Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Campaign Rally Last Night, Leader McConnell’s Legislative Graveyard, Calling For An Investigation Into The Dangers Of FaceApp, And An Upcoming Trip By Democratic Senators To View Conditions At The BorderJuly 18, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s statements insulting Democratic Congresswomen at his rally in North Carolina last night, the Senate’s failure to pass the 9/11 Victim Fund legislation due to Sen. Rand Paul’s actions, the dangers of FaceApp, and an upcoming trip by Democratic Senators to view conditions at the border. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.
Now Madam President, last night we saw the President of the United States, who has spent years maligning America himself, continue to malign Americans. The president once again whipped up a toxic brew of racism, xenophobia, and nativism: his crowd chanting “send her back” about a duly-elected member of Congress and a US citizen, one of the oldest and ugliest racist attacks against Americans of color.
The way the president appeals to the worst instincts of people, what was shouted and chanted at the rally last night without the president upbraiding them, was despicable—despicable—and eerily familiar to what happens in dictatorships.
We all know that the only way President Trump will stop this is for Republicans—his own party—to demand it. The only way President Trump will stop is when Republicans on the other side have the honor, the decency, the courage to tell him to stop. And all we hear is silence and diversions from Leader McConnell.
So America, if you don’t like what the president says, if it gets you upset and makes your hair stand on end, say this is not the America I know and love, whatever our political views, call your Senator and tell them to tell President Trump to stop this. Argue the merits. Argue the issues. Stop this appeal to the worst instincts, the worst instincts.
And our Republican friends are silent. History will show this. This is a moment. There’s no John McCain anymore. When this kind of bitter racism emerged at his town hall meeting, he rejected it publicly when somebody used it against then-candidate Obama. It went down in history as one of his finest moments. Where are the fine moments of my colleagues? Fifty-three of them on the Republican side, not one has spoken out strongly enough, not one.
And they’re quiet on everything else too—things that matter to average Americans to help make their lives better. Where are Republicans on the substantive issues that could help Americans of all colors and creeds? All colors and creeds. It could help whether their families have been in this country for eleven generations, as some of my friends have been, or new immigrants, as some of my friends have been. In New York, we have everybody.
Well, here are some of the things our Republican friends can do. The House has passed legislation to improve our health care system and intervene in the lawsuit against eliminating protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. But Leader McConnell—once again silent—sends that bill to his legislative graveyard.
The House has passed legislation to close the loopholes in our gun background check system. This is no longer controversial. Ninety percent of Americans are for it, ninety percent. Leader McConnell sent that bill, too, to the legislative graveyard.
Climate change, voting rights, paycheck fairness for women: all in the legislative graveyard.
Where are my Republican friends on those issues? Why aren’t they standing up and saying we should at least debate them here in the Senate?
Democrats have had to petition for weeks to even be allowed amendment votes on issues of importance to the American people.
It’s a sorry state of affairs here in the Senate. I believe it has frustrated many of my Republican friends—I hear it from them privately—as well as we Democrats. Because while we may not always agree on legislative solutions to a problem—we’re not all supposed to agree, it’s not a dictatorship—we want to debate the issues. We want to make forward progress. My Republican colleagues know they didn’t come here to rubber-stamp an assembly line of the president’s nominees, judicial and executive. Neither did we. But under Leader McConnell, legislative progress is the lowest and often the last priority.
An example, yesterday my colleague Senator Gillibrand asked unanimous consent to reauthorize the Victim Compensation Fund for the first responders who got sick after working on the Pile after 9/11. It’s as unobjectionable a piece of legislation as you can imagine. These are the people who rushed to the Towers after 9/11. They got all types of gunk in their lungs and their gastrointestinal systems, and later developed cancers. Many of them are now gone, some of them were people I became friends with, like Ray Pfeifer and Detective Alvarez. All we want to do is do what we do with our soldiers when they’re on the battlefield and get illnesses, wounds. We want to help them. That’s all. Nothing more.
And yet over the course of the last several years, again our Republican friends aided and abetted by Leader McConnell, have either blocked this legislation or diluted it. But now it seems there’s a breakthrough.
In the House, this bill passed with I think only twelve Republicans objecting. Conservative members like Mark Meadows, head of the Freedom Caucus, Leader McCarthy, Whip Scalise all voted for it. Why can’t we just bring it to the floor and vote on it here? We should.
My colleague from Kentucky, Senator Paul, objected. Bring it to the floor. Bring it to the floor and give him an amendment. But let’s not just have this one lay in the legislative graveyard, as well. I’m hopeful it won’t, because as soon as it passes the Senate—and we don’t want to amend it, because that will send it back to the House, and who knows what will happen in the back and forth. But if we just pass the bill as is and defeat an amendment that is not intended to help or improve it, it’ll go to the president’s desk and he will sign it. And even if he doesn’t, there are veto-proof majorities in both houses to overcome it.
So, Sen. Gillibrand, my friend and colleague, who has done so much on this issue, may try again today to get this chamber’s consent to pass the bill. If the junior Senator from Kentucky again blocks the bill, I strongly urge the senior Senator from Kentucky, Leader McConnell, to put the bill on the floor.
It is unacceptable—unacceptable—that we’re once again dealing with delays on legislation to help our brave 9/11 first responders, some of whom are gone, many of whom are ill, many more of whom will get ill in the future from the diseases they acquired because of their bravery and selflessness on 9/11.
Another matter. Over the past couple of days, millions of Americans have been downloading FaceApp, a viral tool that applies a little AI technology to a selfie to make your face look older, or younger, or add a beard.
That seems like a benign new social media fad—but, it may actually not be benign at all. Who’s the parent company of this app? Wireless Labs. It’s based in, of all places, St. Petersburg, Russia. It also came to light that the app not only takes your picture, but retains the right to access all of your photos, your search history...and gives “perpetual, irrevocable, and worldwide” license to use your photo, your name, your likeness.
This is a breathtaking level of access, all too common in murky apps like these, that raise very substantial privacy concerns.After everything we learned about Russia’s unrepentant cyber-aggression in 2016, the nexus of facial recognition, digital privacy, and a shadowy Russian company based in St. Petersburg, where so much of the Russian interference in our elections and interference with the internet emerged from…what happened with this app from Wireless Labs called FaceApp should set off alarm bells for all Americans.
So at the very least, we need to know more about what the heck is going on here. So I have called for the FTC and the FBI to investigate FaceApp, to see if private information of millions of Americans could wind up in the wrong hands, and used for very bad purposes. We need more than the assurances—we need facts. The potential for our facial data, and the data from all of our friends and family contained in our photos, to fall into the hands of something like Russian intelligence or the Russian military is really troubling.
I strongly urge the FTC, the FBI to get to the bottom of FaceApp.
One more issue. Over the last few months, Americans have seen for themselves the awful conditions that migrant children are enduring at our southern border. Faultless kids, many traveling alone, many very young, are subjected to inhumane conditions, without the proper health care, nutrition, hygiene, or space. People have different views on immigration, we know that. But no one should want to see these kids treated so inhumanely. All they’re doing is fleeing for a better life.
And so, this weekend I am leading a visit to the border with a number of my Democratic colleagues to investigate, inspect, and evaluate the latest conditions at these facilities. We hope, desperately hope, that the conditions have improved over the past several weeks and we will certainly report to the American people and to the Senate on what we find.