Schumer Floor Remarks on Meeting with President Trump, Republican Tax Bill and the DC Circuit Court Nomination

November 28, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding his cancelled meeting with President Trump, the Republican tax bill and the DC Circuit Court Nomination. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I want to thank my friend, former roommate and colleague in leadership for, as usual, his articulate and on-the-money remarks about the tax bill.

Mr. President, before the end of the year, we have a long list of things to do and time is running short. We had hoped to make progress with the Administration on several outstanding issues in a meeting this afternoon.

Unfortunately this morning, instead of leading, the President tweeted a blatantly inaccurate statement that concluded, “I don’t see a deal.” The President said “I don’t see a deal” three hours before our meeting, before he heard anything we had to say.

Given that the President doesn’t see a deal between Democrats and the White House, Leader Pelosi and I believe the best path forward is to continue negotiating with our Republican counterparts in Congress instead. Rather than going to the White House for a show meeting that won’t result in an agreement from a President who doesn’t see a deal, we’ve asked Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan to meet this afternoon. 

We don’t have any time to waste in addressing the issues that confront us, so we’re going to negotiate with Republican leaders who may be interested in reaching a bipartisan agreement.                                                              

If the President, who already said earlier this year that ‘our country needs a good shutdown,’ isn’t interested in addressing the difficult year-end agenda and wants to make the government shut down, we’ll work with those Republicans who are interested in funding the government, as we did in April. 

We have so many things to do: we have to fund the government, we have DACA, we have the Children’s Health Insurance Program, we must reinstate cost-sharing for health subsidies and out-of-pocket costs, we have to deal with disasters, we have to fund our defense and non-defense sides of the government in a reasonable way. There is so much to do. We are eager to get that done in a bipartisan way. Obviously the President isn’t, but hopefully Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan are, and we look forward to sitting down with them to resolve this in an amicable way as we did in April. When the President wasn’t involved, we got it done.                                                                          

Now, on the Republican tax bill.                                                    

We are now only a few days away from a final vote, but from all reports, the Republicans are still debating significant changes to the text of the bill.

Some are angling for a change to the pass-through provisions; feeling that a gargantuan new tax loophole for many high-income individuals needs to be widened even further. Right now it is reported that 70% of pass-through income goes to the top 1%. The changes that are being proposed would make it even worse. Help small business? Yes. But don’t open a giant loophole for wealthy hedge funds, big shot law firms, lobbyists. We don’t need that.

Others are rightly worried about the impact this bill will have on the deficit and debt.

What I’d remind all of my Republican colleagues is that, with any more changes, it is virtually certain that you will be voting on a bill without any expert analysis of its impacts. You’ll be voting without any estimate of whether it will grow or shrink the economy. You’ll be voting without a good sense of the long-term impacts of the changes you’re making to the tax code.

Certainly, one week of markup in the Finance Committee with only one expert witness is not a satisfactory process, particularly considering the changing nature of this bill. Changing the tax code in a broad brush is a difficult thing. There are so many unintended consequences. If our Republican colleagues should pass this bill and it becomes law, and I hope it won’t, week after week we are going to find new things in this bill, some intended and some not intended. And the people who voted for it are going to regret it. And the public will ask ‘well why didn’t you know?’

Well in a tax bill it’s impossible to know all these things unless you let it sit out there in the sun and bake. So experts from around the country - there are tens of thousands of tax lawyers paid to figure out ways around our tax code and help their wealthy clients - and unless you examine the bill carefully in sunlight, unless you have a lot of hearings, unless you hear from all kinds of witnesses, the result is usually quite bad for America with so many unintended consequences.

So our Republican colleagues, in a rush to get things done, are legislating in an irresponsible way, especially when it comes to something as important and complex as the tax code.

If the product were a great one, that would be one thing. But we all know it’s not a great product. We don’t even hear our Republican colleagues bragging about this product with a few exceptions. Everyone says this could be better, that could better. Every independent analysis has shown that the Republican tax bill will end up raising taxes on millions of middle-class families, despite the early intentions of the President and Republican leaders. The Tax Policy Center estimates that 60% of middle-class families will see a tax increase by the time the bill is fully implemented, while folks making over a million dollars a year will get an average tax cut of over $40,000.

Now some say ‘well they are making more money, they should get a bigger tax break.’ No. I would like to take every dollar of that $40,000 a millionaire gets and give it to the middle class. They are the ones who need the help, not the wealthy people. They are the ones who keep the economy humming. They are the ones throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s who created the best economy America has ever had. Not just the few millionaires.

It’s astounding. If the President and Republicans in Congress set out to pass a middle-class tax cut, as they claim, this bill totally and completely misses the mark.                                                                                         

Meanwhile, the big winners are corporations and the very wealthy, who are doing great already. Estates worth over $11 million get a tax break. Why is that, when average middle-class people are struggling? Corporations get a permanent reduction in their tax rates while individual tax breaks expire after a few years.

It would even open up drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge because this tax bill wouldn’t be complete unless it helped big oil companies too!

And all this to saddle the next generation of Americans with even larger deficits, even larger debt – something many of my friends on the other side of the aisle have labored against their entire careers. We have heard so many speeches from the other side about deficit reduction. I think my colleagues were sincere. Why are they abandoning it now? They all know, every one of our colleagues knows, that we can do a lot better job in a tax bill at reducing the deficit than we have here.

Democrats have, from the very beginning, told our Republican colleagues that we want to work with them on tax reform. We want to lower taxes on the middle class; we want to reduce the burdens on small businesses; we want to erase the incentives that send jobs overseas and bring those jobs back home. And we want to do all of those things in a way that doesn’t add to our deficit.

Republicans, from the very beginning, have said to us: we’re not interested in working with you. We’re going to draft it ourselves, use reconciliation so we don’t need your votes, and you can vote for our bill if you want. That’s not bipartisanship what the Republican leadership has done. Now I know there are some Republicans on the other side who wish we could work together. Well, we can.

Today at 11:00, more than a dozen Democrats went to the Press Gallery and said ‘we want to work with our Republican colleagues to create a better bill.’ They came and visited me last night, I encouraged them to do it. This Leader is not going to stand in the way of bipartisan reform that meets the goals we have talked about: helping the middle class, reducing the deficit, not in any way aiding the 1%.

Bipartisanship and compromise are possible on tax reform. It is an issue crying out for a bipartisan solution. There are a lot of areas where we agree, but we have to work together to find a middle ground that’s acceptable to both parties. I dare say it will be a better bill for the American middle class than the one we’re looking at right now.

Finally, on the nomination of Gregory Katsas to the DC Circuit Court.

The DC Circuit is often called the second most powerful court in the nation because it adjudicates so many highly charged political issues, including cases that deal with the limits of executive power and the regulations issued by federal agencies.

As examples: major cases on climate change regulations, the CFPB, and gun safety laws in the District of Columbia are now before the court.

On such a court, we should prize independence and moderation and look warily at candidates with very political backgrounds.

Unfortunately, Gregory Katsas has been intimately involved in a number of the most partisan and legally dubious executive orders of the current Administration.

As legal counsel in the Trump Administration, Gregory Katsas was involved in the President’s controversial travel ban, as well as his decisions to terminate DACA, to end transgender service in the military, and to establish an Election Integrity Commission based on the lie that 3.5 million people voted illegally in the last election.

His tenure in the Trump Administration raises important questions about his independence and moderation as a judge, particularly on a court that will likely hear cases related to the very same issues he worked on at the White House.

He appears to be another example of the Republican Majority pushing judges from the political extreme of their party as a way of advancing their interests in lieu of a legislative agenda, which has floundered.

I will vote no on his nomination and urge my colleagues to do the same.