Schumer Floor Remarks On Avoiding A Trump Shutdown, Warning President Trump Not To Intervene In Huawei CFO Arrest, And A Farwell to Senator Heitkamp

December 13, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor (at approximately 10:00 a.m.) regarding President Trump’s options to avoid a partial government shutdown, warming President Trump not to intervene on China’s behalf in the arrest of the Huawei CFO and a farewell to Senator Heitkamp. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, we have just a little over a week to come to some agreement on how to fund the government past next Friday. Leader Pelosi and I have given the president two options to keep the government open. Both are noncontroversial. Neither contain any Democratic demand. We just want to keep the government open. So far, President Trump has not accepted either offer.

The president appears to be clinging to his demand for billions of dollars for a border wall. And from what we saw in the Oval Office and news reports about his reaction after our meeting, President Trump is willing to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government unless he gets his way.

I want to be crystal clear: there will not be additional appropriations to pay for the border wall. It’s done. The President repeatedly promised that Mexico would pay for his unnecessary and ineffective border wall, in his words: “100 percent.” On Tuesday, he said he would be “proud” to shut down the government, unless U.S. taxpayers would pay for it. And now, just this morning, the president tweeted that Mexico will pay for the wall through savings from the new NAFTA.

Well, Mr. President: If you say Mexico is going to pay for the wall through NAFTA, which it certainly won’t, then I guess we don’t have to! Let’s fund the government.

Honestly, if the president really believed what he tweeted this morning, that his new NAFTA would pay for the wall, he wouldn’t be threatening to shut down the government unless American taxpayers fund his wall. You can’t have it both ways.

The president’s position on the wall is totally contradictory, ill-informed, and frankly irresponsible. It’s not a serious proposal, it’s a throwaway idea the president used in the campaign and still uses to fire up his base. A Trump temper tantrum and shutdown threat isn’t going to change any minds here in Congress.

President Trump has several ways to avoid a shutdown. He should pick one, and soon. But if we wind up with a shutdown, it will be entirely the president’s fault. President Trump himself would not dispute that in the Oval Office Tuesday. He almost bragged that he would shut down the government. What irresponsibility.

And I’d just like to remind my friend the Leader that if we arrive at a Trump shutdown, the onus for reopening the government will soon fall in his lap.

When Democrats take control of the House in January, Democrats will pass one of our two options to fund the government, and then Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans will be left holding the bag for a Trump shutdown if they don’t pass our bill now.

So there’s no way for my Republican friends here to avoid this issue. There is no way for Leader McConnell to avoid the issue, fearful from President Trump as they all may be. Either Republicans help deal with the president now or they’ll be left dealing with a much bigger problem in January.

Now, a brief word on China. I have spent the better of the last two decades encouraging administrations to be tougher on China, which has risen to challenge the United States economically not through fair trade and responsible growth, but by shielding its markets from US competition, flouting international trade rules against dumping and currency manipulation, relentlessly stealing our intellectual property and know how. China has not played by the rules, they are the outlaw of trade. And they have cost the United States millions of jobs and probably trillions, if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

The recent arrest of the CFO of Huawei, a tech giant in China with close ties to its government and military, is a reminder of the predatory and rapacious behavior of Chinese companies. Huawei is charged by US officials with intentionally violating US sanctions with Iran.

Beyond these specific charges, however, Huawei has raised serious concerns among US officials for a potential role in cyberespionage, given their reported links to China’s state security services. And now news reports have confirmed that the massive cyberattack on the Marriott hotel chain a few weeks ago was conducted by no other than Chinese intelligence.

Now this administration has been tougher on China than previous administrations. They deserve credit on that. But it has also shown an eagerness to quickly bargain away tough enforcement of Chinese abuses for mild and sometimes meaningless “concessions.” So that President Trump can get a quick news hit, particularly on a bad day.  That was the story of ZTE. No one wants to see a repeat of that movie. We had ZTE dead to rights, they were hurting America and President Trump at the last minute still unexplained said, “let them off the hook.” I hope that doesn’t happen here again. Because this administration has set us up for a potential victory for the first time -- better than Bush’s administration, better than Obama’s administration -- against China’s rapaciousness.  

So I’m urging the president not to intervene on China’s behalf with US officials who are prosecuting these serious charges. We should have the Huawei CFO stand trial here in the United States. as she deserves.

Now finally, about my dear friend – the Senator from North Dakota. The task sadly falls to me now to begin saying goodbye to members of our caucus who will not be returning in the 116th Congress. And this morning, I’d like to begin with the junior senator from North Dakota.

Heidi Heitkamp had a childhood that sounds like it was ripped from the pages of a frontier epic. She grew up one of seven kids born over nine years, in a house with three bedrooms, and in town with a population south of 100. Do the math. That means around 1/10th of the town were Heitkamps.

Inside the household, the lack of space meant that Heidi’s room was also her brother’s room and also the laundry room. According to her sisters, the presence of the laundry machine had almost no effect on her. She’d read and read and read and rarely, if ever, did she participate in the washing or folding of the Heitkamp laundry.

Her siblings didn’t seem to mind, at least not too much. As Julie Heitkamp said about growing up with Heidi, “She was so good…it was annoying.”

Turned out that bookworm from a small town in North Dakota was destined for great things. When she worked for Senator Kent Conrad, the outstanding Democrat from North Dakota, he recognized the same goodness in Heidi that her sisters recognized. And he encouraged her to run for state auditor at the age of 28. She didn’t win that race, but she ran again for State Tax Commission, and won, and again for Attorney General, and won, fighting on behalf of sexual assault survivors and against the abusive practices of the tobacco industry. She’d run for governor and eventually Senate, losing the first but winning the second, becoming the first woman ever elected to the Senate from the state of North Dakota.

For someone who came from where Heidi came from, that election might have felt like a culmination. But no, for Heidi it was just the beginning. It wasn’t about winning or even beating the odds, it was about what you did with the time you had while you’re here. As Heidi talked about in her farewell speech, the thing that’s important is how we use our time.

Let the history books report just how well the Senator from North Dakota used her time while she was here. Heidi was able to bring Republicans and Democrats together during a time of extraordinary partisan divisions, one of the few that could do it so successfully on such major issues. It was because she understood how each side saw an issue, what each side wanted, and what a compromise could look like. And once she knew an agreement was possible – she’d work like no other to see that it was achieved.

That’s how she got Senator Whitehouse and Senator McConnell on the same energy bill having to do with carbon capture – a remarkable feat – a staunch environmentalist who gives speeches on the floor everyday about green issues and a Senator from a coal state who defends that industry.

That’s how she created the first amber alert in Indian Country with our dearly departed friend Senator John McCain.

That’s how she helped shut down “Back Page” and child sex trafficking on the internet with broad bipartisan support. What a great legacy, and all of it was bipartisan. 

That instinct for compromise and consensus was born from her life experience. In her family of nine, Heidi was known as “the arbitrator.” Even her name is a compromise. Born Mary Kathryn, Heidi became “Heidi” because there was a Mary and a Kathryn in her grade school class – so she gladly accepted a nickname.

Of course, there were times Heidi couldn’t bring our two sides together on an issue…because she was already further along than both sides. Senator Heitkamp was the first to really drive home the plight of Native American women, here in the Senate. She worked at it tirelessly, because she believed that if people knew about the poverty and abuse and addiction that plague many reservations, and how they affected both men and women, they’d be up in arms about it.

So she wrote the first bill to create a commission on Native American children, who suffer from rates of poverty, malnutrition, and educational disparities far above other populations. A little while ago it became law and received funding. Recently it had its first meeting. A legacy that will live on.

She also wrote Savannah’s Act to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Native American women. It passed the Senate unanimously just a few weeks after the election.

Well, Heidi, the Senate is catching up to you, and we intend to use the time that we have to build on the incredible legacy you leave on these issues. And just so I’ll never forget what your service has meant in this chamber, I will always keep a picture of 3 of the Heitkamp sisters on the wall of my office – all with their high North Dakota cheekbones -- it’s going to stay there to be a reminder of what Heidi has done and I’m sure she would say more importantly, a reminder of the many things we still have to do to continue the great legacy that she has left..

Those of us on this side of the aisle will miss her cornbread, at least I will, her insistence on corona beer, and her ability to suffer even the worst mimicked Fargo accents as I sometimes attempted to do. And all of us in this chamber will sure miss the junior senator from North Dakota, her warmth, her passion, her sincerity, her political courage.

We owe a debt of gratitude to her husband Darwin and her children Ali and Nathan for borrowing Heidi for these years, and we wish them all the best as well.