Schumer Floor Remarks on Pressing Legislative Issues that Need to Be Addressed Before January 19th and the Trump Administration’s Proposal to Cut Border Security Measures to Pay for Wall

January 9, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding pressing issues that must be addressed before January 19th and the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut border security measures to pay for the wall.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, there are a number of outstanding matters before the Senate that must be addressed by January the 19th.

We must pass an extension of government funding. We must reach a deal to lift the spending caps, to spare devastating cuts to our military support and funding for urgent domestic priorities. We must extend the Children’s health insurance program and community health centers and the 702 FISA Court program. We must pass disaster aid. And we must resolve the future of the Dreamers.

Some of these issues, particularly CHIP and FISA, could have been dealt with by the majority long ago. There are bipartisan majorities that would have voted to extend those programs. But the Majority Leader chose not to put them on the floor because they were pursuing a partisan, favor-the-wealthy tax bill.

Some of these issues require further compromise. It is no secret that we haven’t come to a final agreement on the spending caps. Both Democrats and Republicans want our troops to have the resources they need to do the tough job we ask of them. At the same time, we Democrats want to make sure we’re making the right kind of investments in our middle class. The whole campaign was about the middle class. Now we’re going to abandon them because there are such needs for defense? The two are not mutually exclusive. We don’t believe they are. And our Republican colleagues have sort of lost their grip, saying, ‘well, we can’t increase the deficit after 1.5 trillion dollar tax cut, mainly for the wealthy and powerful corporations.’ So we’re fighting hard to make sure we’re making the right kind of investments in the middle class. That’s why we’re pushing hard to raise the spending caps on the domestic side, so we can do more in the fight against the opioid crisis; so we can do more to help our brave veterans get quality healthcare; so we honor the promise made to over a million pensioners, who contributed to and earned every penny of their pensions.

These are all very important issues. Ask a mom or dad whose kid is addicted to opioids whether that can wait. Ask a pensioner who is so nervous that her or she will not get enough dollars to retire on and feed themselves. Ask a veteran who’s been waiting online for healthcare because the veterans administration is not fully funded for the healthcare needs of our veterans. They all think those are just as important, not more, not less than funding defense and we will stand firm and strong at both their importance, that both are important. The only argument our colleagues seem to have against this is that it increases the deficit as a I said, they have lost all claim to that one with the tax bill. Now, teamsters and carpenters and miners worked their entire lives under the expectation that they could retire with the basic sense of dignity afforded by a modest pension. This is the one our colleagues seem adamantly opposed to. Let them go home to their miners, their teamsters, to their food workers and tell them, “you don’t deserve the pension even though you paid in every month.” We can’t just shrug our shoulders and do nothing – we ought to fix that.

My friend, the Majority Leader, thinks defense is important but not the other. We believe, we democrats, both are important, and we should do both together. Surely, the deficit again can’t be the problem, after Republicans added over $1.5 trillion in red ink. So let’s make the investments we all know are essential, in our military, and in our middle class.

We also have to make sure that a disaster package treats all our states and territories fairly, that California and Puerto Rico and the mountain West, and the U.S. Virgin Islands get the aid they need, just like Texas and Louisiana and Florida.

We have to reach an agreement on a new health care package that admits the new reality of our healthcare system. The Republicans repealed the individual mandate in their tax bill, an act that will raise premiums and lower coverage. The old healthcare compromise legislation was crafted before the Republican tax bill. Patty Murray has said, under new circumstances, “ we’ll need new proposal, we can’t just enact the previous Alexander- Murray bill because of the change our Republican colleagues made to the healthcare system.

And of course, the DACA issue will require further compromise. There are many Republicans in this chamber who want to enshrine DACA protections into law – as every Democrat would -- just as there are many Democrats who would pass additional border security measures into law – smart, reasonable, practical border security measures.

A deal on this issue can be reached if both parties are committed to good faith negotiations.

The problem thus far has been President Trump’s insistence on a completely ineffective and absurdly expensive border wall as a part of any deal on DACA.

In fact, we learned this morning in a stunning New York Times article by Ron Nixon, that the Trump Administration is proposing to cut back from smart border security measures to pay for a border wall.

According to the Times, which reviewed internal budget guidance from OMB, the Trump Administration would cut or delay funding for border surveillance, they cut or delay funding for radar technology, patrol boats, and, maybe most crucially, customs agents – all to ask taxpayers to pay for the wall.

Funding to upgrade surveillance aircraft, extremely effective at stopping illegal crossings at the border particularly drugs – denied.

Funding to hire new customs officers – denied.

Funding for video surveillance with infrared cameras in areas with high incidences of border crossings – cut to QUOTE “offset the costs of presidential priorities.”

What an absurd proposition.

Security experts have testified for decades that effective border security includes a variety of technologies and resources: drones, infrared sensors, customs and border patrol agents, officers, and in some places, secure fencing is appropriate. We agree with that. These were all ideas we included in our comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The Trump Administration would cannibalize funding for these smart border security measures to pay for a wall that won’t work, makes no sense. He campaigned on, oh no Mr. President you campaign on a wall that he said Mexico would pay for. We’re waiting. But again, to take away the things that are needed to protect the border for a symbolic and ineffective political gesture, wrong.

There is nothing to this but politics. President Trump is fighting for an empty symbol rather than smart policy that will actually produce better security at our borders.

We Democrats are willing, able and eager to work with our Republican colleagues and the Administration on smart and effective border solutions.  As I’ve said, there may be a few, defined places where a secure fence makes sense, but a medieval wall, which you can’t see through, across the length of the southern border will not make us any safer. Walls can be scaled over and tunneled under. There is also the issue of eminent domain; the federal government would have to conscript hundreds of sq. miles of land from American citizens in order to build a wall. The Administration still hasn’t produced plans for where to put it. And of course, President Trump promised that Mexico would pay for it, not American taxpayers.

If you can read anything into the election it was for that. Polling data shows that a majority don’t believe the wall is the right thing to do. It’s not responsible to insist that American taxpayers pay for an absurdly expensive and ineffective border wall or else the government shuts down. If President Trump goes down that path, and insists on the wall or shuts down the government, which said back in September, make no mistake about it: a government shutdown will fall entirely on his shoulders.

If President Trump can find a way to get Mexico to pay for the full wall, while American taxpayers pay for things that really make a difference to secure the border he should reveal that to the American people. But until that time, Democrats will work with our Republican colleagues on smart border security, effective border security, just as we fight to protect the Dreamers.