Schumer Floor Remarks Ahead Of Senate Vote To Terminate President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration

March 14, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor ahead of a Senate vote to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

M. President, let me begin with a quotation: “Revelations of how power has been abused by high government officials must give rise to concern about the potential exercise, unchecked by the Congress or the American people, of this extraordinary power, [emergency power]. The National Emergencies Act would end this threat and insure that the powers now in the hands of the Executive will be utilized only in time of genuine emergency and then only under safeguards providing for Congressional review.”

Let me repeat that.

…“the powers now in the hands of the Executive will be utilized ONLY in a time of genuine emergency and then only under safeguard providing for Congressional review.”

Now that’s from the special committee report on the National Emergencies Act, which was passed decades ago, and I ask unanimous consent that the full report be added in the record. Now, the bottom line is very simple, we all know the other arguments: that this is not an emergency – the president said so, he just says he didn’t have to do this if he didn’t want to. In previous emergencies, it was either apparent, like 9/11, it was a disease or some other immediate disaster hitting. And there was a long explanation as to why. We have gotten no explanation as to why this is an emergency. The second reason, of course, is the money that might be taken away from the military, our brave men and women in uniform not getting the dollars they need for this wall. And the third, of course, is that the president couldn’t get his way through Congress, even when we had two years of Republican Leadership in the House, Senate and White House. Couldn’t get his way this time, and is now simply going around Congress to declare an emergency.

But those reasons pale before the most important reason. This is a momentous day. The balance of power that the founding fathers put in place, so exquisitely designed, has served this nation well, extremely well, for over two centuries. That balance of power was in large part motivated by the fear of overreaching executive. The patriots had just fought King George, they knew what it was like to have an executive that would go too far, and they put in precautions to make sure that didn’t happen.

Today we are being asked, in a way that we haven’t been asked for in decades – maybe even longer – to change that balance of power. And make no mistake about it, it will set an awful precedent for the future, no matter who is president. It will change it. If a president can invoke an emergency because he didn’t get his way – or she didn’t get her way – without real cause, without a real emergency, woe is our Republic in many ways, in ways the founding fathers feared.

Now I know this is a very difficult vote for my friends on the other side of the aisle, much more difficult than ours. We all know that the president is extremely popular in the Republican Party for maybe a few good reasons, I would say mostly bad, but he is. We know he has been vindictive, contemptuous, calling out people who oppose him. So it’s not an easy vote, I take my hats off to those members on the other side of the aisle, who have let principle rise above party, who understand what the constitution requires this afternoon and have agreed to vote against this emergency.

I would plead with those others, who haven’t made up their minds, to look at this moment in history. This is not an immediate moment. You can be for the wall or against the wall. You can think what we are doing at the southern border is inadequate. But that issue pales before the issue before us, and that is how far an executive can reach when Congress does not want to do what that executive wants.

It is a crucial moment. This is a moment historians will look back on. This could be a moment that changes the fundamental balance of power in our government. So what I will ask my colleagues – I would really plead with my colleagues – I understand the politics are difficult, much harder for you than for me, but our nation, our constitution, the beauty of this government demands we rise to the occasion this afternoon.

Please join us in in rejecting this emergency and keeping our government with the same balance of power that has served us so well for two centuries. I yield the floor.