Schumer Floor Remarks Calling Out The Need For A Bipartisan Appropriations Process In Senator McConnell’s Legislative Graveyard And Urging The Senate To Pass The Bipartisan House-Passed Resolution Condemning The President’s Foreign Policy Failure In Syria

October 21, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard and the need for a bipartisan appropriations process, and calling for the Senate to take up and pass the bipartisan House-passed resolution condemning the president’s decision to abandon the U.S.’s Kurdish allies in Syria. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I just heard the majority leader, Leader McConnell, say that he wants to see if we can do appropriations bills, we’ll see if Democrats want to legislate. Well give me a break. We’ve been waiting for nine months since we started to legislate and it’s well known in the country that the Senate is the legislative graveyard. Leader McConnell has not put on the floor bill after bill after bill on major issues affecting the country that demand attention. And most everybody knows that he’s proud that he’s the grim reaper. So now, to say, “will Democrats want to legislate?” Well, it’s all up to Leader McConnell.

Now on the appropriations bills, of course we want to legislative when it’s being done in a fair way and there are some bills that came out of the Appropriations Committee in a bipartisan way. I think there are four of them that the leader is thinking of putting on the floor and we’d like to move forward on those and have a vigorous process as we go forward.

There’s certain bills that were not done with any consultation. Taking money out of things like military construction, HHS, and putting it for a wall he knows the Democrats wouldn’t go for. Those kind of things we can’t legislate until they become bipartisan, until we work together. So there are certain bills: HHS, defense, Mil-Con, DHS – that we can’t move forward on until we have some bipartisan agreement. But on the bills where there’s agreement we would be happy to move forward. Of course that doesn’t solve the problem. After that happens our House colleague—Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Lowey—have suggested that there be a 302(b) conference because even the 302(b)s are different in these bills and that’s the right place to go once the Senate passes these less controversial bills.

So I hope we can move forward, I hope we can. The first package of bills, four of the five, are not controversial. The fifth they didn’t even bring to the floor of the Appropriations Committee, Mil-Con. But on those four, moving forward would be a fine thing. And hopefully we could work out an amendment process whereby members could offer amendments. So we will finally legislate after nine months, not just move judges and other appointees and that’s a good thing and I’m glad that Leader McConnell finally has, maybe, felt the pressure and wants to legislate.

Let’s go to Syria. Saturday night, President Trump announced on Twitter that he was reversing his decision to host next year’s G-7 summit at his golf resort in Doral, Florida. The president’s original decision was the textbook definition of self-dealing, an outrageous move that provoked immediate and rightful condemnations. Multiple outlets over the weekend reported that the president decided to back down only after hearing of intense opposition from members of his own party—many of whom told him privately that they would not defend him on this issue. It’s obvious. It’s obvious to almost everyone in America that you don’t suggest a resort that you own as the place to have a conference. Makes no sense. And is the president so interested in making a few extra dollars—the reports are he brags what a multi-billionaire he is—to risk violating the rules and laws of this country, the emoluments clause? Makes no sense.

Well, it’s unfortunate that this wasn’t the only decision that made no sense. There’s an obvious parallel here between the president’s decision about the G-7 and his decision to precipitously withdraw from our forces in Syria. Both were done in a sort of whimsical way where from all reports the president doesn’t consult with the experts, in this latter case with the military and the State Department and the CIA. Both have resulted in condemnation from across the political spectrum. In fact, last week, over 120 House Republicans voted in favor of a resolution criticizing the president’s Syria policy, Leaders McCarthy, Scalise, and Cheney—hardly moderates in the middle who are always seeking compromise, these are pretty hardnosed people—and they voted to condemn it, so it must be pretty bad. Former military commanders and some of the president’s staunchest allies in the Senate echoed those sentiments. Just like the president reversed course on the G-7 after a torrent of criticism from his own party, President Trump must drastically rethink his policy in Syria, which is far more dangerous, because of one word above all else: ISIS

By abruptly pulling troops out of northern Syria, the president has betrayed and deserted our partners and allies, created a security vacuum that our longest standing adversaries (Iran, Putin, and Assad) are exploiting. He put American lives in danger by letting hardened ISIS fighters escape captivity and regroup. As American troops leave Kurdish-held areas, videos show Kurdish locals hurling rotting vegetables and shouting, “America lies.” That’s painful. You know who it’s most painful to? Our soldiers who fought alongside the Kurds, and so the Kurds sacrificed some of their own people so Americans wouldn’t have to die. One leading Russian newspaper—no doubt part of Putin propaganda machine—ran a column this week proclaiming “Russia’s unexpected triumph in the Middle East…Putin won the lottery!” Meanwhile, public reports suggest that at least 200 people with suspected links to the Islamic State have escaped a displacement camp in northeast Syria as a result of Turkish invasion. And we in New York know better than anyone. A small group of bad bad terrorists, evil terrorists, can do untold damage to our homeland. This policy is reckless, un-thought out, dangerous.

It has been three weeks since the announcement of the president’s decision, and he has yet to articulate any plan for what happens next. As a five-day “pause” on hostilities quickly comes to an end tomorrow, every member of this chamber ought to be asking: what is President Trump’s strategy to secure the enduring defeat of ISIS? How does the president plan to find the escaped ISIS prisoners? How does he plan to fix this mess? Because these ISIS people are dangerous and could well create a problem right here in our homeland.

According to the New York Times this morning, the president is now considering leaving a small force in eastern Syria. We need to know if that’s true, and if so, how many? What would their mission be, and for how long? And maybe most pressing: how would a deployment in eastern Syria secure ISIS prisoners and help track down those who have already escaped, Which presents such a great danger to our country?

The president is flitting from one idea to the next without a coherent strategy. His own cabinet officials have yet to even agree on a time to brief Senators on the Administration’s plan. We’ve been waiting and we want to hear form the top people. Secretary Esper, Secretary Pompeo, CIA head Haspel. This is serious stuff. Congress has to be briefed. We’re worried that we’re not being briefed because there is no strategy, and these three people who are in charge of major portions of the American government, the military, the CIA, the diplomatic corps, don’t have any idea what the president is up to.

The quickest, simplest, and most powerful way to send that message to the president would be for the Senate to take up and pass the bipartisan House resolution on Syria.

I asked the Senate’s consent to take it up last week, but unfortunately, it was blocked. We’re going to keep coming back to it, though, because it makes a difference when my Republican colleagues stand up to the president. That can affect him more than anything else so they shouldn’t duck him, or be allowed to duck him.

When Republicans pressure the president, as they did on the G-7, he considers changing course. So when it comes to our national security, vital matters of foreign policy, and—yes—especially when it comes to the Constitution, the rule of law, and the integrity of our democracy—Republicans must put country over party. On Syria and the fight against ISIS, that means Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans should let us vote on the House resolution criticizing the president’s withdrawal.

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