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tv   Firing Line With Margaret Hoover  PBS  April 18, 2021 5:00pm-5:31pm PDT

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a senator and staunch me too advocate, this week on "firing line." >> i have never backed down from a fight, and i am not about to start now. >> she ran for president in 2020. kirsten gillibrand holds the new york senate seat once filled by her political idol, hillary clinton. she has been called the me too senator for speaking out against sexual assault in the military and holding colleagues accountable for allegations. >> it's not easy, it's not s expe expedient, it's not politically helpful, it's difficult. but i value women. >> gillibrand remains focused on her work for veterans and american families. with democrats in control of
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congress and questions of whether the me too movement has stalled. what does senator kirsten gillibrand say now? "firing line" with margaret hoover is made possible by the margaret and daniel lobe foundation, robert greneri, charles r. schwab, the david tepper charitable foundation, inc., the fair weather foundation. craig newmark philanthropies, and by corporate funding is provided by stevens, inc. senator kirsten gillibrand, welcome to "firing line." >> thank you. >> senator, let's start with president biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure package. most americans think of roads and bridges when they hear the world "infrastructure." you're a mother of two teen sons and you recently tweeted paid leave is infrastructure, child care is infrastructure,
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caregiving is infrastructure. explain. >> well, the way i see infrastructure is it's what's necessary to get the economy moving. and we traditionally look at things like roads and bridges and sewer systems. now we look at things like high-speed rail or a better electric grid or rural broadband. that's in my mind the hard infrastructure but there's a lot of soft infrastructure also necessary. schools, affordable day care, paid leave. this is theare economy. if the care economy is not functioning, everything else falls apart. you can't go to work if your child is not in school. you can't go to work if you don't have affordable day care. you can't earn a living when if there's an emergency you have to leave your company. that's why we need paid leave. these are things we should be talking about as part of frastructure because when they're not there, everything
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else falls apart. >> president biden didn't include paid leave in the first part of his proposal. do you expect it in the second part? >> yes, i do. i believe that joe biden believes that paid leave, affordable day care, universal pre-k are part of the infrastructure of our economy. lots of kids are still remote learning, that means a parent needs to be home with them. disproportionately it's been women in households who have taken the step back and stayed home. it's resulted in i believe 2.5 million women losing their jobs because of covid. it's a real problem. so we have to push back against that and understand that the care economy is very much a part of building back better and creating real infrastructure families can count on. >> your proposal for paid leave includes a plan to pay for it by using a payroll tax. >> mm-hmm. >> what made you want to finance paid family leave with a tax on workers and their employers?
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>> so it's more of an earned benefit. i would not look at it as a tax. this is like having a savings account where you put a little money in every month for yourself. it's coming right back to you so it's not really a tax. second, it's a small amount of money. it's $2 a week on average. and what we've heard fro states that have already put paid leave in place, it's widely popular with the business community. look at california. they have had paid leave for over ten years. and when they polled the businesses there, 99% said it had a positive impact on morale and rention. 90% said it had no negative impact on the bottom line or a positive impact on their bottom line. so this works for business too. >> there's some who argue that a payroll tax is a regressive tax and places a larger burden on low wage workers. how do you respond to that? >> i think it's something that is normally true, but this is a very small amount of money.
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and for any worker to know that for $2 a week, the cost of a cup of coffee, they can have leave when they need it, i think that's a trade-off workers are willing to make. >> senator rubio had a bill that proposed paid family leave be funded by drawing early on social security benefits. what is your appetite for compromise when it comes to how to fund the program? >> i'm very open to compromise on how to fund the program. i think that particular idea, though, really harms working women because they are often going to be the ones who will take paid leave but they're also the ones who are likely to live longer and so they're just drawing down on their social security when they're going to need it in their late 60s and 70s. so i don't love it as a solution, but i was grateful that at least senator rubio and senator joni ernst was also interested in using the infrastructure of an earned benefit. that makes a difference. and so i think there's common ground somewhere in there.
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>> senate majority leader chuck schumer says that he'll consider using reconciliation, which would require the support of all 50 democrats and i guess my question for you is will president biden have real credibility as a bipartisan leader if his first two major pieces of legislation are passed through without a republican vote? >> i do. unfortunately what we've seen from mitch mcconnell is he plays politics at all times. he's really insisted on the republican party staying lock-step and that's not for the good of the country. so if you ask the country do they support this first covid relief bill, overwhelmingly yes, including republicans. so i think from a voters' perspective, they see solving the covid crisis, getting the economy up and running the most bipartisan agenda you could have. >> is that a little bit redefining what bipartisanship means, though? >> it is. and i think that's fair. but in this moment when things have become so hyperpartisan, i still think it's legitimate.
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and our job and the reason why we were elected and given the majority in the house and given the presidency was because the agenda that joe biden promised to get done. so i think the american people need us to this. if mitch mcconnell and the republicans don't want to help, that's fine. i mean it's their choice. they have put politics over people, it's not surprising, and i think it's a mistake. >> you've said you would be willing to eliminate the filibuster to pass certain pieces of legislation. but you've also cautioned about the risks, saying, quote, when we are in the minority, the issues we care about most will be harmed. so if you get rid of it now, what does the legislative process potentially look like in 2022 if republicans were to take back the senate? >> well, the reality is, is that a lot of the things i do care about will be deeply at risk. women's rights, lgbtq equality, clean air, clean water. if you just look at what president trump accomplished in hs first two years as president
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through executive order, that is the agenda that we should be concerned about coming from mitch mcconnell and the republican majority. they banned transgender troop members. they created a muslim ban. they created the most anti-environmental regulations ever. and so my fear would be tha that agenda would somehow materialize in the u.s. senate. if they only have 51 votes required to pass those kinds of legislation, we'd be in trouble. >> is that an argument against scrapping the filibuster. >> it is. it is. it's the one that you have to recognize is there, that there are grave risks. but again, voters elected us to get things done. because of the all-out assault on voting rights and our mocracy by republican governors and legislatures around the country, i think we have to protect voting rights as just protecting our democracy. and if it means we will be
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harmed in the future, we'll just have to fight that much harder in the future to keep a majority and if we lose it to win it back and to convince voters that our agenda is the right agenda. so that's the key. it's all about telling people what you believe, why you believe it, why it's important and earning their support thugh the ballot box. but you can't earn their support in the ballot box if there's no functioning ballot box. that's why in this moment in time issues like the assault on our democracy are worth taking this enormous risk of eliminating the filibuster. all i'd like to say last on this is mitch mcconnell ruined the filibuster by eliminating it for justices. the fact that you can become the highest judge in the land, a lifetime appointment, to the supreme court with only 51 votes, it's absurd. >> in fairness, senator, he would say, and republicans would say thathere had been a steady escalation over many years of each side taking the next step.
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that harry reid's step prior to mitch mcconnell's was eliminating the filibuster with respect to lower court judges. >> when faced with constant obstructionism when mitch mcconnell created, for any majority leader to say my job is to make sure this president is a one-term president, it was outrageous. i don't think harry reid even had a choice. >> since you brought up supreme court justices, justice stephen brey is 82 years old. he is the oldest justice on the court by a decade. with democrats' senate majority hanging in the balance, should justice breyer retire before the 2022 midterm elections in case republicans were to regain control of the senate? >> no. i think supreme court justices should stay as long as they like. they are appointed for their lifetimes, that is what we gave them. if justice breyer continues to want to serve and has every ability to serve, he should keep serving. i never thought that ruth bader
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ginsburg should step down either. she was one of the most brilliant jurists we ever had in the history of our country so i would not push anybody out. i think they should just retire when they think it's the right time to retire. >> since 2015 you've been working on legislation. bate is endless on the issue and so is gun violence. give us a reality check, senator, on where gun reform is in congress. >> so i think it's possible to pass common sense gun reform on a bipartisan basis. when we last had a vote on my gun trafficking bill we had 58 votes, so we had strong bipartisan support for these reforms. we can build that again. the three things we should do is ban the assault rifles and the large magazines that are designed for military use. they're designed for war. and i don't think people, while they might enjoy using weapons of war as a gun enthusiast, i think that's a sacrifice they should make for the good of the country, because unfortunately too many criminals and mentally
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ill individuals are acquiring these weapons far too easily. they don't have the training and they kill large numbers of people quickly. i think that's a sacrifice our gun enthusiast brothers and sisters should make. second, i think we should have universal background checks because there's still many people getting access to weapons who shouldn't have them. also make sure people on the terrorist watch list don't get weapons they shouldn't have. so these are the things that i think are common sense. and then last, have a federal crime against gun trafficking. in new york city and places like chicago, the vast majority of gun deaths are caused by guns that are trafficked into those cities. those guns have to get off our streets. it's why black and brown children in communities of color are killed daily. so you've got to do all three. they all matter. i'm going to keep pushing on my issue. >> as a house member in 2007 serving an upstate district in new york with lots of republicans and lots of hunters,
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you had an "a" rating from the nra. you talked how your experience as a senator with victims of gun violence has led to a dramatic personal shift in your views about the issues. more recently, you have earned condemnation from the nra. having been on both sides, what prevents bipartisan progress? >> just a lack of understanding of what other people's lives are like. i would challenge anyone from a rural state to spend a minute in the living room of a family who lost a loved one, a child, because of random gun violence. a lot of times rural states like wyoming or mtana can't imagine what gun violence looks like because they just don't experience it in the same level they do in chicago. and so people just need to walk a day in someone else's shoes. and if they would do that, they would see how their obstruction is harming people and keeping people unsafe. >> you have spent years
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advocating for sexual assault victims in the armed forces and introduced the military justice improvement act back in 2013. it would change the way sexual assault accusations in the u.s. military are handled, and the bill has bipartisan support from across the aisle. republican senator grassley from iowa and ted cruz from texas support the bill as well. but opponents argue that changes to prosecutorial decision-making my replacing the commander with a lawyer would undermine the military in the process. can you explain the criticism and w you have gotten pushback from the pentagon. >> well, the pentagon doesn't like to change the statute quo. they didn't want to integrate women into the military. they didn't want to integrate blacks into the military. they didn't want to repeal don't ask, don't tell. every time those issues came up, you're going to undermine discipline, you're going to undermine command control.
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i know this is not going to happen when we make this change because our allies have already done it. israel, uk, canada, australia, netherlands, germany, they have all taken it out of the chain of command and told us by letter and by testimony that it was no diminution in demand control, no diminution in good order and discipline. in fact they barely even noticed. despite the reaction of the dod, this is a very light touch. it's literally one change. after the military police investigate a claim of sexual assault, rape, sexual violence, they have a case file and a recommendation. instead of sending that case file to the commander's general counsel, they'll sending it to the prosecutor. the lens of an independent, trained military prosecutor i believe will choose the right cases to move forward and more cases to move forward than the current structure. for a lot of women, when they report sexual harassment, their harasser is their dirt commander. so if you're looking at the chain of command and saying his
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boss or his boss's boss, they're not going to believe me, they are going to believe the command and the command doesn't want me here anyway so i won't get juice. the perception is the chain of command fails them. they have said in survey after survey they would report more ofn and believe justice is possible if this decision is made outside the chain of command. that's why this solution is simplean elegant solution and a light touch. so i don't think the dod should be fighting so hard over this because they have been saying we've got this, ma'am, for the last eight years and they do not have it. >> you're also known nationally, senator, for being a leader in the me too movement. right now you and senator schumer are joined by more than 70 elected democrats in new york that have called for andrew cuomo, the governor, to resign in light of multiple accusations of sexual harassment. many viewers of the program may not know that you worked for the
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governor directly when he was the secretary of housing and urban development. what did you think of his character and how he treated women? >> so i've been very clear about my view on this. there's been multiple allegations now against the governor, credible allegations. the behavior that's described in those allegations are entirely inappropriate. and because he has lost the support of his governing partners, nearly all of them, i think it's very difficult for him to actually govern during covid epidemic and during the recovery. based on those reasons, i have suggested he should resign, that is my opinion. but i do not want to discuss what it was like working for him. >> some have observed that the me too movement has faded when it comes to politics. i wonder what you think about that if andrew cuomo is -- you know, may very well survive
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these credible allegations. >> well, that's why there's a process. that's why the attorney general is going to do a thorough investigation so that at least we know the facts and it's been a fair, thorough and professional process. i think one of the problems is with president trump during this era of president trump, he had more than a dozen accusers of sexual assault and there never was a process. there was never accountability, there was n transparency, he wouldn't resign. there was no opportunity for anything to happen. and i think that's really damaging. i think that left a lot of certainly the women who accused him and the women around him without recourse. i think that's deeply, deeply problematic. it's also one of the reasons why i lead on trying to change the nondisclosure agreements that women have to sign when they get employed at many businesses. so when you sign this automatic
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nondisclosure agreement, you may well be able to accuse your perpetrator. you may even get a settlement or something measure of justice. but if you are then prohibited from speaking out, it doesn't change the culture. it's also why i triedo change the rules here in the senate. we had decades of cases where people came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and racism and other allegations against members of congress, and so we passed a bill a couple of years ago to change the entire landsce of how sexual harassment cases are dealt with here in congress. >> i'd like to get your reaction to this idea that perhaps the me too movement has faded because democrats took it more ser seriously. but when it began to hurt democrats politically, its intensity faded. >> well, there's enormous backlash. and so the truth is not everybody in america wants to solve this problem. for many people in america
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they'd like it just to go away. for many people in america they just don't see it as a big deal. there's just a lot of people, older generations in particular, who often are just inured to this kind of thing because they endured so much more. if you look at what happened during the mad men era and how women were treated in the workplace during the last five decades, they were treated really poorly. we just don't have unanimity so when someone does come out to say i believe these survivors. i think the conduct they allege was abusive and inappropriate, then that person will be attacked. and it's pretty ruthless. but it doesn't mean that we shouldn't stand up for survivors. it's just painful and difficult, but you should still in at least my opinion try to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault and other violent crimes from the workplace and from society. i work on that in all aspects of
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my job, whether it's in the military, here in congress, on a college campus or in the workplace. >> you said, quote, there is literally no reward for standing up to powerful men who are good at their day job and i've been doing it for a long time. >> yes, and that is true. there is no reward. >> on the original firing line, which was hosted by william f. buckley jr. for 33 years, he hosted james buckley, a senator from new york. in 1971 he was talking about the role of new york in the conte of the senate. take a listen to what he said. >> is it generally assumed in the senate that if you're a senato from, say, new york or california i guess would be the only other state where this would follow, that you wield a special clout in the amount of federal money spent in your home state and especially in the case of new york in light of the fact
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that it is the acknowledged center -- that it is the communications capital of the world? >> there is some of that undoubtedly. i think there's more public interest. by public i don't mean the public just in your own state, i think it's more national interest in a senator from a very large state than there would be one from a smaller one. >> the nation is interested in new york. new york was early ground zero for america's covid crisis. more than 50,000 new yorkers have now died. national clout and national - interest in new york, what's your take on how new york will come back from the pandemic? >> well, we are resilient and we get a lot thrown at us and we still pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and get back to work. i saw that resilience during superstorm sandy where whole neighborhoods were destroyed by flooding, by fire, and those communities have been rebuilding. they are getting stronger. i saw it after 9/11 when our
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city was the center of the worst terrorist attack in our country, and the resilience that new yorkers showed to help one another. and we were ground zero for covid. our first responders were fearless. our hospital workers, our health care workers, our pharmacy workers, our grocery store workers never give up. so new york i think does have clout because we are often on the forefront of reform, of making our country better and stronger. so yes, i think new york will continue to lead. we'll lead the country and lead the world. >> senator, you've talked about your faith, particularly your participation in a weekly prayer breakfast in the senate. as a way of finding common ground with your republican colleagues. which of your pieces of legislation have come directly out of those private and, you know, deeply spiritual sharings with your colleagues?
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>> well, pretty much all of them, i think, because what happens during prayer breakfast, and i also do two bible studies as well, is you get to know these senators. you get to know who they are, about their families, what took them here, how they got here, why they care about public service, and it's such an intimate conversation that you just -- you can form bonds, you can form friendships, and you immediately see common ground. and so because i've gotten to know so many republican senators in prayer breakfast and these bible studies, i wk with them all the time. they trust me now. they know who i am. they don't see me as, oh, she's just a progressiveenator from new york, we can't possibly have anything in common. we sit down for an hour or two every week and get to know each other so there's a tru that builds. so as a consequence i have republican leads on pretty much all of my legislation and i will get it for the few pieces i don't have, i will earn that
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support. so i think it's -- i think it's important who i am, it's important to allowing me to be an effective advocate for new york. but it also -- it just makes my job so much more bearable. i can't tell you how many people say how can you stand it, how can you stand working with so and so and so and so and i say things like well, actually i had so and so over to my house and i met his wife and she's love low and their kids are beautiful. so you get a whole new perspective on your republican colleagues. while you mayot agree on most policy, usually creates trust and friendship so when there is commonality you canork together and that's true with pretty much most of my republican colleagues. >> that's wonderful insight. senator kirsten gillibrand, thank yofor joining me on "firing line." >> thank you, margaret. >> "firing line" with margaret hoover is made possible in par
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by the margaret and daniel lobe foundation, robert greneri, charles r. schwab, the david tepper charitable foundation, inc., the fair weather foundation, craig newmark philanthropies, and by -- corporate funding is provided by stevens, inc. is your family ready for an emergency?
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captioning sponsored by wnet >> sreenivasan: on this edition for sunday, april 18: recent shootings re-ignite gun and police reform debates. ♪ ♪ ♪ singer, songwriter and musician sam amidon: putting a new twist on traditional folk songs. and japanese artist yayoi kusa's “cosmic nature” exhibit. next on “pbs newshour weekend.” >> pbs newshour weekend is made possible by: sue and edgar wachenheim iii. the anderson family fund. bernard and denise schwartz. the cheryl and philip milstein family. barbara hope zuckerberg.


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