Schumer Floor Remarks: DACA Ruling Doesn't Diminish Congress' Urgent Need to Act

January 10, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding legislative priorities that need to be addressed before January 19th, and the that the DACA Ruling doesn’t diminish Congress’ urgent need to act.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, we have barely over a week to negotiate a broad package of must-pass items, including: an extension of government funding, a deal to lift the spending caps for both defense and urgent domestic priorities, a health care package, disaster aid, and an agreement to protect the Dreamers and provide additional border security.

The path forward on many of these issues is clear. There are significant bipartisan majorities that would vote to extend the Children’s Health Insurance program and community health centers. There seems to be a growing consensus on how we can pass the 702 FISA court program.

I am confident we can assemble a disaster aid package that addresses the needs of all of our states and territories: Texas, Florida, Louisiana, California and the western states that have been plagued by fires, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, as well as modifying what the Forest Service does so they don’t spend all their money simply fighting forest fires and not do the job that they are intended to do, which is prevent future forest fires by careful forestry programs.

And where the path forward is a bit murkier, the outlines of a deal exist.

If we don’t lift the spending caps in short order, the sharp ax of sequestration will fall on the military side of the budget and the domestic side of the budget. That’s a scenario everyone wants to avoid. The Majority Leader continues to insist that we should raise the budget caps unequally, sparing our military but not critical domestic programs that create jobs and grow our economy and help the middle class. We Democrats believe we must – absolutely -- provide the resources our men and women overseas need to protect our country. We believe that strongly.

But we also know that there are so many important issues here at home. Combatting the opioid crisis. Improving veterans’ health care. Shoring up pension plans for millions of hardworking Americans who are approaching retirement. Dealing with rural development and rural broadband.

These items are all crucial to the middle class. The deadly scourge of opioid addiction has contributed to the first consecutive-year decline in life expectancy in the United States since the early 1960’s. That’s an astounding and alarming fact that should rouse everyone in this chamber to action. It is not occurring in most of our western country allies.

Some of our veterans are waiting in line for healthcare at veteran’s hospitals for over a year. These men and women served our country bravely; we have a solemn responsibility to serve them when they come home. We’re not living up to that responsibility right now.

Over a million Americans paid into pension plans with the expectation they could retire with a basic sense of dignity. For so many of them – teamsters, miners, food workers - pensions have fallen short, and a lifetime of careful savings may be ripped away from pensioners at the last moment.

We could make progress on each of these issues through a budget that lifts the spending caps equally for defense and non-defense. The Republican Majority, which conveniently forgot its long history of opposing deficits when passing a $1.5 trillion tax bill, cannot in good conscience turn around and complain about deficits here. So let’s make the investments we all know are essential, in our military, and in our middle class.

Even on the most challenging issue we face, the fate of the Dreamers, there appears to be a path forward.

Yesterday’s immigration meeting at the White House was encouraging for two reasons.

First, practically everyone at the table, including some of the most conservative voices on immigration like the Senator from Iowa, agreed that we must resolve the future of the Dreamers by passing DACA protections into law. That was a very positive development.

And second, President Trump appeared to endorse a narrow deal to protect the dreamers, leaving thornier issues for a later debate on comprehensive immigration reform, and a debate personally that I would welcome, the sooner the better. But first, we have to do this narrow deal. President Trump also backed off his demand that a DACA deal include an absurdly expensive and ineffective border wall across the entire length of the southern border.

Of course, the devil lives in the details. But we Democrats have repeated, time and time again, that we are ready, willing, and eager to support effective, practical border security measures in a deal to enshrine DACA into law. The president, yesterday, seemed to agree with that. We agree with that.

For those reasons, the meeting was encouraging.

Now, last night, a federal judge ruled against the Trump Administration’s handling of the termination of the DACA program.

But let me be very clear: the ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency of solving the DACA issue. On this, we agree with the White House, who says the ruling doesn’t do anything to reduce Congress’ obligation to address this problem now.

A court case is no guarantee of lasting security; a higher court can quickly overturn it. Unsurprisingly, the Department of Justice responded to the ruling last night by saying that it “will continue to vigorously defend [their] position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”

The fact remains -- the only way to guarantee legal status for the Dreamers is to pass DACA protections into law and do it now. For that reason, a resolution to the DACA issue must be part of a global deal on the budget.

We cannot wait. We cannot tolerate a delay. Delay is a tactic employed by those who do not wish to see a deal. Let me just say, promises that “maybe in the future we’ll do it,” particularly on immigration have vanished by the wayside. Unless DACA is on a must-pass deal, a must-pass bill, in terms of a global agreement, people are rightfully skeptical that it will ever happen. Somehow, somewhere, someone will say ‘I can’t do it.’

And let’s not forget, the House has been a graveyard, even for immigration proposals that have had bipartisan consensus here in the Senate. So it must be on a must-pass bill, otherwise we are not going to get it.

Congressional negotiators and the valiant group here in the Senate, led by Senators Durbin and Graham, are focused on the issue right now. The meeting they had yesterday – I talked to both Senator Durbin and Graham last night and this morning - provided a clearer picture of the parameters of a deal. The iron is hot, we should strike now. Delay will snuff out the hope of getting an agreement that both sides can live with. Let us press forward. Each side is going to have to give.

I am confident that both sides can come to an agreement on border security. I am convinced now that both sides want to find a consensus on DACA. Some will support a deal enthusiastically, others reluctantly, but nonetheless, an agreement appears to be within reach and we ought to get it done — through the Senate, through the House, and onto the President’s desk for signature now.

So let’s get the job done.