Schumer Floor Remarks on Government Funding Bill and the Republican Tax Bill

December 1, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the government funding bill and the consequences of the Republican tax bill. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, before I address the issue of taxes, let me address the matter of the government funding bill.

We are now only a week away from a government shutdown, which, to remind my colleagues, could cost our economy thousands of jobs and billions of dollars, as it did in 2013.

A government shutdown is something we all hope desperately to avoid, all of us, Democrats and Republicans - I talked to some of my colleagues this morning – with the exception it seems, of the President.

This morning’s Washington Post reports that “President Trump has told confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically” and that “he has asked friends about how a shutdown would affect him politically.”

It’s disappointing but maybe not surprising that President Trump appears to be putting politics before the well-being of the American people. As President, the welfare of the American people should always come first. Always.

We have a lot of things to accomplish before the end of the year, and a government spending deal is particularly important for our men and women in uniform, as well as for a host of programs that create jobs and boost our economy. The President talks about defending the troops and then threatens shutdown. It is a contradiction. I am sure that our generals would tell him that even playing around with the possibility of sequester and shutting down the government is no good for our armed services, as well as for the rest of the country.

We should all be focused on avoiding a government shutdown at all costs. Certainly, Democrats will be working with our Republican colleagues in Congress to that end. I think our Republican colleagues agree, I hope they won’t succumb to President Trump’s whim based on a political decision, not on what is good for America. President Trump must change his tune, and soon if he wants to be a constructive partner in those discussions, rather than the focal point of blame.

Now, Madam President, on taxes.

My Republican friends have stretched into day two of their debate on the bill, which still lacks resolution on some critical issues.

After promising over the past few months that their tax bill would pay for itself through economic growth, the Joint Committee on Taxation came out with a report yesterday that showed that those promises were unfounded. Way off the mark.

Even considering economic growth, the Republican tax bill will add roughly a trillion dollars to the deficit. And many economists have said that this dynamic scoring doesn’t work. Here, the JCT gave credence to the theory of dynamic scoring, but then came out with a number that was not the kind of wild exaggerations that we are hearing from the Secretary of Treasury, from the President, and some of our Republican colleagues, particularly those of the Club-for-Growth bent. 

Earlier in this debate, Republicans claimed that this would be a tax cut for “everybody” and that “nobody in the middle class is going to get a tax increase.” Independent analyses showed that those claims were not valid. And to their credit, some Republicans corrected the record.

Now, Republicans have finally gotten the “dynamic scoring” they have demanded for years. They are in charge, they put dynamic scoring in place. It is still not good enough. And as recently as this week, the Republican leader and others claimed that this bill would not add to the deficit. We now know – that even under the dynamic scoring method the Republican Party asked for and received – that this bill would add $1 trillion to the deficit.

All of the claims that tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will pay for themselves were not correct. It’s time for my Republican friends to admit their error and come clean with the American people.

The fact that we received the dynamic score only a day before a final vote on the bill shows just how foolhardy it is to rush a bill like this.

From press reports, we know that the Republicans are making the pass-through provisions more generous; widening what was already a gargantuan tax loophole for wealthy business owners. Why should wealthy business owners pay a significantly lower rate on their personal income - because they pay no corporate tax if they use the pass-through - than the average American? That’s what this bill does. Hedge funds, big fancy law firms, lobbyist firms, would all get a lower rate than the average American because of the pass-through. The average American who makes $100,000, $200,000 is already paying in the 30% range.

You’d think maybe Republicans would be concerned by the many reports that their bill increases taxes on 60% of middle class families at the end of the day. No. Instead, the holdout Republicans are concerned their bill isn’t generous enough to corporations and wealthy business owners, and Republican leadership is working to fix that.

In the waning hours, this bill is tilting further towards businesses and away from families. Every time the choice is between corporations and families, the Republicans choose corporations.

And still, no one knows what the final bill will look like. Why on earth wouldn’t you want to spend more than a few hours looking at a bill of this magnitude? What might have been snuck in? What might have been changed by mistake? An innocent mistake? There are so many reasons to not rush this bill through, but we know why it is being done.

Republican members will only have a few hours at most to read draft legislation before voting on it.

Notching a political win isn’t a good enough reason to throw common sense and legislative responsibility out the window.

Notching a political win isn’t a good enough reason to raise taxes and premiums on millions of middle-class families when there is a much better bill to be had by working in a bipartisan way, Democrats and Republicans, across the aisle.

My Republican friends must know that “We needed to notch a political win” isn’t a good enough excuse for a constituent who asks why you voted to raise their taxes but slash them for big corporations.

Today may be the first day of a new Republican Party – one that raises taxes on the middle class. The one thing Republicans always promised the middle class is ‘we are not going to raise your taxes.’ A good number of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle, the Senator from Texas I heard him talk about – the junior Senator from Texas – said he doesn’t want to raise taxes on any middle-class person. But this bill does it.

The Republican Party is abandoning its long held principles to please its political paymasters. That is a bad move for Republicans, as well as a bad move for America. Again, ‘we needed to notch a political win’ is going to be no excuse when your constituents complain why they are getting the short end of the stick in this tax bill and wealthy corporations, the richest people, are not.

Democrats remain united against any middle-class tax increase and we will fight to reverse it. 

The stakes are too high. Our economy is already stacked against the working man and woman. Corporate profits and stocks have reached all-time highs. The top 1% captures 20% of the national income, higher than any time in our history since the Roaring Twenties. Meanwhile, the American Dream feels like it’s slipping away from the hardworking Americans who get up every morning worried about making their next mortgage payment, or tuition payment, or healthcare bill. They are not getting the help they need in this bill, and instead it is going to the wealthiest, the biggest corporations, on a theory of trickle-down which almost everyone except some right-wing economists agree has never made sense.

Any moral tax bill would focus on giving a leg up to middle-class Americans, to working-class Americans.

· Instead, this bill directs the lion’s share of its benefits to those at the very top, the already wealthy and the already powerful.

· It makes health care less affordable and less accessible.

· It will deprive the government of the resources needed to support the military, scientific research, education, and infrastructure.

· The hole it blows in the deficit will – make no mistake – endanger Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans, including President Trump, have already openly admitted that they will seek changes to these programs after the tax bill. Senator Sanders has outlined eloquently how dangerous this bill is to the future of Social Security and Medicare. And I know our Republican colleagues came down to argue against him, they were are all on the defensive. All the things our President and Republicans say they wanted to do are not happening. And this bill moves it in the opposite direction. Not only on helping the wealthy and not helping the middle class in the way it needs, but also in endangering Social Security and Medicare. 

· And perhaps most insidious of all, it hides a ticking time bomb of middle-class tax hikes at the center of our tax code. Who could want to vote for that?

Many of my Republican friends feel the hard right and big, wealthy corporate interests will put these ads on TV saying ‘the bill helps the middle class.’ That is not going to work. When the middle class gets a tax increase, they are going to know why and they are going to know who to blame. And these ads will have faded into the ether. 

Today, my Republican friends can choose to cement their party as the party that raises taxes on the middle class. It will be a dramatic turning point in a downward spiral for the Republicans. It is something they have never believed in before. Or, they can step back from the brink and work with Democrats on a bipartisan tax reform bill to deliver across-the-board tax relief to the middle class; that makes our businesses more competitive while closing egregious loopholes; that grows our economy without adding a penny to the deficit.

Bipartisan tax reform – not this cynical tax bill, not this partisan exercise, not this bill that seems to please the 1% but not the rest of America – but bipartisan tax reform is possible, but only if my friends and colleagues abandon this bill, and reach out for a better kind of politics.