Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer on "Face the Nation," Oct. 1, 2017

Schumer on Puerto Rico

Sen. Chuck Schumer joined "Face the Nation" Sunday. He discussed the federal response to Puerto Rico, as well as taxes and more.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with Schumer, which aired Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, on "Face the Nation."

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to "Face the Nation." We're here with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Senator, I want to start on Puerto Rico. There's been a lot of criticism of the federal response, but the administration and Marco Rubio have said Puerto Rico is a special case. It's not like Texas and Florida. There were existing challenges in Puerto Rico, a weak electrical grid, those kinds of things, that are really a part of evaluating what's happening there.

CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, first of all, the president instead of tweeting against the mayor of San Juan who's watching her people die and just made a plea for help ought to roll up his sleeves and get to work here. The bottom line is at least for the first week and a half the effort has been slow footed, disorganized, and not adequate. And that's not just me saying it. General Buchanan said he doesn't have enough troops or material. The acting secretary of HHS Duke when she visited said that things are not good.

And so the bottom line is that we need more help. Marco Rubio is right. We need control and command. That means many more military troops. Let me give you an example. In Haiti there were 22,000 troops after two weeks here. Right now there are 10,000. And those are very, very recent. So this has not been a good response.

It needs the president to stop calling names, stop downgrading the motives of people who are calling for help, but roll up his sleeves and get to work. And, by the way, he should have gone to Puerto Rico earlier than two weeks. He'll go Tuesday. That's good. But two weeks after it hit. He was in Texas twice after that. Obama was up at Sandy two days afterwards. They say, "There are logistics that get in the way," but the president going makes a huge difference. And logistics didn't get in the way in the past.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, I guess they would argue that Puerto Rico's just a much different case than Florida or Texas. But let's move on here to tax reform quickly. You've been talking to the president about making deals with the president. Is this something you can do a deal with the president on?

CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, look. We Democrats sent a letter to the Republican leadership and the president, said that here were three things that we thought tax reform ought to have. 1) Tax breaks ought not to go to the top 1% but ought to be focused on the middle class. 2) It ought not blow a hole in the deficit. And 3) it ought to be done in a bipartisan way, not through reconciliation.

Unfortunately the Republican plan doesn't agree with any of those. First, it's completely focused on the wealthy and the powerful. Not on the middle class. Second, it blows a huge hole in the deficit. And third, they said they're going to do it through reconciliation. That's a partisan process. It excludes Democrats. It's the same process that led to the demise on health care. And let me just address one thing, John. Speaker Ryan keeps saying it helps the middle class. That's not true. What he's saying and what the plan is are totally different.

Let me go over three quick points. 1) They get rid of the estate tax. The only people who benefit are the very wealthy, estates over $11 million. 5,000 estates will get over $3 million each. Second, they lower the top rate from 39 to 35. That affects the wealthy. They raise the lowest rate from 10 to 12. That affects working people.

JOHN DICKERSON: But that also knocks a lot of--

CHUCK SCHUMER: And finally--

JOHN DICKERSON: --people off the roll, senator. And people no--


JOHN DICKERSON: --longer have to pay taxes, which means that's good for them.

CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, no. They already don't have to pay taxes. But to lower the top rate and raise the bottom rate does not make any sense at all. And third, here's what the tax policy center. 80% of the tax breaks in their plan are aimed at the top 1%. And the top .1%, the people who make over $5 million, who are one in 1,000, get a tax break of over a million dollars.


CHUCK SCHUMER: The middle class at the same time is hurt. Just one more point here. The Achilles heel of this, the first one, there are many, is state and local deductibility. In suburban, fairly well-off districts, Republican, throughout the states like New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, those people even with the standard deduction will pay a lot more.

JOHN DICKERSON: But why should--

CHUCK SCHUMER: It'll be a real test of their Congress--

JOHN DICKERSON: Why should people in Alabama--

CHUCK SCHUMER:--people. It should be a real test of their Congress people whether they vote with their constituents or they vote with the hard right ideology against state and local deductibility.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well, the argument on state and local is, "Why should Alabama subsidize New York?" But it sounds like you're basically out now to stop this bill, not to shape it.

CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, we'd like them to change. We would like them to really say it'll be deficit neutral instead of using these fake numbers that say, "There'll be huge growth." You know, they tried that in Kansas. That's Charles Koch's state. And this was the great experiment.

They dramatically cut taxes and said, "There's going to be growth and an increase in the surplus." Well, after they did it, they predicted the surplus would go up 300 million. It went down. The deficit went down 700 million. They had to cut money for schools and infrastructure. And then they had to put in a tax increase.


CHUCK SCHUMER: And did Kansas grow? No. Last year its growth was .2% versus U.S. growth at 1.6. So this idea that cutting taxes on the wealthy, this trickle-down economics which the Republican Party loves, does not create growth. It never has. Does not reduce the deficit. It never has. George Bush, his tax cuts, 2001, 2003, they said after 10 years the deficit will go down. It went up by C.B.O.'s 1.6 trillion. So this is fake numbers helping the very, very wealthy, ignoring the middle class. And what Ryan said and what his proposal are are totally different.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Well, we're out of time, senator. Thanks. We'll be--


JOHN DICKERSON: We'll be back--

CHUCK SCHUMER: I feel strongly about this.


CHUCK SCHUMER: But we want to work with them if they will change. We do. They have to--

JOHN DICKERSON: They might not--

CHUCK SCHUMER: --consult us. You know, they have to consult us. They can't just put down a plan and say, "Bipartisanship is you guys come over and do what we want," when it's against our principles.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Well, you've been talking to the president. I bet you'll give him that message. Thanks, senator.


JOHN DICKERSON: We'll be back with our panel. Don't go away.