Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor refuting Senate Republicans’ response to the national security supplemental and announcing he will hold the expected procedural vote on the bill tomorrow. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Well, the sun may be shining outside but today is a gloomy day here in the United States Senate.
Last night, members of the other side of the aisle met to decide whether they were going to side with the American people or obey the wishes of former President Trump and his friend Vladimir Putin.
While I was not a party to that meeting, the reports that came out of it were disturbing to say the least. After months of good faith negotiations, after months of giving Republicans many of the things that they asked for, Leader McConnell and the Republican Conference are ready to kill the national security supplemental package, even with the border provisions that they so fervently demanded.
Those reports are disturbing because this is a good bill; a bipartisan bill that will address the problems at the border directly, expeditiously, seriously.
And don’t take my word for it, just ask the conservative editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, who called this “a border bill worth passing.” Or the president of the National Border Patrol Council, who rarely sides with Democrats, who called this bill “far better than the status quo.”
Or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose president, a fervent Trump ally, called this package a “commonsense measure” and warned that “Congress cannot afford to ignore these problems any longer.”
So, last night’s reports coming from the Republican Conference meeting are alarming because they represent a dramatic transformation in Republican thought.
In October, Republicans objected to President Biden’s national security supplemental request, telling the world that they could not consider it without, in Leader McConnell’s words “something credible on the border.”
He said his conference would give “this supplemental request a serious look and probably recommend some changes as well.” That was October 22, 2023.
Since then, senators on both sides of the aisle have conducted intense, good faith negotiations to try to find a way forward on border.
We thought we were close in December, but some on the other side did not want to be jammed by the Christmas holiday. So we gave them more time.
Senator Graham reasoned that a delay was necessary and thought that President Biden should get involved in border and immigration negotiations. Well, President Biden did get involved, and he gave Senator Graham the more time that he asked for.
And yet again, yesterday he asked, for more time.
In December, Senator Fischer accused Democrats of not wanting to address border security, saying “My Democratic colleagues support border security for Taiwan, they support border security for Ukraine, and they support border security for Israel. But what they won't support is basic border security for the United States of America. We are told that our own border security is not related to the national security supplemental? That's absurd.” That’s what she said: “that’s absurd not to have border security in the bill,” in December.
Well, yesterday, she said should she would refuse to even debate a bill that addressed our national security and border security. Not even a debate.
The entire process has been quite a roller coaster. And it’s not just my Senate colleagues who keep moving the goalposts.
In November, Speaker Johnson said “With our appropriations bills for Ukraine funding, for example, we’re going to marry that with border security. Those two things are going to be handled together because we believe it’s a top priority.”
But when former President Trump said he didn’t want Republicans to solve the border problem, that he wanted it as a campaign issue, Speaker Johnson did a 180 degree about face and obediently changed his tune.
Now, I understand politics, I understand electoral strategy.
But for more than a year, members on the other side of the aisle have been wailing that the border was an emergency situation. That the country was in urgent crisis.
As the Senior Senator from Wyoming said: “this crisis requires swift, serious, and substantive action”
Or like the Senior Senator from Texas said: “this current crisis cries out for a solution” and “nobody believes the status quo is acceptable.”
Or how about the words of Speaker Johnson: just one month ago – just a month ago – he said “The time to act” on the border “is yesterday.”
This morning, Republicans are singing a new tune: suddenly this crisis is not so urgent; suddenly we need to take even more time before we address this crisis. One hard-right Republican member of the House even ridiculously suggested that we wait until after November.
This morning, a member of Republican leadership who had recently called for swift action now says that action must wait until after the next election. Give me a break.
Today, this is the new Republican line on the border: it’s an emergency, but it can wait 12 months – or until the end of time. What utter bunk.
A cynic might suggest that this request for more time was a political ploy.
But maybe we should just take the Republicans at their word.
Maybe we should take them at their word when they say “There is absolutely no to reason to agree to policies that will just further enable Joe Biden.”
Or when they say, “Let me tell you, I’m not willing to do too damn much right now to help a Democrat.”
That is why, this is a gloomy day. That is why the Republican party is being thrown into disrepute by many of its own members back in the states.
Some Republicans will claim they have not had enough time to read the bill.
Some Republicans will claim they want an amendment process; some will claim they want guarantees their amendments will be accepted.
Some Republicans will claim we need more time for debate and consideration. My guess is they will ultimately want ten to twelve months.
Finally, some Republicans will claim that we should separate border solutions from funding for Ukraine.
I’d like to address each of those claims right here, right now.
First, for those who claim they have not had enough time to read the bill.
On January 25th, ten Republican Senators wrote me a letter – in fact, I’d like to introduce that letter into the Congressional Record.
In that letter, Senators Ricketts, Barrasso, Cassidy, Cotton, Ernst, Graham, Mullin, Sullivan, Risch, and Wicker asked one thing of me before “the first vote on the legislation”.
They asked for 72 hours to read the bill. We’ve met that request.
The bill was posted at 6:45pm on Sunday, February 4th, and if they want until 6:45pm tomorrow evening, that’s fine with me.
Actually, I will even offer to delay that vote until sometime on Thursday to give even more time for senators to make up their minds.
But, I suspect, they won’t accept even that offer because they don’t really want more time, they’re just using it as an excuse.
In fact, it will surprise no one that some of the signers did not actually wait 72 hours before they rejected the bill.
Senator Cotton declared his opposition after 16 hours and 48 minutes, less than 25 percent of the requested time.
Senator Risch a little longer, an additional 15 minutes, to read the bill before announcing his opposition.
Clearly, this wasn’t at all about having 72 hours.
That’s ok. I can recognize when Senators grandstand.
But this, this is no time for grandstanding. This is a time for serious people to work together to solve serious problems.
Senators are elected to vote, not to be afraid, run away, make excuses when it comes to voting on the tough issues.
Senators are elected to debate and deliberate, not just say no when a former president instructs them to. We were sent here to make laws – not just to make speeches.
If my colleagues want more time, fine, fine. All they have to do is vote yes tomorrow. That will mean the Senate will have up to 30 hours of debate before we lay down the motion to proceed.
Again, I want to be clear: the vote tomorrow is not about the substance of the bill. No one is being asked to take a position on the supplemental tomorrow. The only thing a yes vote would allow is for the Senate to simply begin to consider, discuss, and debate the vitally important issues before of us now.
And we’ll have plenty of time to do so because we would stay here in session as long as it takes.
That brings me to Republicans’ second claim– that they want an amendment process.
Well, during my time as Majority Leader, I have presided over more amendment votes than the Senate held in all four years of the Trump Administration, so I would like to remind my colleagues about Senate procedure.
If you want a chance to amend a bill, it turns out you actually need to get on the bill first. Voting no says no amendments.
And, further, once we are on the bill, you still possess the power to kill the entire bill if the amendment process is not to your liking.
You can hold out for your amendments. You can hold out if you want to re-read the bill again and again. And you can hold out if your amendments fail.
But our Republican colleagues – we know this – really don’t want any of those things. And when they won’t, they forfeit
all their ability to address the border situation at all. When they vote no, they forfeit their ability to address the border situation at all.
So I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to vote yes on the bill, so we can discuss amendments, timing, and any other issues. The issues in Ukraine, in Israel, humanitarian aid, the South Pacific, and the border are urgent, and so many of my colleagues have said they are urgent. Well, let's vote. It's urgent. We've spent months talking and debating. It’s time to vote.
Make no mistake about it: a no vote says “I never want to move forward on the border, not with amendments, not without amendments, not now, not later.”
We must move forward. We cannot wait any longer. We have waited long enough.
Now, for my Republican colleagues who say that we need more time to debate and consider the bill, and I don’t want to be jammed, I have a question.
In September, you told us we could not provide support to the people in Ukraine without also addressing the border crisis.
In December, you told us that leaving for Christmas break was more important than solving the border crisis.
Now, in February, you’re telling us you need more time.
So the question I would like answered, and that the American people want an answer to, is this: what date would work, my Republican friends?
If you don’t want to solve the border crisis and fight Putin today or tomorrow, when do you want it?
Would Saturday, 24th of February be a good day for you?
The day that marks the second anniversary of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine so it can have symbolic value.
Since that falls on a weekend, maybe we could vote on Monday the 26th. Just let me know. We can schedule it.
We have other options, you just have to tell us what day would work. We can change the schedule, but we are voting to move to proceed Wednesday night, or if you want the extra day, Thursday.
Would you be willing to address those tough issues in March? In April? In June? In July?
I suppose I won’t get a response because it seems the only date Republicans seem to care about is November 5th – Election Day.
We all know what’s going on here: Donald Trump would rather keep the chaos at the border going so he can exploit it on the campaign trail, instead of letting the Senate do the right thing and fix it. He would rather let Ukraine suffer on the battle field instead of being tough on Putin.
And instead of standing up to Donald Trump, Senate Republicans are ready to kill our best chance at fixing the border—and ready to vote down this aid package
to for Ukraine—in order to put what they think – they think – is their party’s political interest above the interests of the country.
It is my hope, but not my expectation, that my friends across the aisle will resist the former President’s exhortation
s and do what is right.
That is why the Senate will move forward with our vote tomorrow.
If Senators vote yes. We have options. More time to debate. We have the opportunity to consider amendments.
If Senators vote “no,” those Senators should have to explain why they are ready to let the border emergency which they have so decried, why would they let it continue.
We’ve had four months – four months – of dithering, of delay.
Tomorrow, the American people will find out whether Senators seek border security and oppose Russian expansionism, or whether they stand with former President Trump in support of chaos and Vladimir Putin.