Schumer Floor Remarks On How President Trump Can Avoid A Partial Government Shutdown And The Nomination Of Bernard McNamee To The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

December 6, 2018
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor (at approximately 10:30 a.m.) regarding the two options Democrats are offering to avoid a partial government shutdown and the nomination of Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Madam President, later today, the House is poised to send us a 2-week continuing resolution, which will give us time to hash out the remainder of the appropriations process this year. I expect it will pass this chamber later this afternoon.
President Trump and my Republican colleagues now have to decide what they want to do after those two weeks are up, and hopefully even sooner.
As everyone knows, Democrats have offered to pass the bipartisan DHS appropriations bill, agreed to six months ago, which includes $1.6 billion for border security.
Now there has been some confusion about that figure. Let me be clear: the $1.6 billion cannot be used to construct any part of President Trump’s 30-foot-tall concrete border wall. It can only be used for fencing, using technology currently deployed at the border, and only where the experts say fencing is appropriate and makes sense as a security feature. This is something Democrats have always been for – smart, effective, appropriate border security.
This is so good that every Republican appropriator signed off on that bill a few months ago, including Leader McConnell, Senator Shelby, Senator Rubio, and Senator Graham. They were all for it. This is a bipartisan compromise proposal. Now if they cannot go for that, the proposal they signed off on and negotiated, because President Trump is pounding on the table in an irrational way, there’s a second option.
Democrats have also offered to pass the six bipartisan appropriations bills and a continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security. That continuing resolution doesn’t resolve this issue, but continues to fund the Department of Homeland Security. We think that continuing resolution should be for a year.
Both options would receive sixty votes in the Senate and would get us home in time for the Christmas holiday. As I said, either option would keep government funded over Christmas, because we don’t want to see the government shutdown over Christmas, even though President Trump seems to brag that he wants one. The one and only way we approach a shutdown is if President Trump refuses both of our proposals and demands $5 billion or more for a border wall.
The border wall is a nonstarter for many reasons; here are three. First, when President Trump proposed this as a candidate he said “mark my words: I will have Mexico pay for that wall.” The idea that the American taxpayer now has to foot the bill doesn’t make sense. Second, there is no plan for the wall. They haven’t said where they want to build it, how high it is – I don’t like any wall, let me make that clear. But how can you spend $5 billion when there is no plan? It shows that this is just political fodder for President Trump. It appeals to his base, but he doesn’t even care that much that his whole government, his whole administration, hasn’t submitted any specific plans. And third, last year we put $1.3 billion in homeland security for border security. Not a nickel of that has been spent on a wall. It couldn’t be; the language didn’t allow it. But virtually none of it has been spent at all.
They still have that $1.3 billion they haven’t even spent that vast majority of, and already they’re demanding $5 billion more? Some would even say demanding $1.6 billion more is too much, but the idea that they haven’t spent last year’s money and they’re demanding such a huge amount this year makes no sense at all.
To ask the American taxpayer to foot the bill for an unplanned, unnecessary, ineffective border wall is just preposterous. We know why President Trump is doing this, like he does so many things. It’s a throwaway idea to fire up his base and I’m ashamed that my Republican colleagues who know better are going along. 
So if President Trump wants to throw a temper tantrum and shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision. But there are two sensible options on the table to avoid one. Two sensible options, and we do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea.
One final point. By letting the president’s demands get in the way, my Republican colleagues are in effect ceding the Congress’ authority over appropriations to the president.
Leader McConnell has said repeatedly that he wants regular order on appropriations in the Senate, and in fact that’s been one of the few bipartisan high moments that this Senate has had. Last year we had a good appropriations process, came together on an omnibus. This year we’ve funded close to three quarters of the government already, bipartisan, passed by a large majority. That’s how it should work.
Well, it should work the same way for the Department of Homeland Security. Regular order would dictate that the Senate consider the bipartisan DHS appropriations bill – passed out of committee, agreed to by both parties –  here on the floor. In the meantime, the six other bipartisan appropriations bills – also agreed to by both parties – are being held hostage over this. Unnecessarily to any objective observer.
If my friend Leader McConnell is so concerned about regular order, he would bring the remaining appropriations bills, as agreed to, up for a vote. And he would tell President Trump that the bipartisan compromise or a CR are the ways to go to avoid a shutdown.
On another matter. Yesterday, all forty-nine Democrats voted against considering the nomination of Bernard McNamee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and that was for good reason. Mr. McNamee has spent the bulk of career boosting fossil fuels and slandering renewable energy. His views are so anachronistic, regressive, and counterfactual that I’m sure most of my Republican colleagues wouldn’t agree with them.
He’s lied about how renewable energies impact the electric grid, he’s called support for clean energy “organized propaganda” and pitched the debate between fossil fuels and renewables as a clash between “liberty and tyranny.” My Republican friends, these words sound absurd. You would think that I’m making them up because it would so vilify Mr. McNamee. But my Republican friends can see these statements he made on video.
At a time when our country is plagued by wildfires and flooding; at a time when more powerful storms and hurricanes buffet our coasts; at a time when average Americans are feeling the devastating effects of climate change right now; we should not elevate someone so biased in favor of the fossil fuels that caused these problems in the first place.
So we have a final vote today. Every Democrat has voted ‘no.’ We need one Republican to switch to defeat this awful nomination. I hope my colleagues will think about it. Please, look up the record. Don’t just look at my speech, just look at what this man has said, and I think a good number of you might want to vote ‘no.’
On the front page of the New York Times this morning, there’s a report about how the emission of greenhouse gases has actually accelerated in the past few years. Climate change is going to be a defining issue of our generation, and a defining issue in future elections as well.
And the vote on Mr. McNamee yesterday clearly shows the difference between the two parties on the issue of climate change right now: Democrats believe we need to address climate change with bold and substantial action. We cannot wait until a later day. We can’t keep approving folks like Mr. McNamee to influence energy policy. We need to act.
Meanwhile, too many of our Republican colleagues pretend the issue doesn’t even exist, and that is sad.