Schumer Floor Remarks Announcing Plan To Prohibit DOJ From Using Funds To Litigate The Downfall Of ACA In Circuit Court, On The GOP’s Refusal To Meaningfully Confront The Climate Crisis, On The Need For A Disaster Package That Aids In Puerto Rico’s Recovery, And On The Need To Make The Mueller Report PublicMarch 27, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor to announce a new plan to prohibit the DOJ from using funds to litigate the downfall of the ACA in circuit court, on the GOP’s refusal to meaningfully confront the climate crisis, on the need for a disaster package that aids in Puerto Rico’s recovery, and on the need to make the Mueller Report public. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now thank you, Mr. President. There’s so much going on so I’m going to be addressing several topics today: health care, climate, Mr. Mueller’s report, and Puerto Rico.
Now first on health care. Two nights ago, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Barr decided to escalate their two-year war against health care to a whole new level. They declared that the entire Affordable Care Act, and the health care for tens of millions of Americans – protections for more than 100 million – is unconstitutional and ought to be eliminated.
Now, the President wants to go back to repeal and replace again? Make our day. The Republicans here in the Senate tried over and over and over again to deal with repeal and replace. They couldn’t because they have no replacement. The American public spoke loud and clear in the November 2018 elections, and addressed the Republican antics by defeating them resoundingly. The American people resoundingly rejected the Republican plan, repeal and replace, for health care. In fact, very few Republican senators or candidates would embrace it when they were running.
So if indeed the Republican Party wants to be in Donald Trump’s words, “The Party of health care," God help the middle class. God save the middle class. God save people with disabilities. God save the hundreds of millions with pre-existing conditions.
If the Administration has its way, the elimination of the Affordable Care Act would send premiums soaring for millions of Americans.
It would revoke coverage for tens of millions more who gained coverage through Medicaid expansions.
It would strike pre-existing condition protections for hundreds of millions, even people who get coverage through their employer. It would tell college students and graduates, ages 21 to 26, that they could no longer be on their parents’ healthcare.
And let’s not forget…this decision would impose billions of dollars in new prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare.
Does the Republican Party really want to raise the price for senior citizens when they buy drugs? That’s what they are doing. That’s what President Trump is doing. And I wasn’t at the lunch Mr. President, where the president talked about this, but I didn’t hear any reports of any Republican in that room rejecting what the president said when he said repeal and replace.
This is the party of health care? This Republican Party? Come on. You can’t undo all the healthcare for tens of millions; the protections for pre-existing conditions for hundreds of millions; the drug costs for tens of millions of seniors; the protections for millions of young college graduates – and say you’re for healthcare. You just can’t.
And compounding the injury, the president’s latest budget wants to cut more than a trillion dollars from Medicare and Medicaid. In doing so, the President is breaking his promise – blatantly, uncaringly. He doesn’t care about what he promised people. He’s breaking his promise to the American people that he’d do no such thing.
This is the party of health care?
The Department of Justice’s decision is a moral and institutional outrage – outrage. Not only would it harm Americans, it would undermine the rule of law.
And so, Mr. President, today I am announcing a new plan, a new way for my colleagues to show that they mean what they say. I am introducing a simple amendment to the pending Appropriations bill we are considering here in the Senate. It will very simply prohibit the Department of Justice from using any funding to litigate the downfall of ACA in the circuit court.
Let’s see if all of our Republican colleagues – who said they don’t want to take away protections for pre-existing conditions, who said they don’t want to take away healthcare from millions, who said they want to lower seniors’ drug costs – let’s see how our Republican colleagues vote on this. Will the Leader do what he’s been so characteristic of doing in the majority? Block a chance for this amendment? Will any Republican on the other side stand up and say, “Don’t block it, Mr. Leader. We have to protect the American people’s healthcare”? We shall see. My Republican friends, you’re going to have the chance this afternoon or when we vote on this bill. Show us which side you’re on.
On climate. Well, now the matter of Climate Change. The Senate finally held the Republican Leader’s promised political stunt vote on the issue of climate change. And the results did not make the Republicans happy. The stunt was exposed for what it was, and the whole issue of climate change – for the first time really debated here – was turned on our Republican colleagues. And it became clear to the American people that our Republican colleagues have no plan for climate change. We’ve heard what they’re against. We haven’t heard a peep about a comprehensive plan that they’re for.
The attempt by the Republicans to make a mockery of the issue completely backfired and Leader McConnell was forced to answer some questions that he has ducked for a very long time.
Whether or not Leader McConnell intended it, the fact is that at the very least, this chamber is doing something it hasn’t done in years—it held a debate – an actual debate – on the topic of climate change! Leader McConnell’s stunt again boomeranged on him and his colleagues and they finally had to discuss this issue rather than do what they’ve liked to do for the last five years – sweep it under the rug.
And so yesterday, the day before, today, and continuing in the future, we ask our Republican colleagues three simple questions to which they owe an answer to their constituents: first, do you believe that climate change is real; second, do you believe climate change is caused by human activity; and third, do you believe the Congress has to act immediately to deal with this problem?
Now we’re finally getting some answers, thanks to Leader McConnell’s trick that he eventually played on himself. No less than Leader McConnell was asked by the press yesterday afternoon at his Ohio Clock press gathering if he believes in climate change. And he said he believes it’s real and he believes it’s caused by human activity. Well, there’s one more step if you believe all that: what is your answer? Not what you’re against; what you’re for.
And I want to commend Senators Roberts, Alexander, and Murkowski. They came to the floor and stated unequivocally, clearly that climate change is real and caused by humans.
Make no mistake: in this glacial atmosphere controlled by the Republicans, when it comes to climate change, this is real progress in the debate over climate change. But of course it is not close to enough.
As to the third question—Leader McConnell offered no solution. All we got was a sham vote that he voted against.
So I ask Leader McConnell—what is your plan? Some Republicans now seem to admit the challenges of climate change, okay, good…now what’s your solution? Turning the Senate floor into a campaign ad studio is not a solution to climate change, nor is it very effective even for their own purposes.
Several Senators seemed to suggest that this problem can simply be solved by funding more research. Now, I support funding for research—it should be a part of any climate plan. But I say to my friends, particularly those from coal states, that’s not going to solve the problem. Dealing with coal sequestration and coal technology at best will solve one percent of the problem. So I say to my friends, what about the other 99 percent? One percent isn’t enough. Temperatures will still go up, the oceans will still rise. The terrible kinds of disaster flooding and tornadoes and wildfires that we have had will continue. Simply to say you’re for doing some research into how to deal with coal is not close to solving the problem.
Yesterday was a golden opportunity for this chamber to come together and show the American people that Republicans are serious about the threat. So I asked to create a bipartisan select committee on climate change. Let’s get some of the people who are most interested in this issue from different ideological stripes, from different places in the country, to come together and come up with a solution. Of course, once again the Republican Leader blocked that genuine attempt.
So unfortunately the Republican Leader and my friend, the junior Senator from Wyoming, when we asked for this, objected—and instead wasted the American people’s time on a ridiculous charade featuring a sham vote that fooled no one. Read the press today, read the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday’s vote on the Republican version of the Green New Deal was not just a cynical ploy – although it was – it was the ultimate “tell” that Republicans, for all their talk, have no real plan to combat climate change. No real plan on healthcare, no real plan on climate change, just a lot of political stunts.
So I am glad – finally though, the good news here – that some of my colleagues are starting to see the light and admit that it’s real and admit that it’s caused by human activity. Now, they need to put their money where their mouth is and work with us to take action that matches the scale of the problem.
So if our colleagues refuse to join us on a bipartisan basis in creating this select committee, we Democrats aren’t going to wait. We’re going to be taking action on our own. Later today we will be announcing our own path for going on offense on Climate Change, keeping a spotlight on this issue, and making sure that this Chamber keeps debating this most urgent issue of our day.
We cannot – we cannot – play politics with our children’s future any longer. I have a new grandson. I don’t want, by the time he grows up, for the waters to be rising, the climate to be changing, and the whole world totally discombobulated so he can’t live a good and happy life. We should all feel that way. And avoiding the problem, whether it’s because special interests are saying avoid it, or the Koch brothers and everyone else – the coal industry, oil industry – it’s not serving our country well.
Now on Puerto Rico. The Republicans and the White House are refusing to make several minor changes to the disaster bill under consideration today—changes that will help Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Puerto Rico was devastated—devastated—by Hurricane Maria a year and a half ago, devastation that we haven’t probably seen in any other part of our country.
It is reported that nearly $91 billion of damage was done by the Hurricane. Puerto Rico is still struggling to recover. These are American citizens, let’s not forget that. These are not people from some foreign land.
And yet it has been publicly reported that the President has told his staff to find ways to limit federal dollars from going to Puerto Rico. It was even reported that at yesterday’s lunch with Republicans, the president complained that Puerto Rico has been getting to too much aid.
He said he “doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island.” Even though he’s held up the dollars that Democrats and Republicans voted for. We help Americans when there’s a disaster. We don’t pick and choose because they may not vote for us or vote at all, or because we don’t like the elected official. These are people who are hurting. What the president is doing with Puerto Rico is disgraceful. Disgraceful, but typical of his view of the divide and pick winners and losers.
What the president is doing is unacceptable, and un-American. I urge my Republican colleagues to come to the table, accept the common sense changes we propose to help the territories recover – the same proposals that passed the House – and help us pass a disaster package that addresses the needs, not of some, but of all disaster survivors; that addresses the needs of all Americans who are affected, not just those that president says come from a state or area that he happens to like. That is not what any president before has done. That is not what America does.
Finally, Mr. President, I want to say a few words on the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
From the start, Democrats have argued that nothing short of full transparency will satisfy the American people’s right to know what happened during Russia’s attack on our election.
That is why is it unacceptable that Mr. Barr, who reached his initial conclusions quickly in 48 hours, now needs several weeks, he says, to review the report. And there are reports that may now only release a summary of that finding.
First, let me talk about the time. Attorney General Barr moved like a hare to get out the summary that he wrote with the purpose of exonerating the president. He is now moving like a tortoise to issue Mueller’s full report. People are going to ask what the heck is going on. Is there some political motivation here? Americans are entitled to see the full report, not a summary!
We all know that the intelligence community can redact the parts of report – small they will be – to protect sources, secret sources. But we also expect the rest of the report to be issued. Not a summary. Mr. Barr has issued one brief summary already and many Americans don’t trust that summary because they want to see the whole report before jumping to a conclusion.
So we need the report now and without delay. We can’t have political considerations enter into it – “Oh well, we’ll delay it for several weeks to let things cool off.” I hope that’s not what’s happening. But in any case, we need the report now.
This is too important for Mr. Barr to play politics - he can remove any cloud of suspicion by releasing the full report, as the President and members of his party call for. When we read reports that Barr only wants to release a summary and Leader McConnell is unsupportive of transparency - something doesn’t smell right.