Schumer Floor Remarks On Senate Republicans Blocking Bipartisan Election Security Legislation, Republican Deficit Hypocrisy, Senator Whitehouse’s 250th Speech On Climate Change, And The Resignation Of Puerto Rico’s Governor

July 25, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Senate Republicans blocking bipartisan election security legislation, Republican deficit hypocrisy, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s 250th speech on the subject of climate change, and the resignation of Puerto Rico’s governor. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

Now yesterday, as we all know, former Counsel Mueller testified before two House committees.

I believe it was crucial for the American people to hear, straight from Robert Mueller’s mouth, that the president was not—underline not—“exonerated” by his report, despite what the president claims. And it is utterly amazing: Mueller says something, and the president says the exact opposite to the media. We have never had a president who lies so often. He knows what Mueller said, but he thinks he can dupe people when he says it. And I hope it’s not true.

Now, it’s important for the American people to hear, straight from Robert Mueller’s mouth, that the president is not telling the truth when he claims that Mueller found “no obstruction.” Mueller did not. Anyone who watched the hearing saw it. It was plain as could be.

But that’s not the subject of my remarks today. My remarks are involved with election security. Above all, it was important for us all to hear, straight from Robert Mueller’s mouth, that the threat from Russia and other foreign adversaries seeking to meddle in our elections is very real and still very much ongoing.

Asked about Russian interference in our democracy, Mr. Mueller responded: “It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” Leader McConnell, let me read you that sentence if you care about America. Mueller about Russian interference: “It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign.”

He went on to say that “many more countries” were developing similar capabilities that Russia has. He reminded members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russian fake images reached nearly 126 million people on Facebook alone.

And as if it even needed to be spelled out, Mr. Mueller added: “Much more needs to be done in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but by others as well.”

Mueller’s testimony was a clarion call for election security. Mueller’s testimony should be a wakeup call to every American—Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative—that the integrity of our elections is at stake, to be manipulated by a foreign power. This is all about the future of this country. If we lose faith in our electoral process, democracy begins to walk away from us. We’ll be a different country than the glorious country we’ve been since 1789.

And yet, our Republican colleagues put their heads in the sand. President Trump, as usual, with his enormous ego, doesn’t want to admit the Russians interfered—even though he encouraged it publicly—because he feels it will cast some illegitimacy on his election. The election’s over. He’s president. I wish he weren’t. But that’s not the issue here. The issue is the future of our democracy.

And our Republican colleagues once again, either afraid of President Trump, or even worse, seeking advantage from Russian interference, are keeping their heads in the sand. We’ve tried, we’ve worked with our Republican colleagues to craft several bipartisan bills, Democrats and Republicans alike, to safeguard our election infrastructure and deter any foreign adversary from targeting our democracy in 2020. We’ve asked the Republican majority on the Appropriations Committee to devote more resources to states to harden their election systems, to no avail.

Leader McConnell has refused to bring these bills to the floor. Republicans have rebuffed our requests for additional appropriations this year.

Election security goes into McConnell’s legislative graveyard. Even though it should be the most nonpartisan of issues. He has refused—refused—to let us consider anything using his power as majority leader. He’s backed up by every single Republican, who are complicit in not stopping the Russians, as Putin seeks to stretch his long arm and delve into a sacred process: how we elect our officials.

Why? What could possibly be the downside to ensuring our elections are fair and free of foreign interference? Why would Leader McConnell and every one of our Republican colleagues, who now has failed to step up to the plate, even though some of them work with our colleagues on bills. Why would they ignore the admonitions of the founding fathers, who said foreign interference is a great danger to democracy? What could be the downside of ensuring our elections are fair and free? I ask that question of Leader McConnell.

The only excuse I’ve heard is that additional action isn’t necessary.

Well Mr. Mueller, who has done far more investigative work on this than just about anybody else, cleared all that up yesterday. He didn’t say we’ve done enough already. He didn’t say we’re on top of it. He said, “much more needs to be done.” Leader McConnell do you disagree? Is Mueller wrong? Are all the experts wrong, and the FBI appointed by President Trump? And the NSA appointed by President Trump? All those leaders who say we need to do more, we’ve heard them.

So we are going to continue our fight for election security. We are not going to let Leader McConnell put the bills passed by the House into his legislative graveyard without a fight. You’re going to hear from us on this issue over and over again. The legislative graveyard of Leader McConnell is known from one end of the country to another. Americans know he doesn’t want to help them. Doesn’t want to help middle-class Americans. The graveyard of our Republican colleagues in obeisance to powerful and special interests, gets larger, more stunning, more debilitating to this country every day.

Yesterday, Democratic Senators requested unanimous consent to pass some election security legislation that they have worked on much of which was bipartisan. The Republican majority blocked them. Soon— I believe in about an hour, I will be asking unanimous consent on the House passed election security bill. It’s sitting here. It’s in the drawer of the Leader. Is he going to let this go into the legislative graveyard? We’ll see in an hour. And I hope that one of my Republican colleagues will come to the floor and urge that we vote on this. Or at least debate it and amend it. One. 

The Republican Leader’s intransigent resistance to this effort is inexplicable. Why he wants to put election securities in his legislative graveyard is impossible to explain on a logical basis. I believe his intransigence, his resistance is untenable. So when I move in about an hour for unanimous consent to bring the House bill to the floor, maybe something will be chirping inside some of the brains of my colleagues here and say we can’t allow the Russians to interfere and we have to do something. If they don’t agree with what the House passed, let them propose amendments, let them propose an alternative, but let us debate it. This is a national security issue of paramount importance. I urge my friend, the Leader, to stand down and let election security come to the floor. If he doesn’t all of America will know when Russia interferes, why.

Now on another matter. Now, this is on deficits, I’m not in the habit of commenting on every opinion issued by newspapers that I don’t typically agree with, but this week, the Wall Street Journal wrote such a howler of an editorial that I feel compelled to. The Wall Street Journal editorial board criticized the latest budget agreement for its increase in domestic spending, wringing its hands over the effect on deficits, while simultaneously praising defense spending, which the editorial board believes, for some reason, has nothing to do with deficits.

This, by the way, is the same editorial board that played head cheerleader for the Republican tax bill, which contained such mammoth tax cuts for the biggest corporations and the already wealthy that it will add nearly $2 trillion to our deficits. 2 trillion dollars. Huge tax cuts contributed more to the deficits than all of these spending programs put together. But the Wall Street Journal cheered on the tax cuts and now says don’t spend for the middle-class on things like education, and infrastructure that have broad support in America, help kids go to college. But don’t spend on that because it increases the deficit but it’s okay to pass massive tax cuts for the rich and the big corporations that are profitable already.

So for the sake of the record: The Wall Street Journal editorial board believes deficits are really bad, but only if they’re caused by investments in Americans’ health care or education or infrastructure. When deficits are caused by defense spending, when deficits are caused by tax cuts to the wealthy, they’re peachy.

The truth is, so many of my Republican friends have engaged in the same egregious bit of hypocrisy. So I have a few words this morning for my deficit scolding friends, Mick Mulvaney, and the Wall Street Journal editorial board: a deficit is a deficit is a deficit. They try to make the arguments that massive tax cuts won’t create a deficit but all the numbers that are coming in now and are projected for the future say that is just not true.

If the WSJ really cared about deficits above all, they wouldn’t have supported the tax bill. When the Senate debated these tax cuts in 2017, there were several proposals on the table—many Democrats and Republicans supported them—that would have reduced taxes on corporations while remaining deficit-neutral. Many would have changed the tax codes in ways I didn’t support, but nonetheless they would have held revenues and expenditures in line. We didn’t hear a peep out of the Journal to support those proposals. Oh no.

Democrats even put together a deficit-neutral middle-class tax cut at the time. But Republicans ignored it, and pushed through Congress a bill that lined the pockets of the wealthy, blowing a $2 trillion hole in our deficits.

The WSJ could have said something then. They didn’t. They were sleep at the switch. They were asleep at the switch then, and they’re crying now. 

The fact of the matter is: Republican tax cuts for the wealthy and endless wars in the Middle East championed by President George Bush and the Republican Party are the big drivers of the nation’s debt and deficit, not non-defense domestic spending. President Obama, to his credit, cut the budget deficit in half during his term. The last time we had a surplus was under a Democratic President, Bill Clinton. But in fact, every single Republican administration has added to the deficit while every single Democratic administration has shrunk it, since 1981. Reagan, deficit increase. H.W, deficit increase. Clinton, deficit goes down. George Bush, deficit increase. Obama, deficit goes down. What does that say? Trump, deficit going up.

So to the WSJ editorial board and my Republican friends who are silent about Trump-era deficits but rail against domestic spending, I say: “Spare us. Enough—enough with this deficit hypocrisy.”

Finally, on climate. I want to congratulate my dear friend—one of the most intelligent, hardworking, articulate senators we have, Sheldon Whitehouse on reaching a rhetorical milestone. Usually “rhetoric” and “milestone” don’t go together, but in his strong eloquence on the environment, it does. Yesterday, Senator Whitehouse gave his 250th speech on the subject of climate change. Many members of this chamber have yet to speak 250 times on the floor in total, much less on a single topic. But Senator Whitehouse’s speeches have covered everything from sea level rise to polar cap ice melting, the effect of climate change on our economic security in our national security, he’s diligently shone a light on the impediments to legislative progress on climate change, and he waxes fervent and poetic condemning the web of dark money that funds fraudulent climate “research” and lobbies against climate action. 

Much more important than Senator Whitehouse’s milestone, of course, is the issue he’s talking about. Each passing week brings another proof point that climate change is happening right now, reshaping our planet for the worse. Moving so quickly that at some point we will not be able to recover, no matter what we do. And the world would be so much worse for our children and grandchildren. I think of my eight month old—just turned eight months on the 24th—my little grandson. Would his world be the same as ours? Would it be just as beautiful? Or will there be flooding and fires and changes that make his life and the lives of his whole generation far more difficult? If we do nothing, that’ll happen.

Carbon levels in the atmosphere are at the highest point ever in human history. Just days ago, NBC reported that this will be the hottest July on record. Last month, June, was the hottest June on record. We all know the consequences are going to be devastating, just devastating to our planet—if we fail to take action soon.

It’s time for the Senate to debate serious, significant policies to address climate change. And parenthetically, it’s another place Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard unfortunately gains—gains more and more. He will not do anything on climate change, as important as it is.

So let me thank Senator Whitehouse for his leadership on this issue. Maybe Leader McConnell will read his 250 speeches and have a change of heart. I doubt it, but who knows? I wish that all of my colleagues on the other side would listen to him, and join Democrats in our efforts to pass legislation to combat climate change.

And finally, one more point, Madam President, on Puerto Rico. Last night, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, announced that he will resign on August 2nd. I am glad the Governor has listened to the voices of the people of Puerto Rico. It’s clear that he had lost their trust, their respect, and certainly the mandate to govern.

The most important thing now is a quick and orderly transition of power, so that our fellow citizens on the island can turn the page on this difficult chapter and move forward.

No matter what, we have to stand with the people of Puerto Rico. The island is still a far way off from recovery after the devastation of recent hurricanes.

It is essential that the local Puerto Rican economy continues to recover, that basic services performed by the government continue undisturbed and that process continues. As a new governor enters office, we pledge to do whatever we can to ensure the people of Puerto Rico receive the aid and the support they need.

We fought incredibly hard on the disaster bill to make sure that the people of Puerto Rico were not treated worse than any other U.S. citizens. The events of the past two weeks in no way should inhibit that aid from reaching the island quickly and efficiently because it’s so badly needed. I will be watching and doing everything in my power to guarantee that is the case.

###