Schumer Floor Remarks On Developments in the House Impeachment Inquiry, Senate Democrats’ Plan To Force Leader McConnell And The Senate To Debate The Issues The American People Care About, And The Cost Of President Trump’s Reckless Decision-Making In Syria And Turkey

October 15, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding developments in the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump;  Senate Democrats using the Congressional Review Act to force the Senate floor to debate and vote on legislation that protects people with pre-existing conditions, prevent tax hikes for Middle-class families, address the climate crisis, and protect hard-earned pensions for workers; and the cost of President Trump’s reckless decision-making in Syria and Turkey that has endangered our national security and the security our allies around the world. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here:

Over the past month, evidence has emerged that the President of the United States pressured a foreign leader to investigate one of his leading political rivals. A whistleblower inside the intelligence community first raised alarms that the president applied pressure on Ukrainian President Zelensky to pursue an investigation that would benefit President Trump politically. The president himself then released a memorandum of his conversation with President Zelensky, which demonstrably validated the whistleblower’s concerns. 

In the weeks that followed, the House has received testimony from a number of State Department officials who have filled in additional pieces to this very troubling puzzle. Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt on the President’s political rivals were well known within the State Department and the National Security Council. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, was heavily involved with Mr. Giuliani, and we continue to receive additional information about Mr. Sondland’s participation. His scheduled testimony in the coming days will undoubtedly be relevant and important.

Amidst all of this, the White House has engaged in stonewalling and outright defiance of Congressional prerogatives. The State Department instructed its officials not to comply with Congressional subpoenas, the White House has refused to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry, and the president has publicly and repeatedly sought to bully and intimidate the whistleblower.

As additional facts are unearthed, we have a responsibility to consider them with the best interests of our country in mind. The whistleblower was doing a courageous and patriotic act and must be protected – must be protected. The Constitution made Congress a co-equal branch of government – that role must be respected. The matter at the heart of the inquiry concerns the very integrity of our democratic elections and it must be investigated thoroughly, completely, and in a nonpartisan manner.

Our Founding Fathers feared foreign interference in our elections and considered it one of the greatest threats facing our fledgling republic. Once again, the wisdom of the Founding Fathers shines through. If a foreign country can meddle in or affect the outcome of our elections, Americans will quickly lose faith in our democracy if Russia controls our elections or China, or Iran. What the heck do we vote for? So the alleged offense by the president is clearly serious enough to warrant an investigation by Congress. And that is exactly what the House of Representatives is doing in its impeachment inquiry, and it must continue unimpeded.

But we can do two things and must do them. We can protect the Constitution and take action to help average working families at the same time. We here in the Senate can do both. Protect the Constitution and help average working families. It’s not either or. It’s not one or the other.

From the very beginning, Democrats have been committed to doing the people’s business. But while the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives has passed hundreds of bills dealing with health care, infrastructure, gun violence, climate change, and much more, Leader McConnell has turned our chamber into a legislative graveyard. Not one of these bills has received a vote in the Senate: no vote to save protections for people with pre-existing conditions – although the American people are pleading with us to do it. No vote on bipartisan background checks – although more people die from gun violence, committed by people who shouldn’t have guns. No vote on bipartisan election security legislation – as Russia threatens us.  No vote on the Violence Against Women Act – when abuse of women continues.

President Trump, over the course of his presidency, has also failed to offer proposals to address any of these pressing issues. In many cases, his policies, his executive actions, have made things worse.

So as Congress comes back into session, Senate Democrats will force our Republican colleagues to vote during this work period on three measures that are important to millions of Americans. These votes will occur under the procedures of the Congressional Review Act. The Congressional Review Act – I know the public is not familiar with the arcane parts of these things – is one of the rare instances where the minority can force a vote. We want to debate these other issues. We want to debate gun violence. We want to debate healthcare. We want to debate infrastructure. We want to debate pre-existing conditions. We’re not saying our Republican friends are going to think exactly as we do. But let’s have a debate and vote. Leader McConnell, much to the discredit of this chamber — as well as his own —has said ‘no’. But here, the Congressional Review Act, at least allows us to review some of the overreaching actions of the executive branch and get a vote on them.

Each of these CRA Review Act votes will present our Republican colleagues with a choice: whether to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions or not to protect them; whether to protect middle-class Americans from a tax hike or not to protect them, whether to fight climate change or to do nothing.

We will also demand that our Republican colleagues take up legislation to protect hard-earned pensions for millions of American workers. Several of my colleagues will come to the floor this evening to do just that. Senators Manchin, Brown, Stabenow, Peters, Smith, Baldwin, and Tester have been real leaders on these pension issues. Workers who for decades put money into their pension and thought when they retire at least they’d have some modicum to live decently. They lose all that unless we act. We hope our Republican colleagues will listen to the debate and help us move to deal with the millions of workers struggling to preserve their pensions.

As we continue to fulfill our solemn constitutional duty to hold the president accountable, Democrats will not stop putting pressure on Leader McConnell and our friends in the majority to get the Senate back to work for the American people.

Democrats will use every tool we have—there are not that many—to stop Leader McConnell from making the Senate a legislative graveyard when the American people need help and action in so many ways.

Now, on Turkey and Syria, a major issue that deserves the Senate’s attention this week and that shows we can, again, fulfill our constitutional obligations as well as help the American people. Well one thing we’re going to be talking about this week is President Trump’s precipitous and dangerous decision to withdraw from Northern Syria.

A few weeks ago, the president abruptly announced that the United States, which has long maintained a presence in Northern Syria to root out ISIS terrorists, would stand aside as Turkey launched a military incursion into the region. For years, a global coalition of the U.S. and our partners and allies, particularly the stout Kurds in Syria, have worked tirelessly and sacrificed much to defeat ISIS.  Now, in only a matter of days, the president’s quick, unstudied, and ill-advised Syria decision has jeopardized all of that progress.

For years, American soldiers have fought hard—some have given their lives—to vanquish ISIS. For years, our great military and diplomatic leaders have strategized about how to get rid of ISIS and in one felled, quick, un-thought out swoop, the president has undone that. It’s despicable. It’s dangerous.

And the consequences have already proven dire. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator and war criminal, has strengthened his position greatly, cutting a deal with the Kurds and moving his forces into the gap left by our withdrawal. Who else has benefited from President Trump’s ill-though-out, precipitous, and wrongheaded action? Iran, his greatest enemy, one of our great enemies in many ways. As you know I’m no friend of the Iranian government. Iran’s benefited! Who else has benefitted? President Putin! Russian troops have now swept into the region according to reports. Russian envies the oil in northern Syria that it might control. When the president does some kind of action that makes everyone scratch their heads and it benefits Putin, one doesn’t know if he’s doing it to actually help Putin or because he just doesn’t get it. I tend to think it’s often the former, unfortunately.

So now, our Kurdish partners are paying the ultimate cost of their betrayal and tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced. Maybe most concerning of all, reports say that more than ten thousand ISIS fighters (currently held and guarded by the Kurds) could walk out of their cells.

By pulling the U.S. out of Northern Syria, President Trump has encouraged nothing short of an ISIS jailbreak. And I say to my fellow Americans: some may say, “We don’t want any troops anywhere. Bring them all home. We don’t care.” I care, most people care, but some might say, “I don’t care what happens to the Kurds.” Well one thing everyone should care about, whatever their views on geopolitics in the Middle East and in Syria, is our own security. We have spent a decade of treasure and often lives rooting out ISIS. Why? Because ISIS presents a danger to our homeland. We in New York know more than anybody how a small group form far away could do huge damage and kill thousands of innocent Americans here. And now President Trump, through his thoughtless action is allowing ISIS to gain new strengths. What is going on here? This is a threat to our national security here in our homeland and we must do everything to stop it.

And who’s the most angry at the president from what I’m told? Our own military. Our own military who have fought shoulder to shoulder alongside the Kurds, watching Kurds risk their lives and lose their lives to help protect Americans, and they weren’t even consulted. The military wasn’t even consulted! You heard what General Mattis said, he’s maybe the most respected military leader we have even though he’s in retirement. He said this makes it likely, much more likely, that ISIS gains strength and can hurt us. What the heck is going on here?

This transcends any ideological differences we may have. Whether we agree with President Trump or disagree. Whether we think he’s a good president or think he’s an awful president. This goes beyond that. What is going on?

In years that our Republicans spent criticizing our former president, President Obama, for simply failing to recite the phrase “radical Islamic terror,” then our Republican friends should be apoplectic at what the president has done. It’s not simply reciting a phrase, the president, through his actions whether it’s inadvertent or not, has made radical Islamic terror more real and more dangerous. In one fell swoop, President Trump has deserted our partners, emboldened three of our chief adversaries, provided a lifeline to ISIS fighters who had been taken off the battlefield, and put American troops and America in harm’s way.

Truly, this is one of the most thoughtless and dangerous policy changes that President Trump could have made. That it was made seemingly on a whim, without consulting our military commanders, without notifying Congress, and – most egregiously – without thinking it’s consequences through makes it even more alarming.

We have entered a dangerous moment my friends. It is increasingly clear to everyone that the president’s erratic decision-making has endangered our national security and the security of our partners and allies around the world.

Strong sanctions, while good and justified, will not be sufficient in undoing that damage, nor will they stop the consequences stemming from the ISIS jailbreak. So the first step as Congress returns is for Democrats and Republicans to join us in passing a resolution making clear that both parties demand the president’s decision be reversed. And this is bipartisan but our Republican colleagues have special place here because they will have far more success in getting the president to reverse course and change his views. So there is a solemn obligation on every one of the fifty-three Republican members here. They know it’s dangerous. Are they going to still be afraid to criticize President Trump? They have not so far, but this resolution is the strongest action we can take.

Ultimately, of course, the only person able to immediately stop this tragedy unfolding is the president himself. The president made this decision alone, he alone is responsible for its consequences. President Trump, hopefully importuned by Congress—Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate—will use this moment must use this moment to step up, admit his grave mistake, and correct course.

###