NH Sen. Shaheen Stresses Worker And Hospital Relief In Defense Of Democratic Stimulus Blockage

March 24, 2020

New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen defended her party's decision to vote down a Republican-backed stimulus bill on Monday in the Senate, saying the stimulus package must do more for hospitals and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's so important that as we pass this relief package here in Washington that includes very robust provisions to help our hospitals so they can treat those people and they don't get overwhelmed," she says.

Senate Democrats faced public backlash and harsh criticism Monday from conservative colleagues after voting down a $2 trillion stimulus proposed by Republicans.

Shaheen says a vote on a modified stimulus package could happen as soon as Tuesday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi echoed the optimism that Congress could pass relief measures as soon as Tuesday in an interview with CNBC. Still, Shaheen stressed the importance of worker relief over corporate relief in the bill.

"I believe that Senate-wide we're close to an agreement, but it's got to be an agreement that helps workers," she says. "We don't want to see what happened after the financial bailout, where we helped a number of big corporations and they didn't pass that help along to the people, their employees, the people who were on the frontlines."

The senator also stressed the scale of the pandemic, calling it "the worst crisis" of her lifetime.

"It reminds me of the stories that I heard from my parents and grandparents about the Great Depression and about World War II," she says. "And in that respect, it has the same element of, it's affecting everyone in the country."

Interview Highlights

On the importance of an economic relief response

"We're going to act very quickly here in Washington to help those people who are being laid off. But we've got to remember that the most important thing we can do is to defeat this coronavirus, to help people both stay healthy and get healthy again because until we've gotten on top of this disease, people are not going to want to go out to restaurants because they're going to be worried about whether they're going to contract the disease.

"We have a number of small hospitals in New Hampshire who are in financial difficulties now because they've suspended all elective surgeries and they're trying to treat the overwhelming numbers of people who may be infected with the coronavirus. So we've got to make sure they get the help they need and that the medical workers who are on the front lines get the help they need."

On whether the stimulus package could pass Tuesday

"I hope so. We worked late into the night [Monday] night. I've been working with the leadership of the Small Business Committee. Senators [Ben] Cardin, [Marco] Rubio, [Susan] Collins and I have been working to try and get help for small businesses to make sure that they can get loans to stay solvent so that they can continue to pay their workers. Those loans would then be paid back to them if they kept their workers on board. We want to make sure that workers can continue to get their health benefits."

On whether there will be corporate bailouts in the stimulus package

"I do think there will be help for certain industries. Certainly, the airlines are in big trouble and we want to make sure that they get the help they need. But we want to make sure that it's done in a way that ensures that the people who are working for the airlines actually see that help, that it doesn't all go to stock buybacks or executive bonuses. So I think that has been a negotiating point. And I do think we're very close to an agreement and hopefully, we're going to hear soon what that will be. You know, I want to make sure that workers out there who are being laid off get the help they need, that local governments that are on the front lines of dealing with this crisis, that we provide some help for them, that we help the hospitals and the medical providers who are really dealing with this crisis because that's where the help, I think, is most needed."


By:  Jeremy Hobson
Source: WBUR