Schumer Floor Remarks on Possible Budget Agreement and the Russia Investigation

February 6, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the possible budget agreement and the Russia investigation. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here

Just a brief note on taxes and answer to what my friend, the Republican Leader said: the reason that 48 Democrats voted against the bill, the reason that despite huge amounts of ads paid for by the wealthiest of Americans that the bill is still unpopular with the American people, is very simple. The vast majority of the breaks go to the very wealthy and big powerful corporations and their lobbyists. That’s who wins on this bill more than anybody else. If a bill focused on the middle class gave 80 percent of the breaks to the middle class, there’d be loads of Democrats voting for it. 

We’re happy there are a lot of wealthy people in in America. God bless them! But they don’t need the huge tax break, the disproportionate tax break that our Republican friends gave them and that’s why the bill is unpopular again. People like the Koch brothers and the thousand, very, very wealthy, billionaires who don’t want to pay any taxes, they put all these ads on TV; they have a whole propaganda machine, and they still can’t convince the American people. 

Our Republican colleagues are afraid to talk about what they really mean in the tax bill: trickle-down economics. When they talk among themselves they say it, give the wealthy a lot of money, give the big corporations a lot of money and everyone will do fine. They don’t have an honest debate on this because they’re afraid to say it, so they act like they’ve aimed most of this at the middle class. Well the only way this is aimed at the middle class is trickle down. Give the money, disproportionately to the wealthy, to the big corporations, and the middle class will benefit. We don’t believe that, we’d rather give the money directly to the middle class and be sure that they’re getting the benefit. 

Now, on the budget. Mr. President, as we continue discussions about another extension of government funding, Senate negotiators are working on a deal to lift the spending caps for both defense and urgent domestic priorities.

From the very beginning of the budget debate, Democrats have made our position in these negotiations very clear. We support an increase in funding for our military AND our middle class. The two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t want to do just one and leave the other behind. The sequester caps have arbitrarily imposed austerity on both sides of the ledger: defense and the non-defense programs that benefit the middle class people like education, infrastructure, medical research. The caps have hamstrung the Pentagon’s ability to make reliable investments, no doubt, but they’ve also cut support harshly and unintelligently from middle-class programs. 

We ought to get out from under sequestration entirely…because our men and women in uniform deserve the resources they need to keep our country safe. As do our veterans waiting for better health care. As do young men and women seeking treatment for opioid addiction. As do rural families waiting for high-speed internet to connect themselves and their kids to the world. As do hardworking pensioners who forewent salary increases and bonuses to secure a pension that’s now evaporating before their very eyes.              

That’s why Democrats have consistently pushed to increase funding to fight the scourge of opioids, to improve veterans’ health care, build rural infrastructure, shore up pensions alongside, deal with childcare. These are the kinds of things we are pushing for in addition, not to the exclusion, in addition to increasing defense. 

Some of our Republican colleagues, particularly in the House think only defense should get the help it needs. Not the middle class! We Democrats have stood against that for years and will continue to stand against it. House Republicans, continue marching down a very partisan road – proposing a cromnibus that will raise defense spending but leave everything else behind. As I’ve said many times before, a cromnibus will not pass the Senate. 

Speaker Ryan and House Republicans keep running into the same brick wall. When will House Republicans learn that they must chart a bipartisan course to get a bill through the Senate? I don’t think a single Democrat that I’m aware of at least has been consulted on the Republican bill. It’s done because Speaker Ryan is in a pickle. How is he going to pass a bill with just Republican votes? It’s not easy so they come up with this distorted proposal; an unfair proposal, unfair to so many people in the middle class who depend on our help.                                      

Hopefully, they will change their tune, in the House, because even though a deal has eluded us for months, negotiators are now making significant progress. The Republican Leader and I have been working together quite productively. Of course, there are still some outstanding issues to be resolved, but we are closer to an agreement than we have ever been. And I’d like to express my appreciation to the Republican Leader, in addition for the Republican Leader’s invitation to address the McConnell Center next week in Louisville, which I’ve accepted. As Leaders, the two of us can work together to get things done around here.                         

And the best opportunity to work together is the budget. It’s an opportunity not just for us, but for our country to not only escape the terrible damage of sequestration but condemn it to the past. And we should seize that opportunity.

Now, Mr. President, a word on the Russia investigation. Last night, the House Intelligence Committee voted to release the contents of the Schiff memo.                                                                         

Now that the House Intelligence Committee has acted, President Trump should move - in conjunction with the DOJ and FBI - and release the Schiff memo to the public. The American people deserve the chance to make their own judgment on the facts of this small piece of the broader case of Russia’s interference in our election.

The president decided the public deserved to see the Nunes memo before he’d even read it, so he ought to be just as eager for the American people to see this memo, which refutes, effectively, devastatingly, so much in the Nunes memo. Given the Schiff memo is based on the same underlying documents as the Republican’s partisan memo, there should be no question whether or not the president will approve its release. 

If he decides to keep the Democratic memo under wraps, the American people will be forced to wonder: what is the president trying to hide? What is he afraid of?

President Trump should release the Schiff memo quickly. It will illustrate what a sham the Nunes memo is so that we can all move on and let as some of my good Republican colleagues have had the courage to say, not enough of them but some: let Mueller do his investigation, unimpeded and let’s see where the results end up.

And we need to move on. The Nunes memo is only the latest in a long line of distractions manufactured by the most extreme elements of the Republican party and the conservative media to distract from the Special Counsel’s investigation. It started with conspiracies about “deep state” leaks and unmasking requests, phone taps at Trump Tower, Uranium One, and now it’s this memo. They don’t quit with all these conspiracy theories, with all these ridiculous fomentations. They don’t quit, perhaps because they’re afraid of what a real investigation, which Mueller is doing and will continue to do will reveal. 

What the American people really want to know are three simple things: (1) what did the Russians do to interfere in our elections; (2) were there Americans involved in helping the Russians; and (3) what are we doing to prevent the Russians from interfering in 2018, and beyond?

To that point: Americans should be much more concerned about this Administration’s tepid response to Putin’s interference in our election than about a memo of Republican talking points.

Any other administration; any other president, I believe, would have made punishing Putin and protecting our democracy a primary issue in their first term. But this president began his first year in office by downplaying Putin’s involvement in the 2016 election; then he repeatedly accepted Putin’s words of denial over the consensus of the American intelligence community. When the administration tried to wriggle out of existing sanctions against Russia, Congress overwhelmingly (and almost unanimously) passed legislation strengthening the existing sanctions and adding new ones to address the interference.

We’re still waiting for President Trump to implement the new round of sanctions. What is he waiting for? Why does he refuse to get tough with Putin?

We look to the President of the United States to stand up for our democracy against all threats, but unfortunately and sadly, bad for America, President Trump has abdicated this responsibility when it comes to Putin.