Schumer Floor Remarks Commemorating Police Week, On Republican Judges, The Need For Disaster Relief Funding For All American Citizens, Alabama’s Inhumane Abortion Bill, Demanding President Trump Be Transparent About His Goals For the Middle East, And HUD’s Proposed Rule Barring Families With Mixed Immigration Status From Receiving Public Housing Assistance

May 15, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the observation of Peace Officers Memorial Day, Republican judges, the need for disaster relief funding for all American citizens, Alabama’s inhumane abortion bill, demanding  President Trump make his goals in the Middle East clear to Congress and the American people, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s proposed rule that would bar families with mixed immigration status from receiving public housing assistance, even if everyone but one member of the family are legal residents. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I’d first like to talk about police week. Today, we observe Peace Officers Memorial Day, the heart of National Police Week. We all remember the men and women in law enforcement who made the ultimate sacrifice, and we pause to say thank you to all of our police officers who work day and night to keep our communities safe. I want to share a special thanks to all our law enforcement members visiting from New York, who in my view are the gold standard in police work.

I grew up in a neighborhood where police officers lived. I played with their children at their houses. You always knew, sort of instinctively, even as a kid, when that phone rang, and the spouse -- almost always in those days the wife of the police officer -- heard the phone ring, what went through her head a little bit was ”I hope this isn’t the call I dreaded.” This is the job of a police officer and their families. And that is to risk their safety for our safety, and they do a great job.

And, as we recognize their contributions, we should acknowledge what we could do in Congress to make their jobs safer and easier. We could make our streets safer by passing comprehensive background check legislation. We can help law enforcement combat foreign opioid trafficking by passing the bipartisan Fentanyl Sanctions Act, and the Power Act which provides handheld scanning devices, so when a police officer is on a drug bust they can tell if fentanyl is part of the crime scene there and can take precautions to protect themselves because we know how deadly fentanyl is, even if it gets on your skin or in your nostrils. And we can also do more to care for the families of fallen officers.

That’s why I’ve been proud to fight alongside my colleague Sen. Gillibrand and so many others to make sure the September 11th Victim’s Compensation Fund has the necessary funding. Last Friday, the NYPD added the names of nearly 50 police offers to the 9/11 memorial wall, all of whom died from 9/11-related illnesses. It is our duty to take care of these families, and the first step is making sure the VCF has enough funds to compensate them.

So to our law enforcement officers, two words: thank you. Thank you for your service. It is an honor to represent you in the Senate, and we are all grateful for the sacrifices you make every day.

Now on judges.

During the same week that we mark the 65th Anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education, Leader McConnell has scheduled votes on nominees whose views directly contradict the spirit of equality and justice that Brown represents. It’s appalling. These new people we are putting on the bench so turn the clock backwards after we have made so much progress, especially in the courts.

Consider the nomination of Michael Truncale of Texas. He has peddled conspiracies of “widespread voter fraud,” once called President Obama an “un-American imposter” who “bows to Arab Sheikhs and other world leaders.” This is a man we are putting on the bench, a man who is supposed to be judicious, thoughtful, who sees both sides. What we are putting on the bench is hard-right ideologues who will do damage to this country for a generation. Mr. Truncale was approved by the Republican Senate yesterday for a seat on the District Court in Texas and he’s going to sit on that bench for life. A man who say things like this, who thinks like this. I’ve always tried to put on the bench people who were moderate. So many of us have. President Clinton did, President Obama did. And here we have a parade of narrow ideologues, and that’s not who should be on the bench because they will make law rather than interpret the law.

Here’s another one: Kenneth Lee of California. His past writings reveal shocking positions on race and diversity, affirmative action/educational opportunity, women’s reproductive freedom. He once wrote that multiculturalism is a “malodorous sickness” and that sexism – sexism, which we’ve all seen and heard, and a little more than half our population experiences – to be “irrelevant pouting.” That’s a man who should be on the bench? Mr. Lee, if confirmed today, may preside over cases dealing with gender discrimination.

And consider Wendy Vitter, nominated to the Eastern District [of Louisiana]. She once promoted the idea that contraceptives cause cancer and claimed that Planned Parenthood kills 150,000 women annually. She refused to acknowledge Brown v. Board was correctly decided, and saying instead that the decision was correct with the benefit of hindsight, whatever that means. On this very anniversary -- that’s who is on the floor, to be voted on, in lockstep by all the folks here on the Republican side. In the same district where six-year-old Ruby Bridges became the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South, the Senate will consider confirming someone who claimed hindsight was needed to understand why the decision that allowed Ruby to go to the same school as a white child was the correct one. That is who we’re putting on the bench. These are not just conservatives – we understand, the President, Republicans, will put in conservatives. But hard right narrow ideologues who show no understanding or sympathy for people who don’t look like them, or pray like them, or marry like them? What is wrong here?

It’s not hard: if you need the benefit of hindsight to understand that Brown v. Board of Education, which brought an end to school segregation and led to the end of American apartheid, was correctly decided, you shouldn’t be a federal judge. I urge my colleagues, in the spirit of the Brown anniversary and what it means, to oppose Ms. Vitter’s nomination this afternoon.

Now on Puerto Rico.

Briefly, Mr. President, as negotiations on a final package of disaster aid continue, I want to stress to everyone that we must remain focused on reaching an agreement as swiftly as possible.

Disaster-stricken Americans in the West, the South, the Midwest and three million citizens in Puerto Rico are waiting on Congress to deliver relief, in some cases for disasters that occurred over a year ago.

Well, why is this held up? We know why. Republicans were not willing to give aid to Puerto Rico. A bill that would never pass the House and something they didn’t think of originally was when President Trump said “don’t do it,” and they just bowed down. And they thought that they could roll over the House, Democratic minority in the Senate who wouldn’t stand up for certain Americans. Well, we did.

And now, thankfully, we’re making progress. Republicans are realizing that Puerto Ricans cannot be left out of this disaster aid package. But now we must avoid poison pills at all costs. President Trump, if he sticks his thumb into this again and asks for something unreasonable we’ll delay disaster aid once again, just as he did once. So to my Republican colleagues, let’s do this together, let’s do it in the right way, let’s do it in a way that can pass the House. President Trump will sign the bill. We have got to make sure this legislation gets across the finish line. And every time the President intervenes and Republican colleagues go along, it gets held up even further.

On the Alabama abortion bill.

Last night, the Republican Alabama Senate passed perhaps the most draconian abortion law in the country. It bans abortion at every stage of pregnancy, imposes criminal penalties on any doctor who performs one, and includes no exception in the case of rape or incest, even if the victim is a child. A child is raped – it has to have the baby.

The Alabama abortion bill is plainly inhumane. It should never have passed, the Governor should not sign it, and if she does, it ought to be swiftly struck down by the courts.

And on Iran.

Over the past few days, it has come to light in public reporting that the Trump Administration’s national security team has reviewed a plan to deploy as many as 120,000 U.S. troops in the Middle East should tensions with Iran escalate.

I was stunned to read this report in the NY Times yesterday. The Administration just started a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran, but is it simultaneously reviewing plans for war? That would make no sense. The President, meanwhile, oddly denied the report, while also saying that he would “absolutely” send ground troops to the Middle East, but if he did, it would be a “heck (and I’m paraphrasing) of a lot more troops than 120,000.” Did we learn the lessons of the last decade? Do we know that we have to spend our time focusing on building up this country here, not building roads and bridges in the Middle East?

There is an alarming lack of clarity here, there’s a lack of strategy, and there’s a lack of consultation. The President ought to come up with a strategy and make it clear to Congress: an adventure like this – 120,000 troops are a large number of troops – should have to be approved by Congress. It certainly should be discussed with the Congress ahead of time. There need to be open hearings and closed briefings with the committees of jurisdiction immediately. Any potential increase in our military presence in the Middle East should require consultation with Congress and anything beyond that would require this body to act. President Trump, what is your strategy? Where are you headed and why aren’t you talking to Congress about it?

And finally, on public housing.

It was reported last week that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed a rule that would bar families with mixed immigration status from receiving public housing assistance, even if everyone but one member of the family are legal residents. So if it’s a family of six, a mother who’s an American citizen, four children who are American citizens, but a husband who is not and not here legally, they’d kick them all out.

It risks displacing tens of thousands of legal residents of American citizens, including 55,000 children. The Administration has created crisis after crisis with the immigrant community. Are they going to create another one and take 55,000 young American children – almost all of whom are citizens – and just kick them out on the streets when we know there’s very little affordable housing? What a cruel and callous policy. It’s another example of the Trump administration’s desire to separate families and disrupt communities.

There’s nothing to say about this proposed rule but that it is cruel, wrongheaded, and will lead to even more chaos than the administration has created already. In an effort to appear even more punitive towards immigrants, the Administration has conjured up a rule that could potentially force tens of thousands of children into homelessness or away from their families.

So my message to President Trump and Secretary Carson is simple: scrap this idea, now.