Coons: Racist tweets “an intentional strategy” to distract from Trump failures on health care, drug prices, more. “There are bipartisan bills that have come over from the House that would affect average, middle class, working Americans. And instead we're going to spend days fighting over the President's racist tweets. This tells you his strategy for 2020 right up front. ... Bills … have come over from the House and have seen no action in the Senate. The Senate has become Mitch McConnell's legislative graveyard.”
Sen. Chris Coons joined CNN New Day to discuss the President’s efforts to distract from his attacks on the Affordable Care Act and Republicans’ ongoing effort to block bipartisan bills in the Senate.
Were you surprised that there were only four Republicans who joined with the Democrats [to condemn President Trump’s racist comments]?
Coons: Sadly, no. There should be more Republicans who work with us across the aisle to condemn racist comments like these on Twitter by the President. But the reason he’s unfazed by it is this is an intentional strategy on the part of the President. Let me remind you what we were talking about last Thursday, when we were last in session in the Senate, was a lawsuit, Texas v. US, where the President, the Department of Justice, and more than a dozen Republican attorneys general were trying to kill what’s left of the Affordable Care Act. They were trying in a federal court to eliminate pre-existing condition protection for 130 million Americans. What have we talked about non-stop for the last 48 hours? The President’s racist tweets going after four House freshmen. Although they are despicable and inappropriate...
Was it a mistake to talk about those things?
Coons: It is an intentional strategy by the President to change the subject. We should be talking briefly, in a focused way about how inappropriate and unacceptable these tweets are, about how they do not reflect well on the United States overseas or at home, and how they send destructive messages here within our country. Those of us who are people of faith, who care about our relations with each other, and care about how we speak about each other should be able to find a better way forward and we should, on a bipartisan basis, be condemning these comments.
Did the House vote took up too much oxygen? That they shouldn’t have dedicated all of that time to this?
Coons: How much time are you spending today, this morning, talking about bipartisan bills that have come over from the House to reduce prescription drug prices, to secure protections for pre-existing health conditions, or to protect Americans from folks who shouldn’t have access to guns by strengthening our background check system?
Those are bills that have come over from the House and have seen no action in the Senate. The Senate has become Mitch McConnell’s legislative graveyard.
There are great proposals from Democrats for how to improve our health care. There are bipartisan bills that have come over from the House that would affect average, middle class, working Americans. And instead we’re going to spend days fighting over the President’s racist tweets. This tells you his strategy for 2020 right up front.
Do you think the so-called “squad” in the House and their tension with Nancy Pelosi is counterproductive to what Democrats want to do?
Coons: Here’s what I think is productive. Pointing out to undecided voters that Democrats who control the House under Speaker Pelosi’s leadership have been able to take up and pass bipartisan bills that would address things that concern them, whether it’s securing our border and providing better conditions and health care for those who are fleeing violence in Central America and coming to this country, or whether it’s protecting pre-existing health care conditions and securing the advances of the Affordable Care Act, or whether it’s strengthening existing gun laws in terms of background checks to make our country safer.
That’s what the average American who really isn’t following closely the back and forth within the Democratic caucus or between them and the President, they want to know: “In the next year, if the Democrats control the White House, how would things be different for me?”
We know how things are going to be if President Trump is reelected. We are going to spend more and more of our time over attacks like this that are designed to fire up and fuel his own base of folks who frankly, as you mentioned, at times are motivated by resentment over what they feel is their loss of place or of centrality of leadership in our society.
And I think it’s important that we, as Democrats, show what we are trying to get done in the Congress that would actually make a difference in people’s lives.
You’re saying that the next time the President tweets something inflammatory or outrageous, which may happen today, Nancy…
Coons: It will happen today. It will happen tomorrow. It will happen the next day. We know this.
I mean, if history is any indication, yes. And you’re saying that, when that happens, the Squad and Nancy Pelosi and your fellow Democrats should ignore it?
Coons: No, I’m saying we need to briefly, and in a focused way, denounce things that are completely inappropriate, so that it’s clear to our children, our families, our country where our values are.
But we need to spend as much if not more time saying, if you give us the opportunity to lead in the Senate, these are the kinds of bills we would move forward.
Let me remind you, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in the Trump administration cites as an example on their website of the kind of language, if used in the workplace against an American, a person of color, something that would be not just offensive or inappropriate, but potentially illegal, saying something like, “Go back where you came from.”
The President’s tweets have to be called out. It has to be clear. He is not a role model for our behavior towards each other. But we have to spend as much if not more time making the argument: Here’s what we are passing in the House, here’s what we would pass in the Senate if Mitch McConnell were not blocking every bipartisan bill, and here’s what we would do if we had the opportunity