Schumer Floor Remarks on Budget Negotiations, the President’s Trip to Ohio to Tout the GOP Tax Bill, and the Release of the Nunes MemoFebruary 5, 2018
Mr. President, we must pass another extension of government funding by this Thursday. There isn’t much time to waste. And yet, Speaker Ryan is again considering a cromnibus -- a short-term extension of funding for urgent domestic priorities, but a long-term extension and a large increase of funding for defense -- to placate the ultra-conservatives in his caucus.
Of course, a cromnibus is merely a ruse designed to slash funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure and scientific research – all the things the Freedom Caucus doesn’t want the government to support. That’s why 44 Senate Democrats warned our Republican colleagues in a letter last year that we would not support a cromnibus, and thus could never pass the Senate. We want to fund defense, absolutely. We want to fund programs to help the middle class too, like education, like infrastructure, like scientific research. We’re standing up and saying we must do both. That’s how this body works. Different people have different views and we compromise. Maybe there are some in my side who don’t want to spend as much on defense as the Republican side does, but it’s a compromise. I for one appreciate that we need robust defense spending.
Sending a cromnibus to the Senate, one that just funded defense and cut programs crucial to the middle class, would be barreling head-first into a dead-end. Speaker Ryan needs to do what’s best for the country and work in a bipartisan way to fund the government, even if not every faction of his caucus will go along. If he lets the Freedom Caucus be the tail that wags the dog, there’s no way we’ll reach an agreement that can pass the Senate. And it would jeopardize the positive discussions going on right now about the budget, immigration, disaster aid and more.
Now, a word on the Republican tax bill.
Even as corporations plough tens of billions of dollars into share buybacks and stock repurchasing programs instead of raising wages or hiring more workers, President Trump and Congressional Republicans are doing their best to portray their $1.5 trillion corporate giveaway as a boost to working Americans.
I’m sure that President Trump’s address in Ohio today will focus on the few companies that have given bonuses. But I wonder how many of those bonuses, delivered around Christmas, were annual and would have been given anyway. I wonder how many of those bonuses were linked to the tax bill in corporate press releases to curry favor with the President, even though they would have been given anyway.
And I bet President Trump won’t mention a thing about the slew of layoffs and stock buybacks in the wake of the tax bill. I’ll bet he won’t dare mention that 80% of the benefits of this bill went to the top 1%; that the middle class should have gotten a lot more than they are getting. Corporations have spent billions enriching their shareholders, while the middle class is waiting for the trickle-down effects that may never come. Imagine if all the money that went into tax breaks for corporations and the superrich went to the middle class instead. If that were the case, President Trump might have something to boast about today in Ohio.
This weekend, Speaker Ryan showed just how far Republicans will strain credulity to claim their tax bill helps working Americans. He tweeted that: “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA, said she was pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week ... [which] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year.”
Someone must have told him how out-of-touch that was, because Speaker Ryan soon deleted the tweet.
As high school secretaries get $1.50 a week in savings, the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans are getting on average about $3,000 a week. High school secretary: $1.50. Top 0.1%: $3,000 a week. Because of the tax bill, that Lancaster secretary may be able to afford a membership to a big box store, but the top 0.1% 1% can now afford a new Bentley. Is that fair? Is that right? Is that what the American people wanted? No way. No way. And all the propaganda and millions of dollars of ads from the Koch Brothers and all these other rich people, this handful of rich people that have so much say on the Republican side, all the ads they pay for won’t make up for that fact. And the American people see it.
That gets to the fundamental unfairness at the center of the Republican tax bill --corporations and the superrich are having a bonanza while American workers are left with paltry savings. Considering the Republicans spent $1.5 trillion in federal resources to pass their tax bill, the middle class should have gotten a whole lot more. A lot more than $1.50 a week.
When President Trump takes the stump in Ohio, we can expect to hear a lot of talk about how his tax bill is helping American workers, but every American should know that the reality is very different.
One final topic, Mr. President.
On Friday, the Trump Administration declassified and released the contents of the deceptive Nunes memo. It is the latest distraction concocted by Republicans to protect a president of their party from the conclusions of an independent – a truly independent - investigation. Shamefully, it is the latest abuse in a long line of partisan broadsides against the FBI, the nation’s premier law enforcement agency – attacks which are eroding faith in the rule of law.
At least the American people now can see the Nunes memo for what it truly is: an impotent document of GOP talking points. Far from being the smoking gun that many Republicans, right-wing media outlets, and Russian-linked bots claimed it would be, the Nunes memo just blows smoke. It’s full of misleading conclusions based on innuendo.
What it does confirm does not vindicate the President or prove bias at the DOJ. It confirms that the Steele Dossier was not the catalyst for the Russia investigation, debunking a favorite right-wing talking point. Let that sink in, the FBI was concerned about Trump campaign advisors linked to Putin’s spy services, before, let me repeat, before the Steele Dossier existed. So this idea that the Steele Dossier created all this is just plain wrong, and even their own memo admits it.
The Nunes memo also confirms that a three-judge panel, on multiple occasions, thought it was in the best interest of our national security to monitor a Trump campaign advisor for his troubling links to the Kremlin.
Seeing as House Republicans saw it fit to release the contents of their partisan memo, they should support the release of the memo prepared by Ranking Member Schiff. If House Republicans had any semblance of fairness, they’d vote to release the Schiff memo. It is based on the same underlying documents. If it was alright to release the Republican memo based on those documents, it should be alright to release the Democratic memo based on the same documents.
Meanwhile, President Trump still refuses to implement the sanctions legislation that passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority in Congress.
I have to say: if President Trump and his allies spent half the time standing up to Putin as they do attacking the FBI, we might actually get somewhere with Putin. But the Administration seems to fear doing anything to upset him. The American people ask why. Why is Donald Trump so afraid to upset Mr. Putin? What are they so afraid of?
It is inexplicable to me that the President of the United States and his allies are far more concerned with attacking American law enforcement agencies than standing up to Russia. President Putin interfered with our sacred democratic process! The very process we exalt, correctly so, in our schools, and teach our children is so wonderful. Putin is trying to make a sham of it. He is trying to interfere in it. And we hardly hear a peep out of President Trump and so many Republicans on this side of the aisle who used to go after Putin, to their credit, regularly. We have an investigation into the matter of Putin’s engagement in our elections by one of the most trusted and nonpartisan civil servants in Washington. But because that investigation may include some wrongdoing by the President or his close associates, too many Republicans in Congress and the conservative media have turned on the FBI rather than on Putin.
It is far more than disquieting. It is the worst place that partisan politics can go. The vital interests of our nation are being subverted to the benefit of a hostile foreign power. A Congressman says we are witnessing a “coup” on the House floor. A Senator floats the possibility of “secret societies.” The Speaker of the House suggests a “cleanse” of the FBI.
For partisan reasons, the President and his allies in Congress are systematically trying to weaken American’s faith in the rule of law – and to a large extent, sadly, the leaders of the Republican Party have been silent.
A few notable exceptions, including my friend Senator McCain, are speaking out about the real threat here – not the FBI, not our career law enforcement officials, not Special Counsel Mueller – but President Putin and his war against democratic societies and democracy in general.
We desperately need more of our Republican friends to stand up and speak out, particularly the Republican leadership, because their silence is rapidly becoming complicity in the denigration of our Republic – something that’s happening, unfortunately, before our very eyes.