FULL EPISODE: 12/20/20 Problem Solvers Caucus Chairs Rep. Gottheimer and Rep. Reed talk COVID relief

Problem Solvers Caucus Chairs Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Rep. Tom Reed
Problem Solvers Caucus Chairs Rep. Josh Gottheimer and Rep. Tom Reed
Published: Dec. 19, 2020 at 10:53 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Washington, D.C. – Greta Van Susteren jointly interviewed Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), co-chairmen of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, for Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren” airing Sunday, December 20, 2020. The program will also feature McClatchy White House correspondent Francesca Chambers and Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama.

The full transcript of Van Susteren’s interview with Rep. Gottheimer and Rep. Reed about their work on the Problem Solvers Caucus, efforts on COVID legislation, and the Russia cybersecurity hack is below.

Reed/Gottheimer Transcript

Greta Van Susteren

Congressmen, thank you very much for joining me.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Good to be with you, Greta.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Thanks for having us, Greta.

Greta Van Susteren

I want to start first with the Problem Solvers Caucus. There are so many caucuses on Capitol Hill, but naturally one with the name like Problem Solvers has caught my attention. So Congressman Reed, what is this?

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

So this is a group that’s equally divided between Republicans and Democrats, and I co-chair it on the Republican side with my good friend here, Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey, on the Democratic side. And what we did is four years ago, we said, you know, enough is enough. We’ve got to stop. We have to break this gridlock. We have to start working for the American people. And what this group is, is it’s an invite only caucus. Most caucuses on the Hill are kind of like they talk the talk, and it’s a group that gets together, and they’re really good in their mission. They just highlight the issues. They focus on issues. They raise awareness of issues.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

But what we did is a little bit different. We said, you know what? Let’s do a group that’s committed to each other. When we get to a consensus of 75%, we’ll vote as a block. And we’re 50 strong now, where we will vote as a block when we get to 75% consensus. We agree not to campaign against each other. We agree to not leak when we discuss these issues, and we have actually changed how DC operates. And we actually were so successful, we changed the rules of the House, which is really inside the weeds of DC. But now we have empowered members to be more rewarded for working together, and are guaranteed votes on the floor of the House. For example, when you get 290 co-sponsors on a bill, you would think that should fly to the House floor. We now guarantee that you’ll have an up or down vote on the floor if you do that type of bipartisan work. And so the Problem Solvers Caucus is committed about getting things done. We’re proud Republicans, proud Democrats, but we’re working together to get things done.

Greta Van Susteren

Okay. Congressman Gottheimer, he said that it’s by invitation only, but let’s say that I’m either a Republican or a Democrat. I’m a new member of Congress starting in January. If I find a date, someone across the aisle, can my date and me, can we make an application, and will you let us in?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, we have actually plenty of people who just got elected, who will be joining in January. Well, we talk to you, right? And we want to make sure that you’re committed to this idea. It’s not for everybody, of coming together every week, Democrats and Republicans. I mean, you know right now often you’re rewarded for screaming and yelling and tweeting nasty things, not for actually governing and working together and putting country ahead of party. And so it’s not for everybody. We spend time talking to you, and there are a lot of new Democrats and Republicans coming in. It’s always got to be one and one.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

But our ranks are growing, because the idea that we’ve actually got to focus on how we get things done again, instead of this same old game that keeps going on year after year, where one side just tries to disrupt the other side and looks at everything as a zero sum game, that’s got to change. And as you see right now, what we’ve been doing these last months, focused on the pandemic and how we can bring people together to get relief for our country, for our small businesses and our communities, this has been a great example of how the Problem Solvers Caucus works and adding to the many accomplishments that the group has had over these last years.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, does leadership like the Problem Solvers Caucus, because I imagine you might step on their toes a little bit on both sides of the aisle.

Well depending upon the week, I guess. I’ll tell you, these last weeks we’ve been working very closely on both sides with our leadership to help get this COVID package across the finish line, and working closely with them. Tom and I both have a perspective that it’s critically important that we keep our leaderships advised of what we’re working on and whenever we’re working on something, even if we don’t agree with them, and that’s okay. The bottom line is no surprises. And what we’re really interested in is getting things done. So as you know, these days there’s all different perspectives in a caucus, whether it’s the Democratic side or the Republican side. And so we’re trying to figure out a way where both sides can come to the table, and I think that’s going to be even more important in the coming months.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Reed, what has taken so long? I mean, before the election, there was talk about a new relief bill. And so many Americans were so concerned. I know your constituents were, as well as constituents across the country, and the deadlines were set by Congress, as to when all these benefits would expire. So why is it that it takes so long, knowing the deadline’s coming up and knowing the Americans need help?

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

That’s a great question, Greta. I share the frustration with the millions of Americans, and it shows you what’s the dysfunction in Washington, DC, and where the priorities. Like before the election, it was all about politics. It was all about, in my humble opinion, each side, well, who’s going to get the political advantage if we do a COVID relief bill now. And it was very frustrating to hear that, because we were like, do the right thing. We’re in an emergency. We’re in a COVID crisis that we’ve never dealt with before in the history of our country, but politics was winning the day.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

But now, after the election, the good news is, is this group, the Problem Solvers Caucus, came back together, stayed at it. Remember, we’re 50 members strong that we represent. We said to leadership, “Enough. We gave you one more opportunity. One more opportunity with a vote on the floor, saying, try to get it done before the election. We are demanding you get it done before the election, but you didn’t. And we’re going to give you a, this is it. We want a deal done before we go home for Christmas.”

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And now you see at least the commitment, where the four corners said, we’re not leaving until we get this done. We went with, now our Senate partners, and worked with the gang of eight. And now we made it a bicameral effort, which raised the stakes even higher. And I’ll tell you, this is why it’s getting done now, is because the American people demanded it. We as a group, in both the House and Senate, came together and said to our leadership, we understand, you’re going to write the final package. You’re going to be involved in the final negotiations, but if you can’t do it, we’ll show you. We did the lattice work. We did the foundation. Now let’s just get it done. And now this is where we’re at.

And the good news is, is we broke that gridlock. And they’re at the point where we’re doing the final inking of the deal.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, does leadership ever include the rest of the Congress in this decision making, or do they run this whole show?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, in that case, and Greta, I share your total frustration on what happened before the election. We had worked as a group starting late summer, our caucus, the 50 of us, on putting together a package that would try to get both sides of the leadership back to the table, knowing, as you just pointed out, that ultimately they have to agree to get it over the finish line.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

And so we got them back to the table. We put a proposal forward that frankly is very similar to what I hope will get passed imminently. And they finally started talking again, but nothing got done before the election. The challenge is, you have to basically put enough pressure on folks to let them know that, hey, this is unacceptable, that we get nothing done. It’s unacceptable right now to go home for Christmas with nothing for the American people.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

In New Jersey, we’ve lost one in 500 people here from COVID. 30% of small businesses have already gone out. More than 23% of restaurants have gone out of business. The numbers are spiking around the country. We know 300,000 people have lost their lives. You’re talking about a pandemic, and people are playing politics with it instead of actually getting things done. And we just have to let leadership know over and over again that you actually have to get something done, and playing games with it is not going to work.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And Greta...

Greta Van Susteren

You know, congressman ... Go ahead.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Because you’re touching on a bigger issue. And this is what the Problem Solvers Caucus is doing as a group, is we are saying to leadership, and this is where we, when we changed the rules of the House to reward bipartisan work with that 290 co-sponsorship threshold that we talked about, that rewired the U.S. House of Representatives, and it encouraged it, but it took power away from the leadership. And we’re hearing from members, both in the Senate and in the House, where we’re saying, what was started 30 years ago under Newt Gingrich and then Nancy Pelosi, with all due respect, in her first tenure, started concentrating all the power into the leadership offices in both the House and Senate.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Members are now saying, you know what, we’ve gone too far. You have to let members be members. You have to let the committees do their work. You have to let this stuff see the light of day, have open debate. And we’re the leading edge in the Problem Solvers Caucus of being part of the effort to do just that. And so hopefully we can continue on this success.

Greta Van Susteren

Well, it must be enormously frustrating, because here you’ve got members of a caucus, and other members who aren’t in your caucus and really want to get things done and they really want to accomplish [things], but you’re almost held hostage by leadership who’s got its eyes sort of on politics, and frankly, leadership or people who’ve been there a long time are likely to get reelected. And you’re sort of caught between trying to explain to your constituents why things can’t get done, and you’ve got to try to move leadership at the same time. Congressman Gottheimer, you want to take a shot at that?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Yeah, let me add to that, because I think you’re on a very important point, that I believe in the next Congress, in just a couple of weeks away, things are going to change for two reasons. One, in the House of Representatives, you’re looking at a majority of four to five seats of Democratic majority. So that is a narrow, narrow majority, as slim as it’s been back to the forties. In the Senate, regardless of which way it goes in Georgia, and we’ll see obviously in the coming weeks, what will happen there, you’re going to have a very narrow majority.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

So either the president-elect is going to be dealing with a Republican Senate or a Democratic Senate that’s narrow, and of course a very narrow Democratic house. To get anything done, we’re going to all have to sit down and work together from the beginning. Otherwise, the president-elect won’t get his agenda done. So we’re going to be focused, obviously as the Problem Solvers Caucus, and not just in the House, we work very closely with a bipartisan group in the Senate. That’s what we’ve been doing on this package on COVID relief. We’re going to work together and say, we’re focused on getting something done. And if you want to get something done, let’s start together from the beginning, working together in a bipartisan way and a bicameral way, and let’s move legislation the way it should be done, talking to one another, building that trust, instead of just assuming that only one side can win every single time.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Reed, what was the big hangup with Republican party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was talking about liability protection, liability shield. I’m a lawyer, and so I’ve dealt with liability issues over my previous career, but it was such a hangup for so long, yet who’s even got money to hire a lawyer to sue? And if you do sue someone, nobody at this point, certainly restaurant owners, don’t even have the money to pay any judgments. So why was that such a hangup?

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Well, I’ll tell you, because liability reform is going to be a problem that we’re going to have to deal with, because think about it this way, Greta, think about what we dealt with with business interruption loss during the height of the pandemic. Liability insurance carriers and the business interruption loss carriers disclaim coverage, because this is a pandemic. This is a natural disaster. So liability insurance carriers are going to do the exact same thing as these lawsuits come in. So when you think that you’re going to have defense coverage, remember, liability insurance has defense and indemnification, as you know, as a lawyer. That means they hire you an attorney and they also pay those judgments, those claims that are successfully adjudicated against you.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And so what’s going to happen is you’re going to get that notice letter, and you’re a small business restaurant owner, and you’re struggling. You’re not even going to have a defense attorney provided to you at no cost, because you think the liability insurance coverage is going to be there. That is going to be the start of this crisis. And then on top of that, if you don’t have the coverage in place when that judgment is rendered against you, now you’re going to have this huge liability on your books that you’re going to have to deal with.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

So we were working in this space, and we moved the ball in the Problem Solvers Caucus, and in the gang of eight bipartisan Senate group we’re working with, we at least got the conversation started and said, look, we’ll go with state and local, $160 billion worth of aid. And we actually got some conversations started on what does liability reform look like? Are we talking a gross negligence standard? Are we talking about this being dealt with, for those claims arising from the pandemic being taken care of at the federal level with a federal standard? And we actually got some actually good concrete black and white proposals starting to be exchanged, so that when we resolve this issue, you can then compromise and you can have a discussion, rather than in the abstract, you’re negotiating from a black and white position back and forth. So we made huge headway on this issue. We just couldn’t get there at the end of the day.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, why did Speaker Pelosi go from two trillion before the election down to now a more targeted bill? Was it about politics? That was why? I mean, it’s a big switch. I mean, I’m glad we’re getting targeted relief, because we can always get relief in the new Congress, but why the big switch?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, you just pointed it out. This is a short term emergency relief package to deal with a pandemic, to get us through some of these toughest months that we’re facing right now, as we get to a vaccine, with continuing to face a spike across the country.

Greta Van Susteren

But a big switch from October till now. I mean, the Republicans always wanted a targeted bill and she said no, two trillion, leading right up to the election, or about two trillion. And now we essentially are getting more targeted.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Right, so targeted to get into the next administration. And obviously we’re going to have to do more in the new administration. That’s what this was focused on. And listen, going back to what you said earlier, would I have liked to have seen the larger package get done before the election? Certainly, and Tom and I worked very hard on that, along with the Problem Solvers Caucus and members from both sides of the aisle, but at the end, both sides didn’t want to get the deal done and it didn’t happen. Now you’re looking at a different moment. So now it’s the end of an administration, going into a new one. This is what the appetite was that we could get. And the bottom line is, we’re obviously, depending upon where we are as a country, going to have to fight for more in the new administration. I think that’s what everyone’s plan is going to be.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, in light of the fact that the nation is so divided politically, we’re going to get a new Congress in January, we’re going to get a new administration, as well. Do you see just the shoe on the other foot? Is it still going to be this tough fight and like pulling teeth, or are people talking about economic concerns and how to move forward in January? Is there any sort of planning?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, you’re always going to have a tough fight these days with politics, right? It’s always the way it is. The question that I talked about before is can we bring together the narrow differences and sit together early? We’re going to have to do it differently if we’re going to get things done. And I think we’re hearing from Democrats and Republicans how eager they are to actually get an agenda, because they’re sick and tired of the fighting and the yelling. The real question, will the appetite be there from certain people on both sides of the aisle? Will they try to block things regardless? Will they insist on getting their way or the highway, versus incremental progress in our country? I’m hoping they pick the incremental progress. I know that’s where we’ll be.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And the-

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, do you intend to vote for Speaker Pelosi as speaker?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Right now, that’s my intention.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman, I interrupted you. Congressman Reed.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Yeah. I was going to say, and the work we’re doing on that bigger package, already exchanging those... sets as well, to deal with where we’re going to be at the first quarter here, to deal with what is needed for the country on like, for example, liability. Remember, liability reform doesn’t just impact small businesses. It impacts at colleges, it impacts hospitals. This isn’t about big corporate America. This is about mom and pop shops, but it’s also about colleges that are already being sued, as we speak. And so the issues, we have already set the framework and some of the lattice work to at least get the conversation in a position where you can actually have a substantive conversation to start negotiating to get this stuff resolved.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Reed, turning to another question, Secretary of State Pompeo says the hacking were the Russians. Senator Coons says that it describes it as an act of war, that Russians have hacked into so many government agencies. Why are we so vulnerable, and what do you think we should do moving forward?

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

I will tell you, this has been something that’s been on our radar for years. This is one of those scenarios that keeps us up at night, as members of Congress who are concerned about our national security interests. Cyber security threats are real. And they’re real, they’re not just in the abstract. They’re not just physical acts of war. Potentially you’re looking at a cyber attack being equivalent to an act of war, like Chris Coons has indicated, and that’s how we have to treat these actions.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And I will tell you, this threat, as we see more and more and get debriefed more and more on the extent of this cyber attack, and it appears it is really traceable to Russia, is a major issue. And we are going into a level in cybersecurity where people need to realize this is a vulnerability. And because we are so intertwined as a world now in the cyberspace, we need to make sure that we have the resources and we in America protect our cybersecurity interests, just like we would protect our national physical interest at our nation’s borders.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Reed, I’m just learning about this now, with most of the people, as it’s coming out in the press. Has our government been aware that this has been going on for some time? Has Congress been aware of that, if you know, and why hasn’t something been done before it sort of hits the press?

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Well, I will tell you, on cybersecurity, this threat itself, I won’t get into the specifics of this threat, this attack itself, but cybersecurity attacks, you need to understand the magnitude of these attacks. There are somewhere upward of millions of attacks a day, where we are being pinged from adverse interest, where they’re trying to penetrate our national security interest in the cyber world each and every day. And so this threat is constant. It is coming from multiple vectors, both nation states, both terroristic states, both from business threats that come in, and I’ll just tell you, it is a world that if people saw what these guys are doing to protect us, to keep us safe, it is amazing, the men and women who have kept us safe to date.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And I’ll just tell you, we’re entering a phase where this is going to get out public and people are going to be concerned. And I thank God that we have the men and women protecting us in the cyber world that we’ve had today.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, can you weigh in on this, as well? And tell me, have we been harmed? Is this just poking around and spying on us, or has there been some harm? And what should we do about this?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, like Tom, I’m incredibly concerned about the threats this has caused and the harm it’s caused, as you point out, to our nation. And these are not new, as you know. And so without going into the specifics of this particular attack, I’ll just tell you that, as Tom said, these have been going on for years. It is a major threat. We have to treat them as acts of attack on our country. And we cannot just slough them off and say, this is not something we have to deal with. We must continue to deal with them. I will tell you that our government, our national security apparatus, has been focused on this for a long time, recognizing the threat to our country, but we’re going to have to step this up, and not just in what we’re doing on the backend, but in our public response, because these are attacks on our country, and we have to treat them as such.

Greta Van Susteren

Well, what would you recommend, Congressman Gottheimer, that we do? I mean, we’ve got outrage, and now the world hears our outrage. We don’t, at least the American people don’t know the measure of harm, if there is any harm so far, but apparently it’s been going on. Apparently people were worried about it happening again. So maybe now might be a good time to try to come up with a resolution. What should we do about this?

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, like any attack on our country, there’s different ways that we respond. There’s diplomatic channels that I’m sure we’re using. There’s certainly force that we can use, when appropriate. So I think all those channels and options have to be open. And we don’t share all of the intelligence, because we want to protect our country and protect our national security apparatus, which is the right way to handle it. Obviously, we have to inform the country of what they need to understand, in terms of the men and women who need to understand what’s going on in our country and what the men and women of our military are doing to handle it, and of course our national security teams are doing.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

But in the end, if it’s an attack and it affects our security, we’re going to have to respond in kind. And I leave that up to the commander-in-chief, how we handle that from that side, but with advice from Congress, and the bottom line is, we as a Congress must be very clear, and that’s something that I’ve done publicly, be very clear that cyber attacks are attacks. We’ve got to respond tough and clear and proportionally to the attacks.

Greta Van Susteren

All right, let me turn once back to the relief bill, and go to you, Congressman Reed. What provisions of the bill do you like the most? What’s the most important?

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

From my perspective, I was so strongly advocating for the Paycheck Protection Program. Just take our restaurants, for example, and our small businesses. They’re pretty much down to the end of the lifeline, and so making sure that they had access to that second round and targeted relief, and we have the revenue loss provisions in there, as well as the employee limitations, to make sure that that targeted relief goes to those small businesses in particular.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

And then on top of that, making sure that we had the vaccine distribution dollars there, because that’s the ultimate solution to this issue of COVID-19, to put it in the history books. And so making sure that that vaccine gets out there and gets out there as soon as possible, so we get that herd immunity date, which is projected in September right now. My goal is to do whatever I can to move that as quick as possible to earlier in 2021, because that is what’s going to get us really returning back to normal.

Greta Van Susteren

Congressman Gottheimer, your favorite parts of it? And it may be the same.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Well, as Tom said, I mean, getting the vaccine out is goal number one, but also helping people who are on food lines for the very first time in their lives, making sure they’re not hungry over Christmas, and making sure our small businesses that are in so much trouble can survive. There are so many people who are hurting right now, whether you’re talking about those who are on unemployment, those who are hungry. There’s so many places where we’ve got to help and step up and make sure they get the relief they need. That’s what this package does. It’s why we worked so hard to get it done.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

And now we’ve got to get it across the finish line. The idea that you have so many people in our country right now hurting is something that I know pains me, and Tom, and we’ve just, that’s why we cannot, cannot, cannot leave Washington until this is done.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

We truly-

Greta Van Susteren

Well, thank you both. Go ahead.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY)

Yeah, we truly care about these people. Both Josh and I share a commitment. We’re here to help people, and we have different ideas of how to get there at the end of the day. But most of the time, we can find common ground, and that’s what I believe true elected officials should be focused on.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Agree.

---

About Greta Van Susteren:

Greta Van Susteren is the Chief Political Analyst for Gray Media and host of Full Court Press. Ms. Van Susteren is a veteran of Fox News Channel, MSNBC, and CNN. Her prime-time Fox News Channel Show, “On the Record,” was number 1 in its time slot for 14 1⁄2 years. Before joining Fox News, she hosted CNN’s prime-time news and analysis program, “The Point with Greta Van Susteren,” and co-hosted the network’s daily legal analysis show, “Burden of Proof.” Her legal analysis for CNN’s coverage of Election 2000 earned her the American Bar Association’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Journalism. She continues to host the weekly 30-minute program “Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren” on Voice of America, which broadcasts exclusively outside of the United States.

About “Full Court Press” and Gray Television:

“Full Court Press” is a Sunday political show broadcast on all Gray Television markets and syndicated in leading cities including New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles covering 80% of the country. Gray Television currently owns and/or operates television stations and leading digital properties in 94 television markets, including the number-one-rated television station in 68 markets and the first or second highest-rated television station in 87 markets. Gray’s television stations cover approximately 24 percent of US television households and broadcast approximately 400 separate programming streams, including nearly 150 affiliates of the CBS/NBC/ABC/FOX networks. Gray Television also owns video program production, marketing, and digital businesses including Raycom Sports, Tupelo-Raycom, and RTM Studios, the producer of PowerNation programs and content. For further information, please visit www.gray.tv.

For media inquiries please contact:

Virginia Coyne

fullcourtpressnews@gmail.com

240-274-9365

Lisa Allen, Executive Producer “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”

lisa.allen@gray.tv

202-713-6300

Copyright 2020 Full Court Press. All rights reserved.