Schumer Floor Remarks On The Responsibility Of Senate Republicans To End The Trump Shutdown And A Resolution To Disapprove The Trump Administration’s Proposal To Relax Sanctions On Three Russian Companies

January 14, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the effects of the Trump shutdown, the need for Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans to allow a vote to re-open the government, and a resolution to disapprove the Treasury Department’s proposal to ease sanctions against three Russian companies. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, as the government shutdown enters its fourth, unfortunate week, its effects are widespread and worsening.

As of Friday, 800,000 public servants are without pay. Tomorrow, roughly 41,000 active duty Coast Guard members won’t get their paychecks. By the end of the week, our federal courts will start running out of operating funds. Farmers, small businesses remain unable to access loans and assistance. Some working families are unable to access home loans. Food safety inspections are curtailed. Airport terminals are closing amidst widespread staffing shortages at TSA. The Trump shutdown is even affecting the opioid crisis. The DEA is in charge of approving a critical daily medication used by doctors in the recovery and treatment of opioid addiction. As long as the DEA is shut down, that’s not happening.

It’s all the more shameful because the Trump shutdown is a completely manufactured crisis – manufactured by Donald Trump. The only reason the government is shut down right now is that President Trump reversed positions the day before government funding ran out, bewildering Senate Democrats and Republicans who were assured he’d sign a stop-gap bill to fund the government.

Leader McConnell is trying to pin the blame on the current Speaker of the House. He’s way out to lunch on that one. We’re here because the president reversed himself, and the LAST Speaker of the House failed to use his responsibility to put the Senate-passed bill on the floor. Now the House has voted to reopen the government. It’s the Senate that hasn’t done it because Leader McConnell won’t bring the bill to the floor.

President Trump has stubbornly refused to negotiate or soften his position from the get-go. Democratic Leaders and staff have been over to the White House over and over again to urge the president to open the government while we negotiate over border security. We’re each for border security – different ways to do it, but everyone wants it. But why shut down the government while we’re negotiating that? Every time we’ve asked that of the president he’s been intransigent and uncompromising. He refuses to back down from his position that the price to reopen the government is 5.7 billion dollars of taxpayer money for a wall he promised Mexico would pay for.

I want to remind all of my Republican colleagues and the American people: Democrats only want to re-open the government. We’ve offered a proposal that would separate the government shutdown from our disagreements over border security. The House has passed six bills to re-open the government, each of which was drafted and approved by Senate Republicans. Let me emphasize the point. The Democratic proposal to reopen the government is to pass the Republicans’ government funding bill. Democrats are not demanding any added policy changes, no Democratic agenda items, no nothing. 

These bills are non-controversial. Leader McConnell has voted for each of them. And, according to a Quinnipiac poll that just came out, the American people support our plan by an overwhelming majority (63-30). A healthy minority of Republicans are for the plan. 39% are for the idea while only 52% are opposed. So even Republicans are moving to the position – open the government then debate border security. President Trump started this shut down. He’s the person continuing it. It’s irresponsible of him to do it.

Make no mistake: Democrats are happy to negotiate about the best way secure our border, but we need to open the government first.

The fact that President Trump refuses to consider our proposal means that he’s holding the government and the American people hostage as a political tactic. To President Trump – innocent, hardworking Americans are no more than bargaining chips. He’ll bluster, mislead, and storm out of meetings until he gets what he wants is what he thinks. That’s not how our system of government works. We don’t – we can’t – govern by temper tantrum. No president has done it.  If we do not reject government by extortion now, what is to prevent this same thing from happening over and over again under this president? What will he do when the debt ceiling needs to be renewed?

Before the Christmas holiday, we had a solution in sight, we believed the president would support a true compromise to end the shutdown. At the last minute he reversed himself and said no.

And it is clear that President Trump does not want to end this shutdown, at least not yet. He has flatly refused our proposal to re-open the government while we continue to negotiate on border security. He has contradicted his own deputies – the vice president, chief of staff – after they made offers to Democrats. Just this morning, he refused to consider one of his closest allies’, Sen. Graham’s, proposal to open the government temporarily while we negotiate border security.

How many more reasonable offers can the president reject; how much more suffering must the president cause; before Leader McConnell realizes it’s time to move ahead without him?

It seems clear to nearly everybody but Leader McConnell that Congress needs to move forward without the president. At every juncture, the president has been the obstacle to progress.

We need intervention. It’s time for Congress to fulfill our constitutional duty to govern, even without the president. It’s time for Leader McConnell to realize that he has the power to break this impasse passing the House legislation to re-open the government. Legislation his party already supports! Legislation that Leader McConnell has voted for and bragged about!

The president is unwilling to move the ball forward, so Congress must. I urge my friend Leader McConnell to allow a vote on the House-passed legislation to re-open the government. It seems to be the only way out right now.

Now, on another matter – Russia sanctions. Before the end of last year, the Trump administration moved to relax sanctions on three companies owned and controlled by sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

As a reminder, an overwhelming majority of the last Congress supported additional sanctions on Russia as a response to President Putin’s malign activities, particularly in Ukraine. Oleg Deripaska and a number of companies he controlled were placed under U.S. sanctions because Mr. Deripaska was effectively acting as an agent of Putin’s interests abroad, leveraging the wealth he had accrued through the control of these companies. In my view, the Trump Administration’s plan to provide sanctions relief to these companies is deeply flawed and wrong.

First, it fails to sufficiently limit Mr. Deripaska’s control and influence of these companies. Even though this plan brings Mr. Deripaska’s ownership interest in these companies down from 70 to 45 percent, the terms allow for other Russian shareholders with family and business ties to Mr. Deripaska to maintain shareholder interests. His ex-wife and father-in-law will still own a combined 7% in the company and a sanctioned Russian bank is acquiring more shares. Even with the 45% he would probably control it. Many American companies are controlled with far less. But with these additional people owning shares, there is no doubt Deripaksa continues to control the company.

Second, it must not be forgotten that Mr. Deripaska is wrapped up in Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and has deep ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. There should not be sanctions relief for President Putin’s trusted agent before the conclusion of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. Just days ago, it was revealed that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort provided Trump campaign polling data to a close associate of Mr. Deripaska. We don’t know what the Special Counsel Mueller knows. And the timing – at a time when these things are coming forward – to undo the sanctions on Rusal? Very suspect.

Lastly, removing sanctions on these companies will benefit the President Putin’s government and economy, since the export of metals such as aluminum is a key revenue generator for a country that needs revenues. At a time when Russia has failed to curtail its hostile actions against our nation and our allies, this is not the moment to give up a source of leverage over the Russian government.

Tomorrow, the Senate will take up a motion to disapprove the Treasury Department’s proposal. I strongly believe the Senate should vote to disapprove. And in a short time, I’ll be sending a letter to every single one of my Senate colleagues – Democrats, Republicans, Independents – to urge them to block this misguided effort by the Trump Administration, and keep those very needed sanctions in place.
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