Schumer Floor Remarks on Budget Deal, DREAM Act, Special Counsel Mueller, & the GOP Tax Bill

December 7, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding progress on a budget deal, the DREAM Act, protecting the integrity of Special Counsel Mueller, and the Republican tax bill. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Congressional negotiators are making good headway on a budget deal that would meet our commitments to our military and also urgent priorities here at home. I hope that this progress continues this week.

Unfortunately, the progress here in Congress is in stark contrast to the rhetoric coming from the White House. President Trump again suggested yesterday that “a shutdown could happen.” If a shutdown happens, as the president seemed to be rooting for in a tweet earlier this year, it will fall on his shoulders. His party controls the Senate, the House, and the Presidency.

Nobody here wants to see a shutdown. We Democrats are not interested in one – that’s why we’re working with our Republican colleagues in good faith to resolve all of the issues we have to solve before the end of the year. And it is in that spirit that Leader Pelosi and I will go to the White House this afternoon to discuss all of the issues before us.

Now, it’s no secret that one of the major sticking points, if not the major sticking point, in the negotiations is funding levels for programs that invest directly in economic growth and the social safety net for the middle class. Democrats are pushing for sorely needed funding to combat the opioid crisis, shore up pension plans, support veteran’s health care, relieve student loan debt, and build rural infrastructure.

Without a budget agreement that lifts the spending caps on defense and economic development in a fair and equitable manner. The programs I have mentioned and so many others, medical research comes to mind, could see their funding cut.

Our veterans deserve better. People seeking recovery from opioid addiction deserve better. Hard-working pensioners deserve better.

We must do both of these things – support the military and programs that create jobs and economic growth here at home – in equal measure. Both are very important. I know there are some on the far-right who say all the jobs programs and economic growth programs are unimportant. Some on the far-left who say the military is unimportant. But most of us, Democrat and Republican, believe both are important. The idea that both are important has been the basis of successful budget agreements going back several years, including the agreement we reached in April where the military side and the domestic – job, economic growth side – were treated equally.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Freedom Caucus – a small bloc of hard-right House conservatives – is trying to derail another successful parity agreement. According to press reports, the Freedom Caucus is pushing for a very short-term extension of funding for jobs and economic development, while pushing for a long-term extension and a large increase of funding for defense. It’s just a ruse that’s designed to slash funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure and scientific research – all the things the Freedom Caucus, against the will of the overwhelming majority of Americans, doesn’t want the government to fund.

Make no mistake: the Freedom Caucus is gearing up to hurt the middle class on the budget, just like the Republicans way beyond the Freedom Caucus did with their tax bill. Just like on the tax bill, we Democrats are going to defend the middle class because they need our help too and they have been forgotten by our Republican colleagues throughout the year. Only this time, the Freedom Caucus’ actions, if they have their way, could lead to disaster. Speaker Ryan must stand up and tell the Freedom Caucus “no” -- they cannot be allowed to hold hostage productive bipartisan budget negotiations with outrageous demands that will hurt the middle class.

If Speaker Ryan lets them have their way, it will cause a shutdown. It will be on the Freedom Caucus’ shoulders, Leader Ryan’s shoulders, and the president’s shoulders, because such a bill could not pass either the House or the Senate. We are giving them fair warning right now. Not right at the deadline.

Finally, let me say a word about the DREAM Act. Earlier this week, my friend, the senior Senator from Illinois, came to the floor to update the Senate on the progress he is making in his negotiations with Senate Republicans on an agreement that would provide a significant investment in border security in exchange for the DREAM Act. As I have said in the past, Democrats support real border security and will happily join with Republicans to pass legislation to secure our border in exchange for the DREAM Act.  Those talks continue to make progress, and I hope we can reach an agreement soon. 

Now, a word on the special counsel.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve continued to hear Republican lawmakers and partisan media hosts attack the integrity of Special Counsel Mueller in a shameful display meant to undermine his investigation into the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Spuriously attacking Robert Mueller, one of the most respected and trusted civil servants in our country, is the surest route to losing all of your credibility. I’d remind everyone on the right who are trying to muddy the waters on the Mueller investigation: Robert Mueller was a career prosecutor who’s served both Republican and Democratic Administrations in the most trusted roles. He was appointed by President Trump’s own Deputy Attorney General. It defies credulity to lambaste him as partisan or biased. He is as straight a shooter as they come.

But this is bigger than one man, Mr. President. The attacks on Special Counsel Mueller and his investigation erode faith in the rule of law, that bedrock principle at the heart of our civic life.        

If independent investigations into matters as grave as foreign interference in our elections succumb to intimidation and partisan slander, we’ll be no better than a third-world country. Rule of law will be gone, at least for the President of the United States, something Americans have always treasured for centuries. What has always defined American democracy is an unyielding faith in the rule of law -- its power to check our people as well as our presidents.

Special Counsel Mueller is the rule of law at work in our 21st Century American democracy. Intentionally and spuriously impugning his integrity, or smearing his efforts as partisan, is not only inaccurate but damaging to a core ideal in our country – the independent, impartial rule of law.

We must loudly reject the strident voices who engage in these attacks, on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Finally, on the matter of the tax bill.

With the passage of the Senate Republican tax bill last Friday, the Republican Party has shrugged off its history as the party of tax cuts and has become the party of tax hikes on the middle class.

The Republican tax bill will end up raising taxes on millions of middle-class families to pay for corporate welfare.

As our Republican colleagues march us closer toward an enormous corporate tax cut, we’ve seen numerous companies start to announce plans to buy back more stock. Not build factories, not create jobs, but buy back their stock which of course benefits the CEO because the stock price goes up. T-Mobile has announced $1.5 billion in stock buybacks, MasterCard has announced $4 billion, Bank of America has announced $5 billion.

Just this morning, 3 or 4 more companies announced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of buybacks. These companies, I would say to President Trump and I would say to my Republican colleagues, are NOT announcing new investments in their workforce, or wage increases like Republicans promised they would, they’re announcing stock repurchasing programs that benefit their wealthy investors.

The tax bill will also saddle the next generation of leaders with larger deficits and debts, limiting our ability to make the kind of investments we need to be making in education, infrastructure, and scientific research. A far surer path to good-paying jobs and raising wages than giving corporate America, already flush with cash, even more stock buybacks.

And for the same reason – those increased deficits – Republicans will come back and try to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, making it even harder in America to access affordable healthcare and retire with dignity.

Speaker Ryan admitted it yesterday. He said: “We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit, ” and he specifically mentioned Medicare. They first create the deficit by these huge tax cuts for the wealthiest corporations and individuals, and then they take it out on the middle class by saying ‘oh we have no choice but to cut Medicare.’ What is the matter? I hope the American people will see this. I hope some of the news channels and radio commentators will note this, since those are the people that listen to them.

And that’s only what we know about the bill. It was muscled through this chamber with such reckless haste; we’re still finding errors and unintended consequences every day.

In yesterday’s Politico, Greg Jenner, a former top tax official in President Bush’s Treasury Department who helped write the 1986 tax reform bill, was quoted as saying: “The more you read [of the Republican tax bill], the more you go, ‘Holy crap, what’s this?' We will be dealing with unintended consequences for months to come because the bill is moving too fast.” That is a Republican former tax official in President Bush’s Treasury Department.

When we were debating the Affordable Care Act, a process that took over a calendar year, the esteemed Majority Leader admonished that “we need to slow down and get this right.” This tax bill, by comparison, spent hardly two weeks in the House and three weeks in the Senate and it is a lot worse for the average middle-class person.

So I’d say the same thing to the Majority Leader that he said to us: slow down and get this right.

There is no need to rush this hastily-considered, highly complex, hugely consequential tax bill before some artificial deadline.

We have a responsibility to get this right for the American people, particularly the American middle class. And I still believe the way to do that is through an open, transparent, and bipartisan debate.