Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Contradictory, Often Misleading, State Of The Union Address

February 6, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s State of the Union address, which was full of contradictions and inaccuracies and failed to address the real problems facing the country. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now Mr. President, last night President Trump had the opportunity to bring our parties together and offer the Congress and the country a new vision for the next two years of divided government.

President Trump squandered the opportunity with a forgettable and at often times incoherent speech. At times he called for unity without specifics. At other times he served up divisive campaign rhetoric that he has used so frequently in the past.

The president’s speech was like a 90-minute performance of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: calling for comity but lacing it throughout with invective. Unfortunately, President Trump seemed more excited and placed more emphasis on the Mr. Hyde parts of the speech than on the Dr. Jekyll.

Listen to just a few of the contradictions in the speech, there were so many, I can’t mention all of them.

President Trump said he believes in legal immigration but not illegal immigration. But every bill he has pushed has cut legal immigration as well as illegal immigration, including the proposal he sent over now in the debates where he changes the asylum process dramatically.

President Trump said he would only work with us in Congress if we abandoned its oversight duties. Back to his old tricks. Hostage taking. “I’m not going to advance the causes of the American people if Congress investigates me.” That’s what Congress is supposed to do of the executive branch. It’s one of the things the founding fathers put in the constitution. They were wary off overweening executive power. They wanted Congress to be a check. What is President Trump afraid of? If he weren’t afraid of these investigations, if he weren’t afraid that something that might be there that he did that was wrong, he’d shrug his shoulders and say let them go forward. But instead, he threatens the American people -- “Unless these investigations stop, I’m not going to move forward on anything.”

How about this one. This one made everybody’s eyes roll even on the Republican side. He said that if he weren’t elected president, we’d be in a war with North Korea. What hyperbole! Not just hyperbole, what untruth. What selective memory. President Trump began his time in office by precipitously ramping up tensions with North Korea. Under President Obama they were much lower than they were with President Trump.

And maybe the most blatant contradiction of all, which makes you just lose respect for the integrity and honesty of the president. President Trump spoke about the need to defend protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, while at the same time, his administration is waging a lawsuit that would eviscerate protections for preexisting conditions! How can the President have the nerve to get up on the podium last night and say he wants to preserve pre-existing conditions, and support a lawsuit that tries to undo them?

It’s shocking hypocrisy, that one maybe most of all, for a speech that had many.

And of course there were a whole lot of omissions in the speech that many Americans felt should have been placed in. Let me give you an example.

The president did talk about a few potentials for bipartisan compromise, we Democrats would love to compromise with the president, and come up with some things that would advance the causes of working families in America. He mentioned infrastructure and prescription drugs. But instead of offering substantive ideas and spending some time on these issues, he delivered a couple of lines about each then moved on. It seemed obligatory and perfunctory. There was no real sinew. No real way to figure out if there’s a way we can come together and get something done because he really didn’t seem interested.

Now he talked about the future of America and didn’t even mention climate change. How could you do that? Every scientist who has studied it has stated that in the next 10, 20, 20, 40 years. Climate change is going to evoke huge changes in our country and in our world. If you believe in the future and you want to have a good future for our children and grandchildren, which we all do, then you can’t ignore climate change. You may have different views on it, but you can’t ignore it.

He also talked a great deal about the safety of the American people, but not one mention of gun safety. Not one. Again, maybe not President Trump, maybe not to his hardcore supporters. But to the rest of America, to talk about need for security and safety of Americans, and not talk about gun safety, misses the mark badly.

And then he rattled off economic statistics, how great everything is. But completely ignored the difficult economic realities of many working Americans. Why do so many Americans not have faith in the future? Why do so many Americans worry that their children won’t have as good of a life economically as they do? Because so much of what the president has done economically has benefitted the top 10 percent. Those improve the overall statistics, but they don’t improve the lives of the average middle-class person. Take the tax cut. It’s a huge tax cut geared to the wealthy and the powerful corporations, and the president said each worker will get about a $4,000 increase. Didn’t happen. Wages are going up at a small amount, but they are still way behind where they were in the past. And what did these companies do with this huge tax break? They gave a trillion dollars in buybacks, buybacks which benefit the corporate CEOs, which benefit the shareholders, but do nothing for the workers since so many of them don’t own stock. In fact, the stock market has become more skewed. About 85 percent of the value of the shares is held by the top 10 percent of America.  

Then of course on the wall. He demanded Congress fund his wall, but showed no signs of remorse over the pointless Trump government shutdown that he precipitated. He didn’t mention the pain he caused to 800,000 federal workers even though many of them were in the galleries listening.

I brought as a guest a man named Ronan Byrne. He works in the TRACON, our control tower in New York. Just had two twins. Has two other kids. I saw the nice pictures. He came with his wife. She quit her job to help when the twins came along. And he lost his salary in a tense job like that where you have to be on all the time. I’ve been up there to TRACON and it’s dark and you see little dots and you can’t have them get too near each other because that’s a safety issue for the people on the planes. Here he was worried about paying the bills and providing for his children. Well, no mention of people like that. No. Just about his wall.

It didn’t work for the president, we know that. Our Republican colleagues, Leader McConnell knows that. I think even in his situation, President Trump is often in a bubble and often only aimed at the narrow band of his supporters. But he touched a hot stove and I don’t think he wants to do it again. But there was no mention. He should have used the speech to say, “We’re not going to have another government shutdown.” No word.

No plan to tackle our opioid problem.

No plan to increase wages for the middle class.

No plan to increase manufacturing jobs.

Anyone who hoped that the president would change course and offer some new bipartisan ideas with some meat on the bone, where we could discuss it and begin to move forward to help the American people – anyone who hoped the president would do that was sorely disappointed. As I said, his real excitement came in the most divisive parts of the speech, on immigration and abortion.

Now let’s contrast his speech with Stacey Abrams’. The contrast between the president’s speech and Stacey Abrams’ speech was stunning. The President was political, divisive, calculating, and at times even nasty. Ms. Abrams was compelling, warm, uplifting, showing real compassion for the plights of our average families, but also filled with hope and inspired by the promise of the American dream. An uplifting speech. Ms. Abrams’ speech represented the kind of unifying vision – understanding our challenges but also having some confidence our ability to solve them – that the president failed to deliver. In short, Stacey Abrams last night gave President Trump a lesson in how to lead.

Xavier Becerra, speaking from his high school in Sacramento, McClatchy High School, also gave a wonderful response in Spanish.

We all knew that President Trump would say that the state of our union was strong, but the American people know the unfortunate truth.

On the economy, on healthcare, on governance, and on foreign policy, it is abundantly clear that the Trump administration has been getting failing grades from the American people.

The State of the economy? The State of the Trump economy? Failing the middle class. Wealthy shareholders and corporate executives cash in from the Trump tax bill. American workers are left behind.

The State of the Trump healthcare system? Failing American families. Coverage is getting more expensive, and the amount of coverage is declining. Due to the sabotage that this administration has done to our healthcare system, fewer Americans have healthcare than they did last year.

The State of the Trump administration? Chaos. President Trump has had the most cabinet turnover in more than a century. He’s failed to nominate anyone to a fifth of our government’s top positions. This has nothing to do with Senate. For a fifth of the positions, there is no nomination. This is two years into this presidency. The Senate had nothing to do with all the Cabinet members who quit or resigned under a cloud. Nothing to do with that either. President Trump likes to blame somebody else for the problems he creates. That’s one of his M.O.s.

The State of Trump’s foreign policy? Inside out. Inside out. Our long-standing allies, the countries of NATO, have been alienated. Our adversaries: Russia, China, and North Korea, have been emboldened because President Trump doesn’t stand up to them. During the national security section of the president’s speech last night, the first item he mentioned wasn’t Russia’s malign activities, North Korea’s nuclear program, or even the crisis in Venezuela; it was criticism for our NATO allies. That says it all.

The president’s state of the union last night did something rare for a state of the union address: it revealed just how much repair the state of our union requires. Just how much work we still have to do: to aid working Americans left behind by an economy that only seems to work for the wealthy and well-connected; to provide American families everywhere with affordable healthcare; to bring stability and accountability to a government too short on both; a government that seems to have made the swamp deeper and more odorous; and to further isolate our enemies and to give comfort to our allies abroad.

Let us hope and pray that the country can heal. But President Trump did nothing to move that forward last night.