Schumer Floor Remarks on Priorities in Year End Talks

December 12, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Democratic priorities that hope to be achieved during year end spending negotiations. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, last week, the House and Senate passed a short-term funding bill to keep the government open as Republican and Democratic negotiators continue to work on a long-term spending deal.

Those negotiations are advancing well, but many issues remain to be resolved.

First and foremost, we must resolve the issue of the spending caps. If we do nothing, there will be a painful and unnecessary cut to both defense spending and programs that invest directly in jobs and economic development for the middle class in early January.

We must lift the spending caps for defense and also those urgent domestic priorities, in equal measure. That has been the basis of successful budget agreements going back several years, and as recently as April of this year. It was parity between defense and nondefense and that is how it ought to stay. That is what brought us home into a good agreement and no shutdowns in previous years.

As the opioid crisis continues to rage – dimming the bright futures of so many Americans – we have a moral obligation to step up our country’s support for addiction treatment and recovery. I have had parents – a father, cry in my arms – because his son was on line waiting to get into a treatment program, but it was too crowded, he had to wait, and the kid died of an overdose before he could get in.

We can’t have that in America. So many of our young people, are dying or being hurt so badly, addicted with opioids. We cannot just sit by, just as we cannot just sit by with foreign threats that plague our country.

As veterans continue to struggle to find the quality health care they deserve after bravely serving this nation, we should be making additional investments in veteran’s health care and veterans’ hospitals.

Just as we need to help our soldiers abroad, we need to help those who have fought for us, risked their lives for us, and now have healthcare problems.

As hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of miners, truck drivers, construction workers, and food service workers approach retirement age, we have to make sure the pension plans promised to them have enough in the bank to fulfill that promise.  These people paid every month – painstakingly – into their plans, so did their employers. Often they forwent larger salary increases so they could make sure that they are taken care of when they retire. Now that the pension funds, in good part because the crash of 2008, don’t have the money they need. These people should not be left out.

Hardworking American families deserve to retire with the dignity and security that they’ve earned. If we don’t meet these pension obligations today, they’re going to cost the government a whole lot more tomorrow.

That’s why Democrats are fighting for a pension solution in the year-end spending bill.

Mr. President, these are all urgent priorities, there are more of them. They cannot wait for another day, just as we must make sure our men and women in uniform have the resources and support they need to do their job.

So let’s do both – in a bipartisan way.

As Democrats continue to push for desperately needed funding to combat the opioid crisis, improve veterans’ health care and shore up pension plans, we’ll also be pushing to reauthorize CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance program, and community health centers. As well as dealing with certain healthcare programs that have expired.

We have more to do for the Americans in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands who are still recovering from devastating natural disasters. We are in the process of negotiating with Republicans to provide a significant investment in border security in exchange for DACA. These talks continue to progress, and I’m hopeful we can reach an agreement on that issue as well.

So Mr. President, we have a lot to get done before the end of the year and not much time to do it. But with the concerted effort of both parties, negotiating in good faith, I believe we can reach an agreement acceptable not to every member of either chamber, but to large numbers of members on both sides of the aisle so we can pass by a wide margin our agreement.