The following is a transcript of an interview with New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand which aired Sunday, November 21, 2021 on “Face the Nation”.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And now Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joins us, good morning to you. Senator, thank you for being here.
SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Hello.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So I want to move on to some of the agenda items. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was with us last week, and she said it doesn’t look like paid time off is going to figure in the final Build Back Better bill. This is due to the opposition of Senator Joe Manchin. How can you change your mind?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: Well, Joe Manchin has come a long way on paid leave. If I’ve been talking to him for about three weeks on the subject and at the start of our conversations, he didn’t know much about paid time off, and he asked a lot of really smart questions about how you built it? What would it look like? He really wants it to be an earned advantage, something self-sufficient and so do I. And he really wants something that will last for generations. So I am optimistic that Senator Manchin and I can continue to talk about ways to include paid time off in this bill, because in the long run he wants it to be bipartisan. But I’ve watched and talked to all the Republicans who are interested in paid time off, and none of them have an interest in what they want to do, which is this idea of acquired benefits. So I think Senator Manchin and I can get together, hopefully in the next few weeks, on something that could be included in this package. It would be a single Democratic proposal that we could start with something – something modest maybe that we can start paid time off with and then work long term with these Republicans on a bigger idea to come up with the big idea. 12 weeks paid leave for all. life events for all people when they need to meet the needs of the family, whether it is a newborn baby, a loved one or a dying parent.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So modest, you mean four weeks?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: I would be grateful if we could respond to the House’s suggestion. I think it would be a good start to have universal paid leave for everyone, all workers, and we know that paid leave helps people get back to work. We know that if it is parental leave, parents, mothers are 40% more likely to return to work if they have paid leave, which worries Senator Manchin who wants to strengthen our social safety nets . He wants to strengthen Social Security. This is what paid time off does. It puts people back to work. This allows people to stay in the workforce even in a family emergency. If you don’t have paid leave and there is a family emergency, sometimes your only recourse is to quit. If you have to quit your job, it is very difficult to rehire yourself. So if your main concern is to strengthen social safety nets like Social Security, paid time off is one of the solutions. And so, I hope that if I can use the next three weeks to really get Senator Manchin to understand that there are some things that can only be done with Democrats, now is the only time to do it, maybe at the end of the day. over the next decade.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So the proposal, as it is now, would cost $ 200 billion over 10 years. Senator Manchin also said he was worried about Social Security, and it is the same. When you talk about benefits gained, how would you actually go about making that happen?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: So I want to work with Senator Manchin on some ideas he has. He likes employer-employee contribution systems. Many states across the country already have that through unemployment insurance, disability insurance. There are ways to create this program –
MARGARET BRENNAN: – Like New York State.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: Right, and what Senator Manchin is doing right now is endorsing all aspects of the Build Back Better proposal on how to pay for it. He is therefore in charge of knowing how to pay for these proposals. And so, I just hope he can stay open-minded to include provisions for paid time off, because that’s the only time to get paid time off. The bipartisan ideas that you have, he has them, they will not come to fruition with the Republican senators who are interested in paid time off today because they do not. They are not interested today in a universal plan. It’s an advantage gained because I talked to them–
MARGARET BRENNAN: For you-
SEN. GILLIBRAND: – That’s why I think for Senator Manchin, the time has come if he has a vision of what he wants to do. Putting in this demo proposition only is the only opportunity in my opinion.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And I’d love to have him come and answer some of the questions you’re raising right now about how to do this. One of the other sticking points is lowering taxes for the top earners, and that would certainly interest your constituents in New York, raising the cap on the so-called SALT deduction of state and local taxes. Is this something you need to stay in there?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: So for Senator Schumer and I and the senators in those states that have very high local and state taxes like New York, New Jersey, California, when President Trump proposed his $ 1.5 trillion tax cuts . He really did it in a way that caused disproportionate harm to those great states.
MARGARET BRENNAN: He lowered the cap to 10,000.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: He did and it hurt a lot of middle-to-middle-class families in New York City, especially in places like Westchester and Long Island, where a firefighter and teacher were allegedly injured by this. deduction reduced to such a low ceiling. . So what we are trying to do is restore that cap to cover all middle class workers, and the House has found a compromise to put that cap at $ 80,000. We hope to keep that in the Senate.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about some of the numbers that we showed viewers at the start of this show regarding concerns about the economy and the president. The majority of the infrastructure bill does not come into effect until 2023, 2024. Building back better, as we know, we talk about, is not a done deal. So what’s the message you have about how to fix the economy now and how to tell voters that if they stay with the Democrats, if they stay with a unified government, you can actually do it? Because you don’t have a lot of time before those mid-term races.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: We are doing everything to reduce costs for ordinary families because the costs for people are increasing. You have these macro forces because of the pandemic which are very difficult to deal with. So what these bills do is that the infrastructure bill will solve some of the supply chain problems because –
MARGARET BRENNAN: – Not yet.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: But at least invest, invest in ports and invest in ways to start solving the supply chain issues that we have encountered. Second, in the Build Back Better bill, it can reduce prescription drug costs. It is one of the biggest costs that many families have, especially our seniors. This can reduce the costs of child care. You know how expensive child care is. Affordable daycare, universal pre-kindergarten. It’s going to take zero to five and make it more affordable for families. It is for many families.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you really think the Democrats have ever been able to explain this to voters?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: Well, we are.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’re always talking about a bill that we don’t know what’s in or out of it.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: So the push and pull of what’s in the bill, what’s not in the bill, that’s going to be resolved in the next few weeks. And once we sign this bill, we can tour our states and districts and explain why affordable child care matters. I know that if families have to spend 20, 30, 40% of their income just on child care, what families do sometimes is that they don’t have a second or third child. child. Sometimes they have to quit their jobs because it is more profitable to stay at home. This means that the parent cannot be employed. It means less money is going into the economy. This means that they cannot advance in their career and earn more money. It stifles economic growth. It’s very bad. Affordable child care is therefore one of the basic infrastructure investments that we need, so more people are working. This is how we reduce costs to people in areas such as housing, child care and prescription drugs.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It takes time. Before I let you go, I want to make sure I ask you about military sexual assault. You were convinced that you could get this. Are you convinced that it stays in this defense bill?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: So we have our military justice reform that removes all serious crimes from the chain of command and gives the decision whether or not to prosecute those crimes to trained military prosecutors who are impartial and will deliver justice to survivors of sexual assault. and other serious crimes. Right now it is in the Senate bill. The only way it won’t become law is for four men, behind closed doors, to take him out to conference. And it would be a scandal because this bill is supported by 66 senators, –
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you worried that’s the case?
SEN. GILLIBRAND: – including Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, who will be on your show, Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders. How many bills in America are supported by these four people? Not a lot. And then on the House side, he is supported by 220 members of the House. This-
MARGARET BRENNAN: – Yeah.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: Democracy should not be avoided. This is something that should not be done behind closed doors in the middle of the night. He should be allowed to pass, and everyone should make sure their voices are heard on this issue. If we want justice for the military, justice for survivors of sexual assault, and justice for all women in the military. You need this reform.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, senator, thank you for coming.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: Thanks.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay.
SEN. GILLIBRAND: Thanks, MARGARET.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll come back in a minute.