Schumer Floor Remarks On Senate Democrats’ New Amendment To Provide Much-Needed Disaster Relief Funding For Puerto Rico, The Midwest, And Other Hard-Hit Regions Throughout The United States

April 4, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Senate Democrats’ new amendment,  No. 246, which would help provide much-needed disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico, the Midwest, and other hard-hit regions throughout the United States. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President. Now, rather than spend time yesterday on a terribly destructive rules change, Leader McConnell could have focused the Senate on an urgent matter that this chamber has failed to act on: disaster relief.

In a few moments, Senator Leahy and I will ask unanimous consent to have a vote on a new version of the emergency disaster relief that couldn’t get through the Senate earlier this week.

Our new amendment offers this chamber a path forward from this week’s impasse. It’s a plan that meets everyone’s needs. It doesn’t say: only aid this or only aid that. It recognizes all American citizens deserve to be helped when disaster strikes.

The amendment Senator Leahy and I will offer provides $16.7 billion in relief for Americans struck by natural disasters last year and in the last two years. 

It includes $2.5 billion in new funding – funding that the that the bill from the Republican side, that failed, offered by Senators Shelby and Perdue, did not have; $2.5 billion in new funding for the recent flooding in Iowa and Nebraska and Missouri. We all agree that these communities need assistance now.

And this amendment, crucially, includes aid for our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and other territories. It doesn’t say pick one or pick the other. It says let’s do both.

All of us in this chamber should agree: we must do something now to help all Americans in need.

This amendment offers our Republicans friends, those who have said we need aid in the Middle West, the opportunity to do just that.

So if this chamber wants to help families in Nebraska, in Iowa, in Missouri…if we want to help the families of Texas and of Florida…This amendment is the path forward. It is the key to moving forward.

This is the solution that had the ability to pass the House. This is the option that has enough support to reach the President’s desk.

The Speaker of the House has said the original Republican bill wouldn’t even be put on the floor. This bill will.

Now, some will say – I know my dear friend, and he is my good friend, from Alabama – will say the President won’t sign this.

Well I have something else to say: if you pass this measure, the President dare won’t veto it. That’s my prediction.

We all know the President has huffed and puffed about vetoing bills in the past.

He said he’d veto this…

He said he’d veto that…

And in most instances, when the Republicans in the Senate stand up, he has caved. In this case in particular. He won’t want to veto legislation that helps Iowa and Nebraska and Missouri and Texas and Florida.

So let’s not play this game. We all know what happened. There was a bipartisan agreement. President Trump went to the Republican lunch, said “no aid for Puerto Rico,” and that’s why we’re in this mess. We can change that. It’s time to call the president’s bluff.

Elections have consequences. There’s a Democratic House. The time has come for Republicans of this Chamber and Republicans in the House to have a frank conversation with the president about what can or cannot pass the Congress.

So if the President cares about the farmers of Iowa and Texas and Missouri, and American citizens – all American citizens affected by natural disasters—he won’t veto this bill and we know that.

The measure we are presenting today isn’t some solution cooked up out of left field. It’s a simple proposal—we need disaster relief for all Americans, plain and simple!

Senators Leahy and Shelby worked in good faith earlier this year as they always do – and I appreciate that, the great relationship our Appropriations Committee Chair and Ranking Member and Vice Chair have. And it would have worked had the president not gone to that lunch and who knows why, where, or when? He pounded the table and said no aid to Puerto Rico. He said that. Okay.

The only problem: when we’re at the brink of a compromise, President Trump all too often torpedoes things. And then Republicans act paralyzed, don’t act.

If Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans won’t support this measure—a measure that meets the needs of all affected Americans—then what is their plan that can pass the House and pass the Senate and go to the president’s desk?

If this measure just had aid to Puerto Rico and not to the Middle West, the president might veto it. But he’s not going to veto a bill with aid to the Middle West. Nor should he.

So if an all-of-the-above solution won’t work, what on earth will?

So far, the answer from this chamber on the other side seems to be nothing – none-of-the-above.

That doesn’t make sense! This is an emergency. People are suffering. People can’t get back into their homes. Small businesses need help starting up again. This is not a time, not a time, to duck, to look for cover – to know when the president has done something wrongly and seemingly on a whim – to just bow to what he says.

We should agree on the need to do something now to help communities recovering from natural disasters. Our amendment offers Republicans the chance to just do that.

No body – no member of this body – should pick and choose which American citizens get help in times of crisis.

It is a profound shame that my colleagues on the other side thus far have allowed the president to derail this process, have gone along with appeasing him.

Well I say the power of this chamber is greater than they realize. If we vote on this package, if it passes the Senate, and if it passes the House, and reaches the president’s desk, the president will sign it. He will not follow through on his veto threat. Even he knows that doing so would be a profound betrayal of his promise to look after the wellbeing of all Americans.

So today I urge Senators to support our amendment that gives aid to the Middle West, to the South from Florida through Texas, and to the people of Puerto Rico.

So Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that as if in legislative session, the Senate resume consideration of H.R.268, that all pending amendments be withdrawn, that the Leahy amendment, No. 246 be agreed to, that the bill as amended be read a third time and passed and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.