Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Ineffective Foreign Policy, Senate Democratic Legislation to Address the Situation at the Southern Border, And Leader McConnell’s Refusal To Bring Bipartisan Election Security Bills To The Senate Floor

June 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s supposed deal with Mexico, the potential consequences of his ineffective approach to foreign policy, Senate democratic legislation to address the situation at the southern border and Leader McConnell’s refusal to bring bipartisan election security bills to the Senate floor.  Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

First, Madam President, on my way coming down to Washington, I heard that a helicopter crashed onto the roof of a building on 7th Avenue in my home town of New York City. We’re still learning the circumstances of the crash, and the extent of the damage, the injuries, and the casualty it may have caused. But as all of America saw after 9/11, the Fire Department of New York and the Police Department of New York are truly some of the very, very best we have. They are strong. They are brave. They are smart. And I have every faith that they will do their duty to protect New Yorkers and make sure everyone is safe.

Now on another subject, the border. The president ultimately—of course—backed off his threat of tariffs against Mexico. But really, anyone who has observed the president’s foreign policy habits could have predicted how this would play out.

It’s a pretty simple pattern. The president stakes out a maximalist position but never clearly defines his objectives. That way, after he backs himself into a corner, he can use a deal of any kind, even if it’s merely a fig leaf, to justify retreating from whatever misguided policy he’s threatened. Then he declares victory, having done little to nothing to solve the underlying problem.

Well that’s exactly what has happened right here.

According to public reports, the “agreement” that President Trump reached with Mexico contains policies negotiated months ago—nothing more than warmed-up leftovers.

And then today, after the president tweeted that we have a “fully signed and documented…Immigration and Security Deal with Mexico,” the Mexican foreign minister said that no secret deal exists. He clarified that the only agreement reached was to revisit the issue in the future. This is the headline of the New York Times: “No Secret Deal Immigration Deal Exists with U.S., Mexico’s Foreign Minister Says.” It is amazing how this president will just make stuff up. There’s an L-word here. He just makes it up and then it’s refuted.

So, to recap: In February, the president declared a bogus emergency to build a wall he said would “solve” the problem. Then he made a bogus threat to shut down the border completely, which of course, never materialized. Then he made a bogus threat to impose tariffs, which the business community and Republicans in Congress rejected. And now, the president claims a bogus “agreement” with Mexico, which contains policies that Mexico volunteered to do months ago. Bogus. Bogus. Bogus. It’s no wonder our problems don’t go away in this country, because of the way the president does things, both on the domestic front and the foreign policy front.

What he did here is typical of the president’s game-show foreign policy: a big production without very much progress. He generates a lot of coverage and attention—around big summits, photo-ops, scare tactics, belligerent threats—but because the president doesn’t set clear goals; because the president doesn’t have a defined strategy about how to achieve them; and because he is impatient to always declare victory prematurely even when it doesn’t occur, his negotiations with foreign countries are ineffective.

We saw this play out with North Korea last June. President Trump returned from his meeting with Chairman Kim and tweeted: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.” One year later, North Korea continues to conduct weapons tests. We’re seeing it play out now with Mexico, which has not agreed to anything new. And I’m deeply concerned that the same pattern may play out with China, perhaps the most serious of them all.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform China’s economic relations with the world. But despite the president’s success in getting China to the table—and he has with the tariffs—the president has never clearly defined what an effective agreement with China looks like. So I’m afraid that, in the end, just like he did with Mexico, the president could retreat from his position on China in exchange for a face-saving deal that doesn’t accomplish much of anything. I hope and pray that’s not the case. I hope and pray he stands strong because the sake of the future of jobs in America, of businesses in America, of wealth in America is at stake. So for the sake of all those things, I hope that, unlike this charade with Mexico, President Trump is willing to stay the course on China and not come up with another bogus solution that doesn’t solve any problem.

One final point on this matter, and a very important point—and I hope everyone will listen, because we’ve talked about this in the last week or two, but so far the media hasn’t written much about it. I hope they will today. President Trump tweeted this morning that Democrats have no plan to deal with the surge of migrants at the border. Now that’s another bogus claim. Democrats do have a plan. We proposed it, actually, last year, and I talked about it on the floor of the Senate here two or three times in the last two weeks. And, it would be far more effective at dealing with the actual problem than what President Trump announced on Friday.

Let me outline the three things of our plan. First, we would allow asylum seekers to apply for asylum within their own countries. If you’re a Guatemalan, a Honduran, an El Salvadoran, your children is threatened, being beat up, brutalized, or killed by gangs, your daughter is threatened with rape—you want to leave the country. But it’s a long, dangerous trek to go across Mexico. You have to pay the coyotes a lot of money. Let them apply for asylum in their home countries, not at the border with the United States.

Second, we would provide security assistance to Central American countries to crack down on the violent gangs, and the drug cartels, and the human trafficking. That’s what most of these people are fleeing. Look at their pictures, they’re not criminals, almost all of them. They’re not gang members. They’re average people seeking desperate relief. And so, what we could do to stem the tide, and it wouldn’t cost that much, is crack down on violent gangs, drug cartels, and trafficking. President Obama began to do this, and President Trump has rescinded it. It’s logical and it could work. These countries themselves don’t have our knowledge, our ability, our resources, to go after these horrible gangs, these horrible drug dealers. But we can help them. We should.

And third, we at our border could increase the number of immigration judges to process cases faster. So people wouldn’t have to wait so long. The case could be adjudicated, if they make the asylum requirements, fine, and if they don’t, they don’t get in. Those are three, commonsense solutions to the problem that President Trump has talked about. As the president’s illusory “deal” with Mexico continues to unravel, as the situation doesn’t get better, please—the Republicans on the other side of the aisle who agree with this solution, Mr. President, please: take a look at our solution. It can work, it can be bipartisan. No, you don’t get to pound the table and make a lot of demands. That won’t ever affect anything. But our proposal might get the job done. Let’s give it a shot in a bipartisan way.

Finally, on election security, and my friend the Republican Leader’s graveyard, which continues to grow: ever since the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives, Leader McConnell has hardly considered legislation on the floor of the Senate. Instead of bringing up bills passed by the House, Leader McConnell has turned the Senate, as now widely quoted and known, into a legislative graveyard, where pretty much the only thing we debate around here is nominations. It’s frustrating not just to Democrats, to Americans. They say “can’t we get something done for the country?” And it’s frustrating, I’m sure, to many of my Republican friends, who didn’t come here just to rubber stamp nominees.

One of my biggest frustrations about Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard is that even on the most nonpartisan issues, there’s virtually no movement.

Take election security. We all know—on a good day, even President Trump agrees—Russians interfered in our elections in 2016. That’s incontrovertible. Senior intelligence officials, and Director Wray, the head of the FBI, well-regarded, appointed by the President, have issued multiple warnings that foreign powers will try to interfere in our elections again in 2020. We have to make sure that our election systems are resilient, our cyber defenses are up-to-date. There’s nothing partisan about it. When a foreign country can twist an American election one way or another, that eats at the wellsprings of our democracy. We shouldn’t allow it. So why, when there’s bipartisan legislation, is Leader McConnell just sitting on his hands and refusing to bring it up? He’s not moving any legislation having to do with election security, Democrat, Republican, or best of all bipartisan. We have multiple bipartisan bills that would harden our election security, punish any adversary who tries to interfere in our elections. Why won’t Leader McConnell bring them to the floor?

I am certainly glad that he agreed to my request to hold a secure briefing on the risks we face in the next election. I’m looking forward to a date soon. I hope the Leader will update us all soon on when that might be scheduled. It should be ASAP. The founding fathers were worried about foreign interference into our election, and in our modern digital world, it’s taken a new, new danger. But a briefing alone is not enough. We have to take legislative action.

Now Democrats and Republicans, we all know that, disagree on a whole lot of stuff—but surely we can all agree that nothing matters more to our democracy than defending the integrity of our elections. And I hope we as a body can take bipartisan action soon.