FULL INTERVIEW: Senator Josh Hawley talks testing, stimulus package, and China with KOMU

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COLUMBIA- Senator Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, was the focus of an announcement Thursday morning by Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who said he is teaming up with Hawley to work on a plan to help business recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with KOMU 8 News Thursday morning, Hawley said the proposal will incentivize business to rehire workers who were laid off in the pandemic. It would cover a percentage of wages for every worker currently on payroll through the end of the year.

Hawley said jobs need to be the number one priority for congress.

"People don’t want to be sidelined in the unemployment line. They want work," Hawley said. "Our economy will continue to hemorrhage unless Congress gets serious about ways to rehire workers and get Americans working again."

Hawley spoke with KOMU 8's Daniel Perreault in a wide-ranging--but short--conversation. They discussed his proposal for rehiring workers, the "HEROES Act" stimulus package proposed by House Democrats, COVID-19 testing and the future of the U-S China relationship. Watch the full interview in the video above or read it below.

PERREAULT: Let's see what we can get through the next five minutes here. I was watching the Senate hearing on Monday or Tuesday of this week, there was lot of talk about testing and the importance of it. So how do you think the US doing on testing? 

SENATOR HAWLEY: Well, I think that we've done great so far. I mean, we've done as well as we can do, but we need to do more. I mean, this is one of those things that you don't get the grade on the paper until it's all done, right? So we've got to do more. I think the state of Missouri in particular has been working very hard in order to do testing. And we've done a lot more than a lot of other states. But one of the reasons I have asked FEMA over and over for more tests for the state of Missouri, more protective equipment for our frontline health care workers, is because we need it. And I know that Missouri wants to do five, 10 times the number of tests. We've got the lab capacity in the state to do five to 10 times the number of tests a day that we're currently doing now, but we just need more kits. This is one of the reasons why, again, I've asked the federal government to prioritize Missouri. It's also a reason why we need to bring supply chains back to this country, so we're not dependent on other countries to make the components for our ventilators, for our test kits. We need to make that stuff here so we can ramp up production and do all we need to do.

PERREAULT: There has been a lot of talk on Capitol Hill about another stimulus package. This week, the Democrats rolled out their next stimulus package--or at least what they want to see in it. What are your thoughts on that?

SEN. HAWLEY: I thought that the Democrats' package is $3 trillion in giveaways to lobbyists and politicians and just about nothing for workers. It's exactly the wrong approach. With unemployment--36 million people have claimed unemployment benefits in the last two months. We've got unemployment up near 20 percent and what they want to do is is bailout California and Illinois. No thanks. What I've done is put forward my own plan that focuses on workers. It would allow every business in this country to rehire workers who have been laid off because of COVID-19. It would help protect every job in this country for the duration of this emergency. That's what we ought to be doing. We ought to be securing people's jobs. We ought to be getting them their job security. And, by the way, the healthcare that comes along with that, that ought to be our focus. And if you want to talk about reopening the economy, the way you reopen the economy is you get people to work.

PERREAULT: You know, how do you explain to folks who are back home here in Missouri, who maybe can't work because of A, B, or C, maybe, you know, their businesses aren't reopened yet, they're not getting a paycheck--what's your message to them?

SEN. HAWLEY: Well, my message to them is we've got to get your job security. I mean, we've got to make sure that you have a job to go back to. And this is why I think it is so vitally important that Congress focus on jobs. If you want to get the economy powered back up, get people their jobs back. Even if they live in an area of our state or other places in the country where they can't physically go back to work yet, they can still have their job, they can still know that they've got it. They can still have the security that comes from having a job and everything else that comes with it, the benefits that come with it. This has got to be Congress's top priority for recovery is getting people their jobs.

PERREAULT: There's a push on behalf of your senate colleagues to sanction China. The White House has said that America should no longer invest in Chinese firms. Where do you think this is headed sort of when all this smoke settles?

SEN. HAWLEY: Well, I think that Missourians ought to be able to sue China, those who have suffered damages from this terrible coronavirus. They ought to be able to go into court have their day in court and prove their case against China and if they win, they ought to be able to get damages. American courts ought to be able to freeze Chinese assets, government assets of this country and give those to people who win their cases. I just think that it is vital we stand up to Beijing and hold them accountable. They jailed doctors who tried to blow the whistle on this coronavirus in Wuhan. They tried to silence whistleblowers. They're the ones who have caused this health crisis to turn into a global pandemic that has cost us tens of millions of jobs and more than cost us tens of thousands of lives, to say nothing of our allies around the world. So China needs to be on the hook here. And we need to give people the tools to hold them accountable.

PERREAULT: You talked this week about leaving the World Trade Organization, because of its relationship with China. Do you think we can break that supply chain in due time?

SEN. HAWLEY: I think it's absolutely vital that we work to move our supply chains back to this country, out critical ones that I've introduced legislation to do that. That means jobs for people here in the state of Missouri, it means security for the United States. So this has got to be a top focus in years going forward is to get those supply chains and those jobs back. But when it comes to the World Trade Organization, why would we stay in an organization that's failed? Why would we stay with an organization that has enabled the rise of China. We've got to work with our partners and allies now to build a better system that protects our workers, that strengthens our nation and strengthens the free world because we have a long conflict with China coming. This is going to be a long struggle with them as they try to assert themselves as the dominant world power. We're going to have to stand up and prevent that, because for our own economic health, our own national security, we can't allow it. And so as part of that, we're going to have to work with our partners and allies to get a better trade system, a better economic system (and) rebuild this country. 

PERREAULT: Will you support the HEROES act? Why or why not?

SEN. HAWLEY: This is the Democrats' plan. I'm not going to support the democrats giveaway to lobbyists and to lawyers and to politicians. Three trillion dollars to politicians and blue states is not what we need right now. What we need is a focus on jobs. What we need to do is get workers who have been thrown out of work because of the curve and crisis their jobs back when did they get their families their job security back so that they know that they're going to be okay, going forward, and the only way to get our economy back and running again, is to get people their jobs back. That should be our focus.

PERREAULT: Thank you Senator Hawley. I appreciate your time.

SEN. HAWLEY: Thanks Daniel.