Schumer Floor Remarks On Chad Readler’s Nomination To The Sixth Circuit Court Of Appeals, The Resolution To Terminate President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, Republicans’ Silence On Climate Change, And The Need For President Trump To Take A Hard Line On U.S.-China Trade Negotiations

March 4, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Chad Readler’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the resolution to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration, Republicans’ silence on climate change, and the need for the president to take a hard line on U.S.-China trade negotiations. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

M. President, this week the Senate will vote on another of President Trump’s hard-right judicial nominees, Chad Readler, for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Ohio. And let me just say, anyone who thinks the Republican Party has abandoned their embrace of eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions ought to see how everyone votes on Chad Readler.

It will be a surprise to no one that this nomination is proceeding over the objection of Senator Brown – yet another example of Republicans’ discarding the blue slip tradition. Mr. Readler stands out in his own way: A vote to confirm this nomination is a vote to end protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Mr. Readler is behind the Trump administration’s decision last year to side with Texas and 19 other states with Republican attorneys general suing to repeal our health care law. Mr. Readler was not just somebody who worked on the case, he was the lead lawyer filing the Department of Justice brief declaring the administration refused to defend the laws of our country.

In a brief so outlandish that career Justice Department attorneys refused to sign it, Mr. Readler argued that protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be eliminated. Mark my words, when this vote is cast, we will see how every Republican feels about pre-existing conditions. There are protestations to the contrary.

For his efforts – listen to this, folks – Mr. Readler was rewarded by President Trump on the very next day after the brief was submitted with a nomination for a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. Day one, Readler files the lead suit to eliminate protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Day two, he’s nominated to bench for a lifetime appointment.

Senate Democrats – all 47 of us – are united in opposing this nomination, and we urge our Republican colleagues who claim to support protections for pre-existing conditions to join us in voting to reject his nomination. He’s not just some lawyer who participated. He is the chief cook and bottle washer of the case that hurts hundreds of millions of Americans. If you have a daughter with cancer and you can’t get insurance, if you have a wife or husband who has a serious condition, and the insurance company pulls back, you are losing your protection if Readler has his way. And now he’s going to get on the bench with a lifetime appointment unless our Republican colleagues have the sense and courage to block him.

On this vote, every Republican will be forced to show their constituents and the American people whether or not they stand for pre-existing condition protections, for more Americans having health coverage, protecting Medicaid, and all insurance plans covering maternity care and prescription drugs.

Having failed in Congress to repeal these vital health care protections that American families count on each day, President Trump has turned to the courts. The decision by Mr. Readler, President Trump, and others in the Trump administration to side with Republican attorneys general who have declared our health care law unconstitutional is the latest example of the president and Republicans trying to repeal our health care law.

The Texas lawsuit is working its way through the courts now. If Mr. Readler’s legal argument prevails in the courts, access to health care for children with asthma, adults with arthritis, and cancer survivors would no longer be guaranteed.

Mr. Readler argues that pre-existing condition protections like these are unconstitutional. We Senate Democrats think that is outrageous and extreme, which is why we are calling on Republicans to join us in opposing his nomination.

In short, any Republican Senator who supports Mr. Readler’s nomination is supporting the Trump-Republican lawsuit to get rid of pre-existing condition protections and take away health care from tens of millions – if not hundreds of millions – of Americans.

Now, on the national emergency. Over the weekend, a fourth Republican in the Senate, Rand Paul, announced his support for the resolution to terminate the president’s national emergency, giving it the needed 51 votes to pass this chamber.

It’s clear that members of both parties know that there is no actual emergency at the border.

The president himself made that clear when announcing the state of emergency that he “didn’t need to do this.” When the president says, “I don’t need to do this,” he’s saying there is no emergency.

An emergency, by definition, is something you need to do. It’s an emergency. In the president’s own words, this is not an emergency. It’s a political bone, a face-saving device to the president to throw to the right wing to show he’s still fighting for the wall. But it goes way beyond simply how you feel about the wall, pro or con. It goes to the fundamental building blocks of how this country was structured. Congress has the power of the purse. Congress is a check on the executive. The Founding Fathers feared, probably above all else – having dealt with King George in the Revolution – that an overreaching executive was one of the greatest dangers to our democracy. And that’s why so many presidents have respected and done emergencies only in the rarest of times. The last bunch of emergencies: either a war, 9/11, Desert Storm, diseases – real emergencies. Climate things and other real emergencies. I mean disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes in terms of what has happened with our weather and our climate.

So if this co-equal branch of government allows presidents – whomever they may be, Democrat or Republican – to just declare an emergency whenever they want to achieve a partisan policy goal – it will fundamentally alter the balance of powers in this country in a way the Founding Fathers would be aghast at. My guess is if George Washington or Benjamin Franklin or James Madison were looking down on this chamber, they would want us to rise to the occasion. That was the democracy they wanted. I don’t know if we will. 

The founders of this nation gave the Congress one of the greatest powers any government has – the power of the purse. President Trump is trying to take these powers away even after Congress rejected – explicitly rejected several times – the money for his wall. So we Democrats know this. And now it’s clear a growing number of Republicans know it as well.

To allow this emergency to persist – it is a change in the fundamental, necessary, and often exquisite balance of power that marks the genius of the American Constitution. I know many of my friends on the other side of the aisle understand that. In fact, true conservatism – if you are a true conservative and not just a Trump acolyte – realize there should not be too much power centralized in any place because conservatism at its root believes in maximizing the freedom of the individual and minimizing anything that encroaches on it, including an overreaching executive.

So to look the other way because President Trump wants this? Because he’s almost sometimes in a temper tantrum about this issue? It is so shortsighted and so detrimental to the long-term health and stability – viability even – of how the balance of power works.

So let us come together on this issue, Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate, rise to the occasion. If Congress stands up, it will be a reaffirmation of our democracy. It will be a date historians note proudly decades from now. It will be a reaffirmation of the democracy the Founding Fathers wanted.

On climate change. For decades, we’ve known that climate change is not only a major national challenge, but an existential threat to our planet, and to our future.

Despite the gravity and scale of this challenge, one political party in the United States – and that would be the Republican Party – has largely denied the problem even exists, denied the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, and denied most attempts in Congress to tackle climate change.

Today marks day 18 since I first challenged the Republican leader, and all my Republican colleagues, to answer three questions.

  1. Is climate change real?
  2. Is it caused by human activity?
  3. Should Congress act, immediately, strongly, to deal with this issue?

We haven’t heard an answer from the Leader – or from almost every Republican in this body, so let me repeat them again:

Leader McConnell, do you believe that climate change is real? Leader McConnell, do you believe that it is caused by human activity? And Leader McConnell, do you believe that Congress should take immediate action to address the crisis of climate change?

Now I suppose it’s not a surprise that Republicans are fearful of answering these questions. They know that the public is all on our side on this issue, overwhelmingly, two to one. But the oil industry which funnels tons of money into Republican coffers, mostly dark money, is on the other side. That’s why they’re afraid to answer the question one way or the other.

Today’s Washington Post details how the denial of basic scientific facts surrounding climate change is amounting to a political litmus test for President Trump.

Perhaps Republicans in this body are avoiding answering the questions I’ve posed for fear that the president would retaliate for siding against him and his radical views. Because there’s no real rational explanation.

Finally, China Trade. Now we’ve seen reports in today’s newspapers that President Trump is close to cutting a deal with China. I have given the President credit for bringing China to the table with tariffs. He’s done more to stop China from stealing our intellectual property, keeping American business out, causing tens of millions of Americans to lose income and millions of Americans to lose jobs. He’s done more than previous presidents, I give him credit. But if now at the end of the day, he sells out, he backs out. He just looks at trade balances and doesn’t deal with the fundamental structural ways with which China takes advantage of us. It doesn’t matter that he put in the tariffs in the first place.

The bottom line is very simple. China is our economic rival, and they don’t play by the rules. They steal intellectual property when they have been promising that they won’t, by cyber theft. They don’t let American companies come in and compete fairly even though their companies can come here. My late father-in-law, a cab driver in N.Y.C., just like one of those Damon Runyon cab drivers said “when it comes to certain things America is not Uncle Sam, it’s Uncle Sap.” That’s what we are when it comes to China. We’ve let them take advantage of us for two decades, two decades! 

Now President Trump has the time to stop them. And the news reports today say that he’s going to back off! Back off because China will buy some more products. China buying more products will not change the structural problems, will not change the basic erosion of American wealth and jobs as it flows to China. It’s a temporary salve and nothing more. I care about our farmers, we have a lot of them in New York State. I care about companies that might be hurt in the short run by this. But unless we take some tough action against China, the hurt will be much greater and much longer.

So I say to President Trump, you stay tough in North Korea, and to your benefit, Democratic Leader of the Senate praised President Trump for doing that. Stay tough on China! Don’t let March be the month when it comes to China, that it is said President Trump went in like a lion and out like a lamb, and President Xi – a darn good negotiator, figuratively eats our lunch.

There is a generational imperative to get this right. President Trump and his folks must not squander the chance to achieve permanent reforms to China’s economic relations with the world. This chance won’t come around again for a long time and American wealth, income and jobs will ebb. This is one of the most important moments in the Trump presidency. Mr. President, President Trump, stand tough. China can no longer be allowed to take advantage of us.

I yield the floor.