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Transcript: Sen. Chris Coons on "Face the Nation," April 17, 2022

Coons: Global COVID relief "critical" to national security
Global COVID relief "critical" to U.S. national security, Coons says 07:10

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware that aired Sunday, April 17, 2022, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. A new COVID-19 relief funding bill is working its way through Congress, but it is facing some challenges in the Senate. Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware joins us now from Wilmington. Good morning to you, Senator, and happy Easter.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Happy Easter, Margaret. Great to be on with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Leader Schumer has said new money for global vaccination will have to wait until later in the spring because the Senate couldn't come to an agreement. There are still more than 3,000 people around the world dying from COVID, each day, a new variant coming out roughly every four months. What do you see as the real world impact of this stall?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, Margaret, I was so disappointed that we in Congress could not come together and deliver critically needed global help to deliver the vaccines that we've already invented, developed and purchased, and to make sure that the nearly 3 billion people around the world who haven't yet had a single vaccine dose get some protection against this pandemic. As we were fighting over this additional payment, this additional funding for COVID relief globally, one of my colleagues memorably said, well, my constituents are done with this pandemic. Margaret, just because we're done with the pandemic doesn't mean it's done with us. And the best way to protect the American people from the next variant that might kill more Americans and more people around the world is to ensure that the rest of the world has access to America's vaccines. Last point, there's dozens of countries that had to rely on Chinese and Russian vaccines that don't work. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Romney has argued that this needs to be paid for. Is there any compromise that you see here? Because I think you just said that the vaccine is sitting already purchased. So what happens? Does it just go bad if you don't come up with this funding?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: We are going to lose millions of doses of vaccine that will expire. And I think that's part of the argument that I've been making to my Republican colleagues. We shouldn't waste this moment, this opportunity. I respect Senator Romney's press for us to find offsets. But in a moment, when we badly need additional emergency funding to support the Ukrainian military resistance against Russian aggression, to support millions of refugees in Ukraine and around the region, in Europe and throughout the world, and to provide food relief and additional COVID relief, I think we should treat this as emergency spending. But frankly, we'll negotiate what we have to in order to secure a chance to move forward and not waste the vital vaccines America has already purchased.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are some Republicans saying there should be no spending except for on defense. Are you saying this is how it should be characterized?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: I think this is critical to our national security. Look, we've already lost a million Americans this weekend as families gather to celebrate Easter Sunday or to celebrate Passover or during the holy month of Ramadan. We have folks from all three major global faiths, from Islam, from Judaism, from Christianity that jointly have their roots in the Middle East millennia ago. All of these great faiths have a common principle to do unto others as you would have them do unto you and to care for those in need around the world. I think we can and should justify this additional spending as critical for our national security or as teaching our values, showing to each other the best in the human spirit and the most central tenets of the faith that inspires so many Americans.

MARGARET BRENNAN: For the 10 billion of funding that is sitting in Congress for future vote, that would go towards vaccines and treatments here in the United States, even some Senate Democrats are saying they want to attach some kind of amendment regarding these border restrictions related to COVID. Do you see a way out of this standoff?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Margaret, It's going to be challenging.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So what is the compromise to get around the issue at the southern border?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, frankly, what I think you're referring to is the announcement that Title 42, which is a public health measure, may be rolled back in a number of weeks. That's something where the CDC declared that they could no longer justify this ongoing practice of expelling folks who come to our border based on the pandemic. In the region where I'm from, we're seeing infections rise. I think Philadelphia, for example, just returned to a mask mandate. So my hope is that that will be reconsidered appropriately. I know that there are both Republicans and Democrats calling for a reconsideration and the administration just announced a plan for how to deal with a possible surge in crossings at the border. Margaret, we do need to come together and show our values that we can secure our border and improve the inhumane immigration system, the immigration system that so many of us have worked to try and address for years. But I think we can separate that, we should separate that from delivering COVID relief that will protect American lives and other lives, billions of lives around the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In some public remarks this week, you said the country needs to talk about when it might be willing to send troops to Ukraine. You said if the answer is never, then we are inviting another level of escalation and brutality by Putin. Are you arguing that President Biden-


MARGARET BRENNAN: -was wrong when he said he would not send troops to Ukraine? Are you asking him to set a red line?

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Margaret, I think those of us in Congress who have a critical role in setting foreign policy and in advising the president in terms of his decisions as commander in chief, need to look clearly at the level of brutality. This is a moment of enormous challenge for all of us. And I deeply respect President Biden's leadership in pulling together the West and imposing crushing sanctions on Russia. And in bringing to this fight countries that had stayed on the sidelines before. I think President Biden's leadership has been steady and constructive. But this is a critical moment. If Vladimir Putin, who has shown us how brutal he can be, is allowed to just continue to massacre civilians, to commit war crimes throughout Ukraine without NATO, without the West coming more forcefully to his aid, I great- I deeply worry that what's going to happen next is that we will see Ukraine turn into Syria. The American people cannot turn away from this tragedy in Ukraine. I think the history of the 21st century turns on how fiercely we defend freedom in Ukraine and that Putin will only stop when we stop him. I'll close with this, Margaret. This is a weekend when so many families gather to celebrate the very best in the human spirit and where we grieve the loss of many to do due to COVID, we should also be prayerful and mindful of those who are fighting for freedom in Ukraine and how much their heroism and patriotism inspires the rest of us.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Coons, thank you and happy Easter.

SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Thank you, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We'll be right back with a look at the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine on the world's food supply. Stay with us.

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