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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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MATTHEWS: We`re back.

That was President Obama this afternoon in Staten Island, New York, after touring damage from Sandy. In addition to meeting with affected families and relief workers, he also announced HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan to lead the disaster recovery board, to oversee rebuilding efforts in the region. They`re going to be a lot of work up there.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York was there this afternoon with the president. We saw him in the picture.

Senator Schumer, you know, the more you read about it, "The New York Times" has been very good at covering this and the other papers up there --
the sense that this isn`t just a bad week or two or a bad month.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Oh, no.

MATTHEWS: This destruction of homes without any home left. The homes that are lost, the homes have been destroyed, their electrical systems destroyed. Talk about it if you can -- the public`s watching, the whole country.

SCHUMER: Yes. This is --

MATTHEWS: How bad is it? It`s like Katrina.

SCHUMER: It is awful. It`s close to Katrina.

You know, the first day after the stormy, I flew in a helicopter with the governor and mayor, and I saw how widespread it was, and in the last two weeks, I`ve been going in all the communities. You see how deep it is. And it`s a combination.

There are probably more than 100,000 people who -- 100,000 homes that have been destroyed. That`s 300,000 people without homes. That`s the size
-- you know, that`s a middle-sized American city. We have lots of office buildings downtown that can`t work.

NYU Hospital, one of the leading hospitals in the country, all their machines were on the first floor in the basement, hundreds of millions of dollars of MRIs and AMTs and axial tomography.

The damage is so varied in so many different ways and so deep. I was up on the 16th -- I didn`t climb up that high, the 18th floor of a housing project. Three elderly women had been there for two weeks. They couldn`t get down. No electricity. No elevators.

And there they are. They don`t have water. They don`t have light. They don`t have heat. They don`t have plumbing. Volunteers were bringing them food and clothing. It`s just awful. It`s just awful.

MATTHEWS: Well, tell us about this. I`ve been trying to bring attention to some of the groups I`ve gotten to know in the last couple of weeks. But tell me about the federal government.

If you lose a house, if you have your electrical system destroyed, if everything around the house basically has to be rebuilt, can you get the money from the federal government?

SCHUMER: No.

MATTHEWS: Or is this going to have to be private insurance or with nothing, you get nothing?

SCHUMER: This is one of the problems. The most private insurance doesn`t have -- is not flood insurance.

MATTHEWS: It`s only wind.

SCHUMER: Some people have flood insurance, and some people don`t. And then FEMA will pay a maximum of $31,400. Well, you can have a bungalow, a little tiny home in New York, and $31,400 isn`t going to bring that back.

So, this is something we have to look at. They did after Katrina figure out a way to use CDBG money for this and it`s something we`re going to have to do. There are so many different things that have to be covered here.

The storm was so great, 14 feet higher than we`ve ever seen it. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel had 100 million gallons of water from one end to the other, totally full. It had to be pumped out. But in addition to that, we have -- we have so many places where all the barriers, the natural barriers are gone. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of people who live close to the water.

MATTHEWS: Tell me about this -- what are we going to get? You`re a powerful senator. You`ve been good at it. After 9/11, I remember you went up to W, President W, and I think I overheard you say we need $20 billion.

SCHUMER: That`s true. And he did it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: And, by the way, he stuck by it. I asked him privately in the room with Senator Clinton and the two Virginia senators. He said yes. Then we went outside.

He spoke. He didn`t announce it. So I was next to speak. And I said, and the president`s been extremely generous. He`s promised $20 billion for New York to rebuild.

MATTHEWS: How are you going to get it this time for the people of the boroughs especially? But I can`t believe the damage done in Manhattan itself. The guy that died in his car in the basement, he was a garage attendant. That`s a horrible story.

SCHUMER: Yes, it`s everywhere. It`s so widespread because we`re such a large area and it hit over such a large area. And I`m just seeing in New York, New Jersey has similar type damage.

How are we going to do it? It`s going to be harder because obviously there`s a Republican House that has not been as friendly to disaster relief. The disaster money for Irene was actually held up because these folks said for every dollar you spend on disaster, you`ve got to find a place to cut. That`s the way to make sure we don`t help in disaster.

MATTHEWS: Senator, I want to make a promise to you. You have a place here to make noise about this. Keep coming back to us about this.

SCHUMER: I will. Thanks, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Anyway, Senator Chuck Schumer.

By the way, I told you yesterday about St. Francis de Sales church of Belle Harbor section in Rockaway in Queens. They`ve set up a relief center. It`s doing a huge service, helping people get --

SCHUMER: You bet.

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