Schumer Floor Remarks On His Upcoming Meeting With Judge Kavanaugh And The Need To Protect Americans With Pre-existing Conditions

August 21, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 10:35 a.m.] regarding his upcoming meeting with Judge Kavanaugh and the importance of providing good health care for Americans with pre-existing conditions. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here   

Madame President, today, President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court will be making the rounds in the Senate. I will be meeting with him this afternoon, and several members of the Judiciary Committee will be meeting with him over the course of today and the rest of the week, as will some other members.


I hope that he comes prepared to answer direct questions about his writings, speeches, opinions and judicial philosophy. The nominee has weighed in on a number of legal issues, publicly, and in his role as a Circuit Judge. There is little reason why he should be unable to answer direct questions about his judicial philosophy, his record, and already-decided cases.


I also hope that he’s willing to shed some light in the areas of his record that remain opaque. The Senate and the public have been able to see only a tiny fraction of the nominee’s extensive written record because unfortunately the Republican Majority continues to block access to the great bulk of these documents. I’d ask Judge Kavanaugh; I’ll ask our Republicans, what are they hiding? Now, we did make a little progress last night after the parliamentarian ruled that the rules of the Senate allow every senator to see the committee documents. Chairman Grassley graciously agreed that any member could see them without muss or fuss. So we very much appreciate that.


The next Supreme Court Justice – whether it’s Judge Kavanaugh or not – will have immense influence over the lives of Americans for generations to come. Most Americans think this is an abstract or a political argument. It’s not. The actual rulings of Kavanaugh will affect just about everyone’s life in America in very significant and material ways. The next Supreme Court Justice may someday determine whether or not the President must comply with a duly issued subpoena. The next Supreme Court Justice may someday soon determine whether Americans with pre-existing conditions will be able to afford health care. The next Justice may someday soon determine just how much states can restrict a woman’s constitutionally guaranteed right to make her own medical decisions. To say nothing about labor rights, civil rights, voting rights, environmental protections and more. All of these things – part of the wellspring of America – are affected by the Supreme Court’s rulings, and as we know, Judge Kavanaugh will be a crucial vote on just about every one of those issues with the 4-4 division on the Court today.


Judge Kavanaugh, in his meetings with Senators today and in the days ahead, has a responsibility not to duck, not to hide behind false legal shibboleth and say, ‘Nah, I can’t discuss this, a case might come before me.’ He has a responsibility to inform the Senate as to his beliefs and philosophy, so the Senate can conduct its constitutional duty to advise and consent.


On another matter. It seems that every day, we read about a new danger to our health care system caused by President Trump and his party in Congress.


Only a few days ago, it was announced that the court case which concerns the constitutionality of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, Texas v. U.S., will begin on September 5th. Remember, President Trump’s Justice Department has refused to defend protections for pre-existing conditions in court. What an abomination. Just about every American has someone in their family, many in their immediate family, who has an illness. Someone might have diabetes. Someone might have asthma, and God forbid something worse. Those are pre-existing conditions. That family will not be able to get health insurance. That family risks that their present insurance will expire and they won’t get anything new. And here this administration is trying to take away that protection; so important to so many Americans.


So Senators Manchin and Casey have introduced a resolution asking the Senate Legal Counsel to step in to defend the law since the administration would not. I hope we get a vote on that resolution soon. I don’t see how anyone could not be for it.


Sadly, Madame President, the Justice Department’s decision to abandon protections for pre-existing conditions is far from the only example of President Trump’s repeated sabotage of our health care system. Over and over again he tries to undo the health care Americans have without understanding what he’s really doing.


On Day One, President Trump issued an executive order aimed at the health care law. It was the very first thing he did. He then proposed legislation with Congressional Republicans to repeal the health care law, devastate Medicaid, and eliminate protections for tens of millions of people with pre-existing conditions. That failed, but Congressional Republicans managed to repeal the coverage requirement in their tax bill (of all places), and put nothing in its place, causing unnecessary premium increases across the country. Americans know as their premium increases gallop upward that it is Republicans here in the Senate and President Trump in the White House that have caused this to happen. Now, he continues to do that. He’s expanded the availability of junk insurance plans that bait Americans in with low rates while providing only the flimsiest coverage. Again, if these junk insurance plans become the law, the rule, so many people will lose their ability to protect themselves when they have pre-existing conditions.


These actions by President Trump, aided, abetted, encouraged by Congressional Republicans who either agreed with them or failed to challenge them meaningfully, have had devastating results for so many Americans. Premiums have risen by double digits in a bunch of states, the direct result of Republican sabotage. And the insurers themselves, they’re the ones who’ve raised the rates, but they say that it’s Republicans in the House, Senate, and the White House who are causing it – and those are insurance industries. They don’t tend to favor Democrats but they have to protect themselves and their clients. Prescription drugs costs continue to rise. After promising tough action on prescription drugs, the president and Congressional Republicans have hardly lifted a finger. The United States is now last – dead last – among industrialized nations in maternal mortality. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world with a rising maternal mortality rates. Despite all of our advances in genetics, nutrition, and surgery, the US is getting worse at caring for mothers. We should hang our heads in shame about that. We should do something about it. Come on, Republican Congress. Your voters are no different than our voters and independent voters. They care about good health care at an affordable cost. Please do something about it, join us.


Instead of grappling with these problems and proposing solutions, President Trump and Congressional Republicans have launched attack after attack after attack on our health care system, particularly women’s health. That worked in the 2016 campaign because they said they had a plan to replace it with something better. No plan emerged. And it’s not working for them now. It’s just not working for them. The American people overwhelmingly prefer Democrats to Republicans on health care. And health care is the number one issue in state after state after state. So for their own political benefit, Republicans here in the Senate and in the House ought to wake up because the old playbook, which may have worked in 2014 and 2016 when you weren’t in charge -- there was a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate for part of that time -- that ain’t no more. You are in charge and you’ve put nothing in its place, just negativity.


In poll after poll after poll, the American people say that health care is the number one issue. They don’t want to go back to a time before we offered protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. They don’t want to go back to a time when insurance companies charged women, seniors, and elder Americans more for the same exact coverage. They don’t want to go back to a time when insurance companies could deny maternity care, mental health treatment, prescription drug coverage and more. But that is where President Trump and our Republican colleagues want to take us. I say to all those blue collar folks who voted for President Trump: he promised you better health care. Is he delivering it? Go look at your bills. Go look at health care plans. And if he’s not, maybe you’ll help bring some change to Washington – real change – so that your health care costs will get lower and your health care will improve.