Schumer Floor Remarks On Leader McConnell Refusing To Bring The Violence Against Women Act To The Floor And The Trump Administration’s And Republicans’ Actions To Move Us Backwards On Climate Change

May 22, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Leader McConnell refusing to the bring the bipartisan, House-passed Violence Against Women Act to the Senate floor, making VAWA another tombstone for his legislative graveyard, and the actions the Trump administration and Republicans are taking to move us backwards on climate change, when we should be moving forward. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, it’s been a frightening two weeks for tens of millions of Americans who support a woman’s freedom to make her own health care choices — actually, if you believe the polls, there are hundreds of millions of Americans in that category. Republican legislatures across the country have passed some of the most extreme restrictions on a woman’s right to choose. With breathtaking speed, they are trying to take us backwards—but they’ve provoked a fierce reaction among the American people. Just yesterday, I stood with hundreds before the Supreme Court to speak on behalf of Americans everywhere who believe that women don’t deserve to be treated this way by their government.

Meanwhile, here in the Senate, the Republican Leader is once again stalling—that seems to be his MO—on a bill to improve legal protections for women who are victims of domestic abuse, assault, and stalking—this is called VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA has been a landmark piece of legislation, and it’s greatly reduced the abuse of women.

Well, there was an improved and expanded VAWA that was passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis weeks ago that got significant Republican votes. It brings much-needed updates to existing federal law. It finally expands protections to women who are victims of violence from domestic partners or former partners, not just current or former spouses. It also says that if you are known to stalk your partner or have a restraining order against you, you shouldn’t be allowed to purchase a gun. And thanks to the work of some of my colleagues in both chambers, it also brings renewed attention to violence against Native American women—who are so often overlooked.

I want to thank Senators Smith, and Klobuchar, and Cantwell for bringing attention to this bill later today.

Unfortunately, Leader McConnell has indicated that he won’t bring the House-passed VAWA bill to the floor, despite these many commonsense reforms. Why not? I hope it’s not because the gun lobby reflexively opposes any restrictions on gun purchases, even convicted stalkers. I hope that’s not the impediment here because as Sen. Klobuchar has pointed out, if you’re abused by your husband, then you’re protected by VAWA. If you’re abused by a boyfriend, you’re not. What’s the difference? What is the difference?

VAWA is yet another example of how Leader McConnell has turned this chamber into a legislative graveyard. Even the most commonsense bills with broad support from one end of America to the other that are passed by the House—here, a bill protecting women from violence—meet the grim fate at the hands of the Senate’s self-proclaimed “grim reaper.”

What a shame. The Violence Against Women Act is precisely the kind of legislation the American people expect the Senate to consider. And during a difficult few weeks for women across America, the Senate could have sent a strong, positive signal by moving forward on the Violence Against Women Act. Instead, Leader McConnell carved out another tombstone for his legislative graveyard—another popular, bipartisan bill buried with no action by the Senate, tied by the Leader in partisan gridlock.

Climate.

Earlier this month, a report from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory found that carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have now reached the highest level in human history—in human history. It was a chilling reminder that the threat from climate change is real, immediate, and existential. Almost everyone accepts this science and the gravity of the threat it portends. The only group of folks that still seem skeptical of climate science are Republicans and the Trump administration.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the Trump EPA is planning to rewrite the established benchmarks for unsafe levels of air pollution. You heard that right.

They’re planning to use dubious math to obscure the real and long-known health risks of air pollution. These new formulations would result in fewer predicted deaths than what the experts have long agreed to. People will still die, the numbers will just be wrong about the effect.

Why, you might ask, would anyone want to obscure the full health risks of air pollution? Because then, the Trump administration could use that fake math to justify further rollbacks to clean air rules. At a time when global warming is increasing, when Americans know the danger, the Trump administration and the Republican majority in the Senate are rolling the clock back. More carbon, more coal, more oil, more gas when we need less. We all know that.

What kind of Orwellian nonsense is this? The Environmental Protection Agency making it easier to pollute the environment. It’s the textbook definition of dystopian.

And as my colleague Sen. Whitehouse so often points out, dark money lurks behind so much of what the Trump administration does. Big Oil, Big Gas, and big polluters everywhere are the only possible boosters of this decision. It’s their money, funneled to political organizations and politicians without a trace of disclosure, that motivates folks in the Trump administration to make it easier to release more pollution into the air.

We should be using the Senate to debate climate policies in search of common ground, but Leader McConnell has decided to bring forward his version of the Green New Deal just so his party could vote against it.

So now we know what Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are against, but what are they for to deal with climate change? So far nada, zero, nothing. They haven’t put a single thing on the floor.

The American people see the effects of climate change in their lives. They know Congress must act. Only the Republican majority stands in the way.

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