Schumer Floor Remarks Ahead Of 5th Circuit Oral Argument In Texas V. United States, The Increasingly Horrid Conditions At Border Facilities And President Trump’s Awful Record On The Environment

July 8, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Texas v. United States, the increasingly disturbing situation at border facilities and President Trump’s awful record on the environment. Below are his remarks which can also be found here.

Tomorrow the Fifth Circuit will hear oral argument in the case of Texas v the United States. The fate of our entire health care system hangs in the balance. This challenge to the Affordable Care Act, brought by Republican state attorney generals and, regrettably, supported by President Trump and his administration, represent the latest effort by Republicans to dismantle health care in American as we know it.

After failing to repeal our health care through federal legislation, Republicans now turn to the courts.

And if Republicans get their way in this case, the impact on Americans would be catastrophic. That is not an exaggeration—catastrophic. It would result in the elimination of protections for people with pre-existing conditions—possibly increasing costs for 133 million Americans under 65. If you have a son or daughter with cancer and the insurance company cuts you off, that is catastrophic. Nothing less. And how many people will go through that if our Republicans friends have their way?

It would result in skyrocketing prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare. Let’s say there’s a lifesaving drug but it’s too expensive and you can’t afford it—that is catastrophic to most Americans.  And millions of people would be kicked off Medicaid, leaving the most vulnerable out to fend for themselves. Again, you desperately need care, no one will give it you—catastrophic.

Bring it all together, and what our Republican friends want to do is make Americans pay higher prices for inferior care. Cruelty, cruelty on a massive scale. 

Of course, we’ve been here before. For nearly two years, the administration pushed Congress to repeal the ACA—a crusade that failed here on the Senate floor multiple times. President Trump’s budgets call for trillions in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. He’s opened up the floodgates for junk plans that don’t cover the things that really count, like cancer treatment, maternity care, and addiction services. And he’s deliberately worked to make it harder for people to sign up for health care.

And on that court case, 47 Democrats wish that we should join the lawsuit. We asked Republicans to join us in that. I think it’s only one who was. Where are our Republican friends? They talk about wanting to preserve preexisting conditions, but they are mum when the administration they support tries to repeal them. Hypocrisy, hypocrisy. If you believe in supporting people’s protections for preexisting conditions, you oppose the lawsuit and join us in saying that that lawsuit should not be filed. Our Republican friends know where the people are and they’re afraid—they’re quivering—that Donald Trump will be angry with them if they oppose his lawsuit. Shame on them. Shame on them.

So our Republican friends can never argue that they’re the party of health care. When President Trump argues Republicans are God help the middle class. They are the party of no health care—the party of “repeal”, with no plan to “replace.”

This lawsuit is just the latest salvo against the American people—and it shows that so long as Republicans are in power, the health care of the American people will not be safe. And if they are successful in striking down the Affordable Care Act, Republicans—all of them—will own all of the consequences.

Now on the border, Madam President. Last week, the DHS inspector general released a report detailing horrid conditions at border facilities. This is the president’s own DHS Inspector General saying how bad conditions were.

Then, we found reports of a secret border patrol workers’ Facebook group that revealed a toxic culture at US Customs and Border Protection. Everything we had heard anecdotally, everything we feared about the mindset of CBP proved to be true in that Facebook group.

And over the weekend, the New York Times and the El Paso Times released the latest account of conditions at the Border Patrol Station in Clint, Texas. A facility built for 100 adults had become a modern-day internment camp for up to 700 children—700 children—at a time, many locked up for weeks on end. Some children without beds to sleep on. Food shortages. Insufficient sanitation. For heaven’s sake, we read reports of children suffering from outbreaks of scabies, lice, and chicken pox. Cruelty. Cruelty once again.

These awful conditions show that for too long CBP has operated as an agency out of control. It must be reined in immediately, beginning with its leadership.

Internal investigations will never suffice because CBP leadership-- particularly Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan—is far too callous in his treatment of children and their families. Too many of the CBP leaders have had this attitude for too long, and it has infested itself down to too many who are the rank-and-file in that agency. We need untainted professionals to be brought in from outside the CBP structure immediately.

But what does President Trump do? Typically, what he did here is denial, distortion, distraction. President Trump should be focused on fixing the problems that exist instead of blaming others.

The truth, of course, is that we should have never been in this situation in the first place. The suffering imposed on migrant children is the result of the administration’s own mishandling of family arrivals from Central America.

So while Donald Trump says he’s serious about fixing our immigration challenges, he has done just about everything to make matters worse.

President Trump, you want to fix the border? Do what Democrats have been asking you to do for a long time: let asylum seekers to apply for asylum in their home countries. Increase the number of judges to process the cases. And for heaven’s sakes, restore aid to those of Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua to help them crack down on gang violence and drug cartels, so people wouldn’t flee for fear of their lives from the gangs

But, Mr. President—President Trump—stop finger-pointing at Democrats for this mess of your own making. You’re the President. As this problem festers and gets worse, the American people realize you’re the chief executive. It’s your problem to solve. We’ll join you if it’s anything reasonable. But just finger-pointing at Democrats for this mess of your own making, President Trump, is like poking holes in your own umbrella, and then blaming the clouds when you get wet.

I urge President Trump and Senate Republicans to seriously consider these measures, because unless we make structural reforms to our immigration system, we’ve done nothing, nothing to reverse what is happening at our Southern Border.

Finally, on climate. President Trump’s hypocrisy, his diving into mistruth over and over and over again, once again reared its ugly head. We can’t become used to it, because it’s such a bad thing for a president to do—be so abjectly dishonest about so much of what is happening, and so much of what he does. Well, it happened again.

Well, it happened again. Today, amazingly enough, President Trump tried to claim credit as a leader on environmental protection, of all things.

This is laughable. The same President who pulled us out of the Paris Agreement, who has filled his administration with oil and coal cronies, who has slashed protections for clean air, clean water and protections for public lands, and who has denied basic science now wants to call himself a leader on the environment?

Give me a break.

Try as he might say otherwise, President Trump has proved himself probably the staunchest ally of the worst polluters, of any president we have ever had.

On climate change, the President’s record is particularly egregious.  In two years, his government has gutted oil, coal, and pollution standards, has erased climate data from government websites—even censored words like “climate change” from appearing in some official government documents. This is somebody who’s a leader of environmental protection? How gullible does he think the American people are?  Even Trump supporters, they may agree with him on this issue, but to say he’s protecting the environment… ludicrous. Ludicrous.

And some of these things are just the tip of the iceberg. To hire an oil and coal lobbyist to run the EPA and Department of Interior—that’s someone who’s a leader on environmental protection? To cripple the National Climate Assessment, that’s a leader? And to completely cave to the oil and gas industry; whenever they say jump, he says how high. And now he has the temerity, the gall, to say he’s a leader on environmental protection? Again, give me a break.

But to be fair, President Trump’s speech does have one silver lining. The mere fact he even spoke today on the environment forces us to an unavoidable conclusion: climate change is real, it’s a serious problem, and it deserves action, including action here in this chamber. The Republican majority, Leader McConnell, could take action on this issue at a moment’s notice. But for now, they are happy keeping their heads in the sand. They have not brought to the floor a single measure that would deal with the issue of climate, even as their views grow increasingly out of step with most Americans.

They cannot continue to keep their heads in the sand as our planet faces serious problems today, and even far more serious problems for our children. It’s an issue that cannot wait a day longer, and yet the masters of this legislative graveyard refuse to act. And I fear the majority will refuse to act until either they are no longer the majority, or even worse, it is too late.

###