Schumer Floor Remarks on Gun Safety Legislation, Net Neutrality and the GOP Tax BillFebruary 27, 2018
Mr. President, after Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, and too many more to name, the nation convulsed, and we talked about reforming our gun safety laws to help prevent more names and places from being added to the list. Each time, we talked, but the Senate, the House, this government, did nothing.
Now, in the wake of the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School that took the lives of another 17 Americans, we must try again to pass meaningful changes to our laws to keep our children safe. That is our duty. And there are many things we could, and should, pursue.
Yesterday, I suggested that comprehensive background checks would be an excellent and necessary place to start. It doesn’t make sense that we allow anyone, regardless of their criminal history or a history of mental illness, to walk into a gun show or go online and buy a gun, no questions asked. There is no sense in that. When I wrote the Brady Law back in 1993, gun shows weren’t popular. We didn’t have Internet sales to worry about at the time because there was no Internet. These loopholes grew and grew and grew over time. Now, it’s hard to know the exact number because we don’t record the number of guns sold at gun shows or online, but about one-fifth of all gun sales happen without a background check. It’s likely that criminals and others up to no good have a higher percentage because they don’t want to be detected and go through a background check. That’s outrageous that so many guns are sold with no background check whatsoever, whether you’re a felon who’s been adjudicated mentally ill, a spousal abuser. Outrageous. We should close those loopholes and close them now. Comprehensive background checks. Not just a little something here, a little something there, but comprehensive background checks are supported overwhelmingly by the American people.
Later this morning, I’ll be meeting with several of the students – the brave, courageous students - from Stoneman Douglas High School, and I want to hear what they have to say. These brave students, whether at the Florida Statehouse or on national television, have spoken out with passion and eloquence and grace. I believe they are changing the way our country thinks about this issue. And I hope, I pray, they compel us to do something significant because we cannot settle for half-measures. Not after what happened in Florida. Not after so many tragedies.
The Fix NICS bill, for example, is an idea that has wide support in this chamber, but it is tiny. It is a grant program that addresses one specific issue. We have a whole host of issues to address, not just one. Fix NICS was aimed, by the Senator from Texas, at a particular tragedy in Texas where a member of the Air Force had a record that would have disqualified him from getting a gun, but the Air Force failed to send the statement to NICS. It’s a good thing to make sure that doesn’t happen, but we should not be aiming our gun legislation simply at one past tragedy. We must look to the future. What will prevent future tragedy? Comprehensive background checks will. The Fix NICS bill will not. Let’s not set our sights too narrow or squander this moment. Let’s try for significant, bipartisan legislation that will make a real difference in keeping our children safe.
Even as our caucus discusses what the best legislation looks like, and in our leadership meeting we had an outstanding discussion this morning, I look forward to working with our Republican colleagues to see if we can get something real done.
Now, on another matter. Today, Senate Democrats will be introducing our legislation to reverse the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality. It has the support of every single Senate Democrat and one Senate Republican, Senator Collins from Maine.
I tell all of my Republican colleagues: this CRA is the first and best way to undo the terrible decision to repeal net neutrality. It’s an important debate. At stake are two opposing visions for the future of the Internet.
For its entire history, the Internet has been free and open, accessible to all Americans. It has been a true public good, just as our highways are. Whether you were on Main Street or Wall Street, you got the same Internet. Whether you were a consumer or a corporation, you got the same Internet. Whether you were a teacher in a wealthy school or an under-resourced school, you got the same Internet. That equality of access has driven innovation and entrepreneurship and so much of what we value in the American spirit and the American economy. It’s the American way.
Net neutrality rules were put in place to ensure the Internet remains that way. Open, equal access to all, no matter who you are or how much you had, how much power you had. But the repeal by the Republican-led FCC has opened us up to an entirely new universe where Internet Service Providers – the “Big Boys” - will have the authority to sell quality Internet to the highest bidder.
That means they could restrict customers’ access to their favorite websites by forcing them to buy internet packages or pay more for premium services. Big companies could pay to get faster internet service while startups and small businesses and average Americans are left in the slow lane. Everything from Netflix to Amazon Prime to Spotify -- streaming television, sports, and movies -- could be slower if you don’t pay up. Public schools who don’t pay for premium service could be put at a significant disadvantage. Startups looking to get their online business off the ground but aren’t large enough to negotiate faster internet delivery with ISPs may never take off. Our startups in New York are scared to death of the elimination of net neutrality, and they’ve created hundreds of thousands of jobs in my city - and millions throughout the country.
An Internet without net neutrality is a tale of two Internets, where the best Internet goes to the highest bidder and everyone else loses.
We have an opportunity to save the Internet with our CRA, which would reinstitute the net neutrality rules that keep the Internet just the way it is now.
Democrats believe the future of the Internet must be as free and open as its past. That the start-up founder living in her parents’ basement should be able to compete with the world’s largest corporations; that the young student in an underserved school district can find all the information he needs online; that every American should be able to affordably and easily access the Internet. If we start gradating the Internet, it could dramatically hurt our economy and hurt equality in America. Something we are all striving for.
Right now only one Republican has signed up for that for the fair, open vision of an Internet that we need and want to keep. We hope to get one more. And on this net neutrality day of action, I urge all Americans to contact their Senators and demand they sign up with us to save the Internet.
Finally, a word on the Republican tax bill. When President Trump and Congressional Republicans were trying to sell their tax bill, they promised it would be a boon to workers, stimulating investment in new factories, raising wages and creating jobs. Well, it’s a few months after the tax bill and these promises were not backed up by evidence. Now, the evidence is flowing in that corporations are spending the lion’s share of the benefits they reaped from the tax bill not on workers, but on goosing their own stock.
Here’s a headline from the New York Times: “Trump’s Tax Cuts in Hand, Companies Spend More on Themselves Than on Wages.” The article goes on to document how the Republican tax bill has unleashed a wave of share buybacks and stock repurchasing programs, things which help out rich executives and shareholders but don’t accomplish much for everyday American workers. You’re the CEO of a company, you’re judged by whether your stocks are going up, the quickest way to do that is buy back your shares. Reduce the numbers. It doesn’t help your workers, it doesn’t help American productivity, but it helps your bottom-line, Mr. CEO. That is so wrong, in that we did a huge tax bill and put ourselves in deep debt so that so much of the money can go to corporate executives -- not improving the actual performance of their company, but just raising the value of their stock by buybacks. That is so wrong.
Rather than investing in new equipment or research, raising wages or providing better benefits, raising productivity which we are so short of here in America right now, corporate America is using the Trump Tax Cut to give itself a raise.
Here’s Morgan Stanley, hardly a left-wing company. According to analysts at Morgan Stanley, companies surveyed said that they would pass only 13% of the Trump Tax Cut savings on to workers, in comparison to 43% that they’ll spend on share buybacks. For manufacturers, we all care about manufacturing, it is even worse. They expect 9% to go to workers, 47% to share buybacks.
Republicans made a conscious decision to give corporations and the wealthiest Americans the lion’s share of the tax cuts and promised that it would trickle down to everyone else. Unfortunately, trickle-down never works. Corporate America is doing what’s best for corporate America, and working America is getting left behind.