Schumer Floor Remarks Calling on President Trump to Follow Through on Promises to Work in Bipartisan Fashion and Finally Announce New Sanctions on Russia for Interfering in 2016 Election in Tonight’s State of the Union

January 30, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling on President Trump to follow through on promises to work in a bipartisan fashion and to finally announce new sanctions on Russia for interfering in 2016 election in tonight’s State of the Union.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here

Mr. President, tonight the President will address a joint session of Congress in his first official State of the Union. I want to talk about what I expect the president to say and also what I suspect he won’t. 

The President will be eager to defend the accomplishments of his nascent administration and take credit for a healthy American economy, pointing to low unemployment, job growth, and a soaring stock market.

But the truth is, these trends were present before Donald Trump took office. President Trump was handed an already healthy economy by his predecessor. Like many things in his life, he inherited it.

Here are two words we won’t hear President Trump say tonight about the economy: Thanks, Obama. 

Because much of the growth in 2017 was created by President Obama’s policies, and by many measures, the growth under President Obama was better than under President Trump.

Under President Obama, unemployment was driven from over 10% down into the fours. The tightening of the labor market finally started to reverse the stagnancy of median income. The stock market that President Trump often touts on Twitter – it was booming under President Obama as well.

In President Trump’s first year in office, the economy created 2.06 million jobs. That’s less than the 2.24 million created in 2016, the last year of Obama’s term. Again, President Obama created more jobs in the last year of his last term than you created in the first year of yours. So if you’re going to pat yourself on the back, give a shout out to President Obama because he did even better than you in job creation.

In 2017, under President Trump, average monthly job growth was lower than in 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011, all under President Obama. Again President Trump, job growth in your first year of your term was less than in each of the last six years of President Obama’s term. 

How about the stock market? In the first six months of 2017, the percentage growth of the S&P 500 was lower than during the first six months of President’s Obama’s term. In the first year of Trump’s presidency, the percentage growth of the Dow was lower than during the first year of President Obama.

So again, here are two words we’d like President Trump to say tonight about the economy: Thanks, Obama. We may never hear President Trump say those words, but he ought to.

I also expect the president to speak about bipartisanship.

President Trump understands there is a very low bar when it comes to the topic. His first year in office has been so divisive, even a mere appeal to bipartisanship sounds like progress. But the proof will be in the pudding.

Will President Trump pursue real bipartisanship through his actions or will he fall back on empty rhetoric? When it comes to bipartisanship, President Trump has to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Mr. President, when it comes to bipartisanship, actions speak much louder than words.

And I’d remind President Trump that this has been one of the most partisan administrations many of us have ever worked with. I’ve worked under President Reagan, President H.W. Bush, and President W. Bush, all Republicans, all of them were leagues more bipartisan than President Trump’s first year. 

We’ve seen an assembly line of partisan CRAs, designed not to need a single Democratic vote. A Supreme Court Justice picked by the hard-right Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society, no consultation, not a consensus nominee. A partisan healthcare bill that failed under reconciliation, specifically designed not to include Democrats. A partisan tax bill that ultimately passed, also under reconciliation, no consultation with Democrats, not a single Democratic vote.

The reason these don’t get Democratic votes is President Trump and his administration don’t talk to us. They don’t ask us what we might suggest. They don’t try to create a bipartisan meld like great Presidents have done from the time of George Washington. They just act in a narrow, partisan way, and the American people know it. 

There has been hardly a shred of bipartisanship in the Trump era, despite many appeals for it.

The President and Congressional Republicans seem to think that bipartisanship happens when one side puts together a bill, pounds the table and demands the support of the other side, with no negotiation or compromise. They’re missing the step where they consult with the other side, work with the other side, earn their support.

That’s the hard work of legislating in our democracy. But this Administration eschews hard work. This Republican Majority and the White House has been content to craft legislation on their own without consultation and without compromise, demand Democrats to support it, and then call us obstructionists when we don’t.

That dynamic is the root of so much of the ineffectiveness and gridlock here in Congress.

I sincerely hope that changes. If the President calls for bipartisanship tonight, I welcome it, but I eagerly await action, not just a sound bite in a speech. We await the honest debate, the good faith, the give-and-take and the eventual compromise that are the actual hallmarks of bipartisanship. 

If those things arise, even though they haven’t in the first year, Democrats will gladly work with our Republican colleagues and the White House to get things done for the middle class. But we need to see it to believe it. Mere words in a speech tonight do not create bipartisanship. Actions do. 

Finally, Mr. President, here’s something the President should discuss tonight: Russia sanctions.

He ought to impose the sanctions, as Congress voted for in an overwhelming bipartisan fashion, or at least explain why he hasn’t done so yet.

Over a year ago, the US Intelligence Community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. That is a fact. And as a fact, that alone is shocking.

A hostile foreign power interfered with an American election and likely influenced it in measurable ways. The founders of our country feared this very possibility. They knew that for a democracy to work, the election of the people’s representatives must be free and fair and legitimate – and that foreign powers, even back then, would try to corrupt that process. They wrote safeguards into the constitution to protect against it.

Last year, the American people were the victim of such an attack by an antagonistic foreign power: Russia.

So I call on President Trump tonight to use his State of the Union to tell Americans what he plans to do about Russian attacks on our democracy. Implement sanctions President Trump, or at the very least tell us why you haven’t. Because today is the day that the President is supposed to obey the sanctions issue Congress voted on overwhelmingly a while back. 

There is no subject more worthy of a thorough and unbiased investigation than the Russian interference in our elections. And yet, the President and his allies have waged a scorched-earth campaign to discredit the investigation in any way possible: by assassinating the character of career civil servants, assailing the credibility of the media, attacking law enforcement agencies and officers, even denigrating the institutions of American government.

You’d sooner believe it was taking place in a banana republic, or Erdogan’s Turkey, or Putin’s Russia, than in the United States of America. What has been done by House Republicans and gone along with by just about the whole Republican establishment, is not worthy of this democracy. It makes us look like a banana republic, and it is shameful. 

A different kind of President would be encouraging Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation and shouting down those forces who tried to interfere with it. A different kind of President would want to know how precisely Russia meddled in our election and would have severely punished Putin for it to discourage him from ever trying it again.

But here we are, 180 days since the President signed a historic Russia sanctions bill passed by this body by a vote of 97-2, and he still hasn’t implemented the sanctions. When it comes to sanctions, the White House is engaged in a dangerous kabuki theater that tries to show strength when in fact there is none. The Administration refused to implement secondary sanctions against the Russian defense and intelligence sectors. Last night, the Administration released a mandated report of Russian oligarchs that seems to match a list already put together by Forbes magazine. This is a reflection of the lack of seriousness with which they took this task.

He is supposed to implement sanctions today, the day of the State of the Union. Again Mr. President, implement the sanctions tonight, or at least tell the American people why you’re not and opening an invitation to Russia to do it again. 

Why won’t Donald Trump use the power given to him by a near unanimous vote in Congress to hold Russia accountable? Why is the President so afraid to sanction Putin, his associates, or other corrupt Russian actors and officials? Why is he giving Putin a free pass after he attacked our democracy? What is he so afraid of?

Only a year after a hostile foreign power shook the very bedrock of our democracy, any other President would spend his or her first State of the Union talking about efforts that were well underway to punish the abuser and prevent such an attack from ever recurring.

Why not this President?

If President Trump wishes to save his presidency from the shame of having failed to address one of the gravest threats facing our country, he would announce this evening in no uncertain terms that he was sanctioning President Putin. Any other President would have already made it their priority to take decisive action in their first year.

But this President is paralyzed when it comes to Putin and his cronies in Russia. Here are two words the President may not say tonight: “Russia sanctions.” Be he ought to.