Schumer says more testing needed before Trump's plan to open country moves forward

Schumer says more testing needed before Trump's plan to open country moves forward
© Greg Nash

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (N.Y.) on Friday offered some cautious praise for President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE’s guidelines for reopening the country but said he thinks that more testing still needs to be made available, reiterating Democrats’ call for a national testing program.

“The plan is a little more measured than what the president said in the past, which is good, but there’s a key thing missing in all this,” Schumer said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“If we don’t have a strong, adequate testing regime, we’re going to have real trouble,” he added. “You have to know who has the illness, who’s immune from the illness and who could get the illness before we can determine who can go back to work and who can’t.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Schumer reiterated the need for a $30 billion national testing and contact tracing plan Democrats unveiled this week. He said it needs to be included in the interim coronavirus relief package that he, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE are negotiating.

He said Trump should invoke the Defense Production Act to “take over the factories and their supply chains” to make tests and distribute them across the country.

The Democratic leader said the current testing regime is “scattershot and totally inadequate for the job that needed” to get Americans back to work. 

“Each state can’t come up with its own test. Many of the states are inadequate to come up with their own tests. We need a national program distributed to the local governments,” he added. 

Trump and the White House coronavirus task force announced a detailed set of new guidelines Thursday evening for reopening the country, which governors would use to make decisions for their own states. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The three-phase plan provides ground rules for bringing employees back to work in phases, reopening schools and organized youth activities, permitting elective surgeries again, reopening gyms under strict physical distancing protocols and allowing nonessential travel to resume — among other loosenings of restrictions now in place. 

Trump’s plan also assumes the “ability to quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals” and contact tracing for those who test positive for COVID-19. 

Schumer said he, Pelosi and Mnuchin will negotiate through the weekend on a package that would provide $250 billion more for the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which ran out of money on Thursday, as well as $100 billion in new money for hospitals and $150 billion for state and local governments. Schumer said the $30 billion national testing proposal should be included in the package.

“We’ve had constructive talks. They’re going to continue through the weekend and I don’t see any reason why we can’t come to an agreement soon. The president even was more positive about coming to an agreement last night in his press conference,” Schumer said.  

Schumer warned that if local governments don't receive an infusion of federal money soon, they will be forced to lay off thousands of workers.

"When they lay off hundreds of thousands of people, which they will before May 4 when we come back, that's just as bad as a small-business person not being able to employ people," he said.