, let's get some more reaction on the stimulus negotiations. I want to bring in Senator Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland. He's joining us from Washington. Senator Cardin, it's always good to see you. Is this whole thing a futile exercise, even if the two sides come to an agreement? Does the stimulus bill have a chance of making it through the Senate?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN: Well, Julie, first of all, it's good to be with you. I hope it's not a futile attempt. We desperately-- Americans desperately need another round of COVID relief. American families need it. Our state and local governments need it. Businesses need it. Our economy needs it.

So I just hope that Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi can reach an agreement. We need a bipartisan, comprehensive agreement that deals with all of these aspects. It's not going to help to just try to help one sector. We need to have a comprehensive bill.

So what the Senate Republican leader is doing today is not helpful. He's trying to give political cover to his members with a bill that has no chance of passing. We need to support the efforts of Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin. Let's get a bipartisan agreement. Let's bring that to the floor, and let every Senator cast their votes on a bipartisan proposal.

ADAM SHAPIRO: I hear you loud and clear, but I got to ask you, since-- I mean, the House actually had this-- the HEROES bill months ago. Didn't get into the Senate, so why not, if people truly are hurting, take what McConnell is offering, do that to get us at least a month, and then after this election, we can do the bigger stimulus? Why not do that?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN: It won't get us that month. It won't help our economy. Unless we get COVID-19 under control, the confidence is just not there. American consumers aren't going to be out there. If we don't provide the unemployment benefits, families are not going to have the income. If we don't provide help to our school systems, schools cannot reopen either virtually or in person safely, and that keeps our economy not performing at its adequate level.

This is a major economic crisis that we're in. We have a pandemic. We've got to respond in kind. We don't want to just check a political box. We want to provide real relief to the American people. And yes, I think we do have the votes. I think if you take a look, we've already seen the Democrats in the House bring in proposals very close to the president's numbers, so we're getting closer. Let's just see if we can't get the final agreements reached, and let's get it done. But Leader McConnell's proposal is not a credible proposal.

JESSICA SMITH: Hi, Senator, Jessica Smith here. I know you say that Leader McConnell's proposal is not credible, that [AUDIO OUT] relief bill. But what about this standalone Paycheck Protection Program legislation? I know you played a key role in putting that program together. Why not do-- move on that when it is a program that does have bipartisan support?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN: Well, small businesses need more help than just PPP. They need an economy where people have confidence and can go out and patronize businesses. And state and local governments need to be able to help for small businesses to succeed. Schools need to be open safely, so it's all really interconnected.

But quite frankly, the small-business package that's being put to the floor doesn't include issues that are important to small businesses like the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant Program, which is critically important. It doesn't correct from the mistakes made in PPP in the under-banked, underserved communities, the smaller of the small businesses.

So there are things-- this wasn't done in a bipartisan manner. Senator Rubio, the Republican chair-- I'm the Democratic ranking member-- we work well together. And we can come up with a package that could get bipartisan support. What's being voted on today doesn't represent that bipartisan spirit.

JULIE HYMAN: Are you talking to Senator Rubio? I mean, we've been talking to you for months now about renewing PPP, right, so it must be frustrating to you on a personal level that this is not getting done. I mean, what needs to happen?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN: Oh absolutely it's frustrating because we do both agree that we need a second round of PPP. It's got to be based upon those companies that really need it, but we also have to deal with the under-banked communities, and that's not included in the proposal by Senator McConnell. We also have to deal with the EIDL loans and grants. And there are other issues that we have to deal with.

So there are issues that have been left out. It's extremely frustrating. I am convinced that if we have an overall bill that's been agreed upon, the provisions concerning small business can be resolved very quickly, will be probably the first sector of this bill that could be-- that can be agreed to. We'll come together, but we can't do it in this partisan environment in which Senator McConnell is requiring votes today.

JULIE HYMAN: Senator, I got to ask you. I have to say, you've been in Congress for a long time. I remember when-- I grew up in Maryland-- and you became-- you became the Congressman and then the Senator there. Grade this period of time. I mean, you say things have got to be bipartisan. Can they be again? It doesn't feel like it from people perhaps outside Washington, and if not, what needs to change? I mean, do we need to get rid of the filibuster entirely? Do we need things like term limits? Are there structural changes that need to be made to kind of bring back a spirit of bipartisanship?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN: I think if Senator McConnell allowed votes on the floor of the, Senate you will see more bipartisan votes. Look, the CARES Act passed 97 to 0. So yes, we can do bipartisan work. We're in a national emergency. This is a pandemic. I really do believe that an agreement that's being negotiated by Secretary Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi-- Speaker Pelosi has already come down $1 trillion on their proposal-- that that proposal can receive a majority vote. I understand there will be a significant number of Republican senators will vote no, but we can get the majorities that we need to pass that legislation. But it's got to be bipartisan. It can't be dictated by one party.

JESSICA SMITH: Senator, looking specifically at these stimulus negotiations, is this the right approach at this point? After three months of not being able to come to a deal, the "Washington Post" has a report out today saying appropriations staffers met to try to work this out, but then talks stalled because they didn't know what Speaker Pelosi and Mnuchin agreed to. So is this the right approach at this point when you have these two people negotiating this gigantic deal?

SENATOR BEN CARDIN: Well, Secretary Mnuchin is in a very tough spot. First he has a very difficult person he's representing, the president of the United States. He's been on again, off again. That doesn't help the negotiations, and it's clear that this close to an election that partisan politics will come into play. So it's been very difficult for him to represent the president.

But put on top of that, that Leader McConnell, Republicans in the Senate-- a significant number-- said they won't vote for anything relief. And that Senator McConnell's proposal that he's having us vote on tomorrow is less than 1/3 of the amount of money that's in the president's offer. So the Republicans aren't united. The Democrats are united. We're willing to compromise. We want to get a comprehensive package done.

We're willing to make further compromises in order to get an agreement, but it's got to be real. It's got to deal with the size of the problem. And I think Secretary Mnuchin understands that, and I hope that he'll work out an agreement with Speaker Pelosi. And if he does that, it will be a tough vote in the Senate, but I think we can get a bipartisan vote in the Senate. I've talked to a lot of my Republican colleagues. I think they'll support it. I think we can get it done, but it starts with Secretary Mnuchin recognizing that Speaker Pelosi has already come down significantly in the size of the program. Let's get let's get this deal done.

JULIE HYMAN: Well we shall see. Senator Cardin, thank you so much for being here, Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.