Schumer Floor Remarks On EPA Nominee Andrew Wheeler And Senate Democrats’ New Resolution Affirming Three Things: Climate Change Is Real, Human Activity Contributes To It, And Congress Must Take Immediate Action

February 28, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding S.J.Res. 9, Senate Democrats’ resolution affirming three things: climate change is real, human activity contributes to it, and Congress must take immediate action. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, I am joined by a group of my Democratic colleagues this morning to talk about the greatest threat facing our country and our planet: climate change.

Despite the gravity and scale of the problem, at no time in the past five years have Republicans brought even a single bill to the floor to meaningfully address climate change. They’ve brought CRAs to the floor to repeal critical environmental protections that limited the emission of greenhouse gases like methane. They’ve brought legislation to open up more federal lands to oil drilling. But they haven’t brought forward a single, meaningful bill to address climate change.

Ironically, the first bill Leader McConnell will bring to the floor on climate change is a bill that he and his party intend to vote against. What a ridiculous sham. What a pathetic, political stunt. It would be a stunt on its own from a Leader who, just a month ago, claimed he doesn’t bring sham bills to the floor. But it’s a far greater stunt because they have nothing positive to say about dealing with this climate crisis.

So today, Democrats will be introducing a resolution to steer the direction of this conversation about climate change back in the right direction.

All forty-seven Democrats are introducing a resolution that affirms three simple things: first, climate change is real; second, climate change is caused by human activity; and third, Congress must act immediately to address this problem.

Three simple things. Three things that the vast majority of the American people agree with. Two of them are plain facts, and the third is just a statement that Congress should take action in light of the facts.

Our resolution does not prescribe which action we should take; it doesn’t say you have to be for this solution or that solution. It simply states that climate change is happening and we ought to do something about it.

It’s like saying opioid abuse is a problem and we should do something. Surely every Senator agrees with that.

In an ideal world, every single Republican Senator would sign onto our climate change resolution because there should be nothing controversial about it all. But because one political party in America largely denies the science – or, as I’m sure my colleague from Rhode Island will address, is so in the pocket of Big Oil that it refuses to admit the severity of it -- I suspect many of our Republican colleagues won’t sign on. And what a shame that would be. But at least the American people would know which of their Senators denies the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community.

So, if and when Leader McConnell moves to proceed to his version of the Green New Deal, Democrats will demand a vote on our resolution. And we’ll see if Leader McConnell is so eager to take that vote. Again, I’ve asked him every day, I asked him earlier this morning: “Leader McConnell, do you believe climate change is real? Leader McConnell, do you believe it is caused by human activity? And Leader McConnell, do you believe Congress has to act to deal with Climate change?” We have simply heard silence from the Leader so far, and just about every other Republican. So we are going to push this resolution and we hope that the American people will let their Senators who are not on this resolution know that they should be on it. It is the first step to moving something in a positive direction because we intend to go on offense on climate.

Now, I want to address two more issues related to this topic. First, on the reports that the president is planning to create a panel of cherry-picked scientists who question the severity of climate change to “counter” the scientific consensus.

I mentioned these reports earlier this week, but I want to update my friends in this chamber that Democrats are in the process of preparing legislation that would defund this fake climate panel. We hope that this legislation, like our resolution, will eventually be bipartisan.

Because it shouldn’t be partisan to oppose a group of hand-picked climate deniers spreading the fossil fuel industry’s propaganda under the imprimatur of the White House. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue to oppose the Administration setting up its own Orwellian “Ministry of Truth” on climate change.

So I urge my friends on the other side of the aisle who believe in climate science to sign onto this legislation once we have it ready.

Second: the nomination of Andrew Wheeler to be the next Administrator of the EPA, a question currently before the Senate. I opposed Mr. Wheeler’s nomination to be the Deputy Administrator, and I will oppose his nomination to be Administrator as well.

I opposed Mr. Wheeler initially because I felt that his career as a lobbyist working on behalf of big polluters and climate deniers was exactly the wrong kind of experience for a job at the EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency. He spent much of his career lobbying against the same environmental protections he now oversees. And his time at the EPA has done little to assuage my original concerns.

Mr. Wheeler has failed to take meaningful action on toxic chemicals, including the chemical PFAS which has plagued my home state. He has downplayed the severity of climate change and undermined several EPA programs that seek to address it, including the regulation of poisonous mercury from power plants, efforts to reduce carbon emissions from cars and trucks, as well as replacing the Clean Power Plan.

At a time when climate change is the number one threat facing our planet, installing a man such a Mr. Wheeler as permanent administrator of the EPA - Environmental Protection Agency - is the wrong thing to do.

Mr. President, as I said earlier this morning, Leader McConnell’s move to bring his version of the Green New Deal forward is nothing more than a stunt. But one of the great and positive ironies is that – finally – folks are talking about climate change again, more than any other time I can think of under this Republican Majority. 

If and when Leader McConnell brings his version of the Green New Deal forward for a vote, we will demand that Republicans answer the core questions on climate change. Again, three simple things. Do you believe climate change is real and happening? Do you believe human activity contributes to it? Do you believe Congress must act to address this pressing challenge?

If Leader McConnell and my Republican friends can’t answer those three questions, run away from them, the American people will see right through this ploy. The American people will see that Leader McConnell and his party stand against science, against fact, ostriches with their heads buried in the sand as the tide swiftly comes in.