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 U.S.; The Trump Administration’s Relentless Attacks On Americans’ Health Care; And The Importance Of Maintaining A Hard Line On U.S.-China Trade Negotiations

April 2, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Senate Democrats’ new amendment to provide much-needed disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico, the Midwest, and other hard-hit regions throughout the U.S.; the Trump administration’s relentless attacks on Americans’ health care; and the importance of maintaining a hard line on U.S.-China trade negotiations. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now yesterday, the Senate failed to pass emergency relief funding to help American families recovering after natural disasters. It failed for one reason, Republicans removed critical aid for Puerto Rico and other territories from the House bill after President Trump told them to do it.

Under this administration, with Leader McConnell’s blessing, even disaster relief has now become political.

I don’t need to litigate why we are here – over the last two years the American people have endured staggering natural disasters that have devastated communities across the country. These Americans need help – they need help now. I would parenthetically add if there were ever evidence of global warming, of climate change, this is it. Despite The fact that just about every Republican has his head or her head in the sand and won’t admit. But regardless of what you think the causes were, Americans have always stood together when American citizens have been hit by disaster and we band together and say we’re going to help one another. All American citizens, all.

BUT…one part of America is not being treated like the others.

And why not? Because President Trump, for reasons that defy decency, harbors an apparent contempt for the people of Puerto Rico. He tweeted again last night, claiming erroneously that $91 Billion has been afforded the people of Puerto Rico, and ridiculed the leadership that has desperately tried to rebuild the Island in the wake of these mega-storms.

Let’s get the facts straight: Republicans know that the storms that hit Puerto Rico over a year ago weren’t ordinary storms. They know these were historic catastrophes. We’re talking about the deadliest disasters to hit the American soil in over a century. We’re talking about the worst power-outage in American history. We’re talking about 3,000 lives that were lost. And here we are eighteen months later, the Island hasn’t recovered.

It is surreal that a disaster so awful has been met with a presidential response that is so tepid and so heartless. It is surreal that our Republican colleagues go along with this and say we are not going to help Puerto Rico in the way that is needed. Billions in funding for recovery and mitigation efforts right now remain locked up in the Treasury. Congress already appropriated 20 billion dollars that the administration has not allocated. All we want to do is make sure that money is allocated, that’s one of the things we want to do. Are our Republican colleagues opposed to that? That’s what it sounds like. Some of them say it’s political. What’s political is President Trump saying no aide for Puerto Rico and Republicans jumping in line, even those with many Puerto Ricans in their states.

Make no mistake – we reached this impasse because the president has said for himself he opposes help for Puerto Rico. And Republicans follow along.

Some of my colleagues from the other side came up with another shibboleth. That we opposed the House bill because it didn’t provide funding for the Midwest. Well first of all the House bill was aimed at disasters in 2018 not 2019. But Second, Senator Leahy offered an amendment that would have added funding for the Middle West and for funding for Puerto Rico – and what did Republicans do? They blocked it anyway. So this undoes their fantasy that Democrats are opposed to aid to the Middle West. And we will be offering an amendment, Senator Leahy and I, which gives aid to the Midwest and Puerto Rico. Let’s see where our Republican Colleagues stand will they block that too?

So yesterday’s vote boiled down to a simple question – do Republicans believe that the people of Puerto Rico deserve relief for their natural disasters like all Americans?

Do they believe that the families of Puerto Rico, whatever you think of this elected official in Puerto Rico or that, deserve to be helped just like the families of the Midwest and California? Do they believe the statement of the Governor of Puerto Rico, Rosselló - that the House bill is much more preferable to Puerto Rico than what the Senate has proposed? Do they? Or do they make their own judgement based on what President Trump said and then call it political. What a shame, what a shame.

Let me be as clear as day: Democrats support without objection funding for all regions of the United States affected by natural disaster. That is any state or territory that need to rebuild.

That list should include the Middle West, and it should include Puerto Rico. Because our fellow citizens on that Island have yet to recover from the deadliest of storms in our recent history.

So let me let this chamber know, Senator Leahy and I will be offering a new amendment to the disaster bill to provide billions of new, additional dollars for the Midwest and 2019 disasters. The Senate Republicans say they care about Iowa and Nebraska, they didn’t put an additional penny in for that aid. They said let them compete with the 2018 disasters with the same amount of money. We’re going a step better. We are going to say we need additional aid for the Middle West, for Iowa and Nebraska, as well as Puerto Rico – it’s not an either or. And If we get into an either or, next time it will be your state, my Republican colleagues, who people don’t want to vote for aid for. Or mine, or another. I experienced incidentally with Sandy where a lot of Republicans did not want to vote for aid to Sandy because it was New York. And that was so wrong.

So I say to anyone suggesting that Democrats aren’t willing to help the people of Iowa, Nebraska and other states, we are calling your bluff. Are you ready to actually appropriate new money, more money, for what the people in the Midwest who are struggling need?

Democrats are. Let’s see where you stand.

Now on healthcare, Mr. President. Republicans failed to advance any of their healthcare plans through Congress, so they're trying to repeal health care through the courts. This reeks of desperation and they do not – do not – have a backup plan.

Last night, the president tweeted that Republicans will come up with their plan in 2021. Translation: Republicans have no health care plan. Translation: President Trump has no health care plan. It's the same old song Republicans and the president have been singing: they're for repeal; they have no replace.

President Trump confirmed he will hold Americans hostage through the 2020 election when it comes to healthcare. He promises, re-elect me and maybe you can take a peek at my backup plan after that, which he doesn’t have.

What a ruse. What a shame. What a disgrace. People are suffering.

People need protection when their child has cancer so the insurance company won’t pull away the healthcare.

Seniors need protection from the rising costs of prescription drugs.

Women need protection so that they’re not treated differently than men when they have healthcare needs that are particular to women.

Young people need protection to be allowed to continue to be on their parents’ plan until they’re 26 as they start a new life after high school or college.

All these folks need protection. President Trump and our Republican friends say, “Rip all of those things away and trust us. Maybe in 2021 we’ll have a plan.”

With stubbornness that would impress a mule, President Trump has waged a manic war on the American health care system that shows no sign of stopping.

Now we are asked to believe that President Trump has a wonderful, but secret, health care plan – but for some reason he won’t reveal it until after the next election.

What a transparent ruse. Snake oil salesmen, take notes.

Here's why we can’t believe the president's punt-and-promise:

In May of 2017, after Republicans voted to repeal the health care law, the president celebrated in the Rose Garden on national television with House Republicans. He celebrated the passage of a bill that would result in 23 million fewer people with health insurance and would result in gutting protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. He celebrated his own broken promise to never cut Medicaid and to always protect people with pre-existing conditions. And he did it on national TV.

So don’t tell me this time will be different. Don’t tell me there’s a secret plan when we know what the Republican health care plan will be: increased premiums, loss of coverage, the elimination of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Markets will destabilize and families will be tossed into an abyss of inferior care.

President Trump’s lawsuit seeks to wholly undo the progress we have made. And he wants the American people to just wait for a magic plan to appear two years from now?

If successful, President Trump’s lawsuit will mean skyrocketing costs for families; the president wants the American people to just “wait and see”;

President Trump’s lawsuit will mean massive increases in prescription drug spending for seniors on Medicare; the President wants the American people to just “wait and see”;

President Trump’s lawsuit will mean women will be charged more because they are a woman; the president wants the American people to just “wait and see,”;

So when President Trump insists he has a silver bullet plan that we can only see if the American people reelect him, we know what a sham that is. For a President who has perpetrated a lot of shams, this one takes the cake.

And I’m asking: which one of our Republican colleagues will stand up for the health care of the American people? Senator Shaheen has a resolution simply saying to the Justice Department, withdraw your suit that would do all these awful things. How many of our Republican colleagues will go on that Republican proposal? Let’s see. Let’s see. Are they going to say that’s politics too – the health care of millions of Americans? Any time the president does something horrible and Democrats resist, are they going to say that’s politics? Oh no. That’s what we’re supposed to do. Whether it comes to Puerto Rico or it comes to health care.

Now one final word, Mr. President, on China. The New York Times reported yesterday that a trade agreement with the United States and China is nearly ninety percent complete, with a deal potentially finalized by later this month.

But it alarms me that the president, for all his bluster, will likely settle on a deal devoid of any meaningful reform to China’s economy and trade practices, and instead will settle for purchases of American goods by the Chinese state.

This move will only strengthen China’s leverage while doing little to help us long term. We want to protect our farmers, but we don’t want a soybean sellout, where, in exchange for soybeans we trade away America’s family jewels, our intellectual property, our industrial know-how, and our hardworking labor force being able to compete in a reciprocal way in China the way China can compete here.

If it’s just purchases of product, the Chinese government can always turn off the tap. So we are entering into treacherous territory.

So I have a simple message for President Trump, and I praised him for standing up to China more than President Bush or President Obama on this issue. I say to him: we have made progress in making China see that they have abusive practices. Stand firm, don’t back out. I cannot think of a worse end than for us than to say “uncle” at the last minute. Skip the political photo op, and make good on your promise to stand up for American businesses and workers when China takes advantage.