Schumer Floor Remarks Calling On Leader McConnell To Commit To Senate Vote On Policing Reform Legislation And Rebuking Senate GOP For Pursuing Already Discredited Conspiracy Theories Instead Of Addressing Racial Justice Issues And The Public Health & Economic Crises That Disproportionately Impact African Americans And Other Communities of Color

June 4, 2020

Schumer Condemns Senate GOP Blocking Senate Dems’ Effort To Pass House-Passed Legislation To Reform Paycheck Protection Program And Highlighted Former Defense Secretary Mattis’ Denouncement Of President Trump 

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for policing reform and racial justice and rebuked Senate Republicans for chasing conspiracy theories instead of working to address systemic racism or the ongoing COVID public health and economic crises that disproportionally impact African Americans and other communities of color. In addition, Senator Schumer highlighted former Defense Secretary Mattis’ denouncement of President Trump following his unconstitutional attacks on peaceful protesters. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

A short time ago, in conjunction with the memorial service being held today in Minnesota for George Floyd, I joined the rest of the Senate Democratic caucus in Emancipation Hall to recognize a “moment of silence” in honor of his memory, as well as the memory of Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery and the unimaginable number of Black Americans who have had their lives ended in police custody.

Standing near the statue of Frederick Douglass, a Black American who fought his whole life for a measure of racial equality, the “moment” of silence lasted 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that the white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Standing there in silence, you feel the horrifying length of George Floyd’s final 9 minutes. You cannot help but imagine his horror and fear—knowing that his trauma, and the trauma of his family and friends, has been felt by so many Black families and Black communities across the country and across the centuries.

Of course, a moment of silence, a moment of solidarity, is no substitute for real action. That is why Senate Democrats are working right now on policing reform legislation. That is why we are demanding that the Republican Majority Leader commit to addressing this issue on the floor of the Senate.

Leader McConnell, why don't you admit that we have to do something here, and not just say, “well, maybe we'll take a look at it”—as you did on gun control after the violent shootings, and then you did nothing? Make a commitment here and now to the American people that we will put on the floor—that you will put on the floor—police reform and racial justice legislation this month.

Will our Republican colleagues ever join us in this effort?

I know these issues aren't easy, but we can't begin to make progress if the Republican Leader and the Republican majority won't even let us try to address these issues in a legislative manner.

The Republican leader has said: “The coin of the realm in the Senate is floor time. What are you going to devote time to?”

Well, it’s been five weeks since Leader McConnell called the Senate back into session during the height of the pandemic. The Republican majority has yet to put a single bill on the floor of the Senate related to COVID-19. We passed a much-needed extension of PPP reform last night—a very popular and bipartisan program—only after Democrats forced action here on the floor.

I don't believe our Republican majority would have done anything. We announced we would UC the bill, and we did, and it was blocked. And then of course, faced with the public pressure of moving, Leader McConnell came on the floor late last night—late last evening—and moved the bill. But make no mistake about it, without the pressure that we Democrats placed on the Republican majority to make these changes, it would certainly have been further delayed and might never have happened.

Now, Leader McConnell had said that another emergency relief bill was “likely” before July 4th. But then on Tuesday, when listing his priorities for the June session, Leader McConnell did not mention COVID legislation. Republican Senators are starting to say that another relief bill might—might—come in late July. Shocking.

This past week, just today it was announced nearly 2 million more Americans filed for unemployment, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to over 42 million. The monthly jobs report tomorrow is expected to report over 20% unemployment. And we should wait? As people are losing their jobs, as parents are not sure they can feed their kids or stay in their homes, as small businesses—where people put blood, sweat, and tears over the years and even decades to build them are collapsing—and we should wait? Why? Because maybe some right-wing ideologues or some of the very big leaders of the Republican party and benefactors don't like spending money on anything? I don't know if that's the reason. I hope it isn't. But we can't wait. We can't wait.

The economic disaster, as with so many issues in society, will disproportionately affect Black Americans. One hundred and nine thousand fellow Americans have died. And more are dying every day. Every. Single. Day.

But Senate Republicans want to wait until late July to maybe—maybe—do another relief bill.

The coin of the realm in the Senate is floor time. Leader McConnell and every Senate Republican: what are you going to devote time to?

Today, towards the end of one of the more tumultuous and painful weeks in recent memory, marked by emotional protests about racial justice and police violence, Senate Republicans are holding sessions in the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees related to President Trump’s favorite conspiracy theories about the 2016 election.

I'm not making this up. That's what they're doing, American people. Not talking about COVID. Not talking about racial justice, but focusing on some Russian-originated theory that has been discredited by our intelligence agencies. That's what the Republican Senate is doing. No wonder they're in trouble. The American people are looking for some kind of real help—some kind of real discussion. And the Republicans are talking about conspiracy theories.

And then the Judiciary Committee is set to approve another right-wing judge, a McConnell protégé, Justin Walker. Seriously. At least if you look at the record and history of Justin Walker, the chances of him being for strengthening voting rights and antidiscrimination legislation is very, very tiny. And yet they move forward on him.

By the end of the day, the two Republican-led committees will have approved up to 100 subpoenas, unprecedented in modern history. In the midst of national crises, Senate Republicans are trying to use the Senate to do opposition research for the president’s re-election campaign. Seriously?

The Republican majority will approve up to 100 subpoenas to chase the president’s wild conspiracy theories but has not put one bill on jobs, one bill on testing, one bill on employment on the floor of the Senate since Leader McConnell called us back. They won’t even commit to a debate on law enforcement reform.

You might think that an economic crisis and a public health emergency, on top of a searing reminder of racial injustice, might have put the conspiracy caucus on pause. But no such luck.

The American people should call their Republican Senators. Demand action.

The Republican Senate is failing to meet this important moment. And the Republican president isn’t doing any better. In a week marred by unacceptable violence and rioting in some places, the president advocates more violence, chaos, more disorder, including appalling attacks on the Constitutional rights of protesters on his front porch.

I am heartbroken by stories of peaceful protesters who have been injured when these protests turn ugly. Heartbroken by reports of police officers who are doing their job the right way, striving to keep the peace, who have been gravely injured. Three of New York’s finest were injured yesterday while assigned to prevent looting. A New York State trooper in Buffalo was run over the other night. I wish New York State Trooper Ron Ensminger, and the Buffalo Police officers injured in these disturbing incidents, a speedy and full recovery, and thank him for his service and commitment to public safety.

Let me once again state, unequivocally, that the cause of justice and change sought by the protestors in and beyond, is undermined by lawlessness and violence.

But President Trump, however, seems incapable of acknowledging the overwhelmingly number of peace protestors are peaceful and are simply advocating change, quite the opposite. The president wants Americans to falsely believe that all the people who are protesting for a good cause—equality and racial justice—are violent. Nothing could be further from the truth. The overwhelming majority of protesters are doing what our Founding Fathers did— protesting to make this nation a better nation. They should be praised, not vilified. In a week marred by unacceptable rioting in some places, the president advocates attacks on the constitutional rights on his front porch?  My goodness -- my goodness.

Earlier this week, Americans watched federal officers under the direction of the president and the Attorney General use gas and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of peaceful protesters in the park. The Lincoln Memorial was blocked off by rows of camouflaged officers. There are reports right now that troops from Fort Drum and Fort Brag are camped outside of Washington, D.C. I would ask our leaders of our military: if those reports are true, what are they doing there? What are their orders?

The Republican Leader a few minutes ago mentioned Tiananmen Square. Of course, no one believes that we are China or like China. Of course not. We are a democracy and we're proud of it. And most of us love and praise the right for peaceful protest. But I would remind the Republican Leader, when any president, particularly an overreaching one like this, steps over the line, if good people don't raise their voices, that is the way to erode democracy, which China does not have. Where is Leader McConnell’s voice? Instead of spinning these crazy theories, why doesn't he just speak out against what the president did Monday night? Why did he block our resolution, our simple resolution, which called for only three things—one, praise the protesters, two, condemn violence and, three, condemn the president for what he did.

Our nation’s capital is being patrolled by federal officers, commanded by President Trump and Attorney General Barr, who refuse to identify who they are and where they come from. What is President Trump doing to this Democracy? To the rule of law and the primacy of the Constitution? And where are the Republican Senate voices—Leader McConnell and everyone else here—condemning it what he did? Again, democracy will be eroded if we don't stand up for it, if we're afraid to speak out, afraid to tell President Trump he's overreaching and done bad, bad things when he does them. And I'm not the only one who feels this way. We have had statement after statement from Americans of all political stripes. I read George Will, for instance, the other day. He is a conservative, but he cares about America. He's got some principle.

And then the most remarkable of all issued by President Trump's former Secretary of Defense. I want to read some of what former Secretary Mattis said:

“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside. We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority that we witnessed in Lafayette Square.

Secretary Mattis continues, “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us. We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society.

This will not be easy, as the past few days have shown, but we owe it to our fellow citizens; to past generations that bled to defend our promise; and to our children.”

That was President Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. Like all former members of the military, I know that Secretary Mattis strives to avoid political statements. He's assiduously avoided them so far, but it was a searing indictment of President Trump's failures that importuned Secretary Mattis to speak out so strongly about the president's divisiveness, immaturity, and abuse of power.

And make no mistake about it, General Mattis' comments were a shot across the bow to our military leaders: don’t let the president push you into doing things you know that are wrong, that should not be done, and that could very well violate the Constitution.