Schumer Floor Remarks On Senator Udall’s Decision To Not Seek Re-Election In 2020, Challenging Republicans To Take Action On Climate Change, And Request For Senate To Pass The House-Passed Mueller Report Transparency Resolution

March 25, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Senator Udall’s decision to not seek re-election in 2020, challenged Republicans to take action on climate change instead of political stunts, and made a unanimous consent request for the Senate to pass H.Con.Res 24, a bill expressing that the report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller should be made available to the public and Congress. Leader McConnell objected. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President. First, all of us heard the sad news today – nice for him, sad for us – that Tom Udall will not seek reelection. He is one of the most principled, hardest working senators we have. He’s bright, he’s dedicated, and he has such integrity, which runs in the Udall family. When he gets up to speak, every senator, Democrat and Republican, always knows how well thought-out his remarks will be and how sincere they are. He’s not doing this for some angle or political purpose. He’s just the kind of person the Founding Fathers wanted to serve in the United States Senate. His leadership on reforming the campaign finance system, on protecting the environment, on advocating on behalf of Native American communities, shepherding legislation to protect America from harmful chemicals, and so much more has been invaluable. We’ll all be saying more about Tom in the next little while. But we will miss him. He’s been a wonderful senator, a great friend, and a wonderful member of this caucus.

Now, Madam President, I am going to speak briefly on the matter of climate change, and then I will address the matters relating to the Special Counsel’s investigation.

During the last month, this chamber has been the forum for debate on a topic I never thought I’d see Republicans raise on their own: climate change.  They have long been the party of climate change denial, with President Trump as the climate-change-denier-in-chief.  It’s an awfully difficult position to defend – it becomes more difficult every week and every month. And it is directly at odds with strong consensus view of scientists in the United States and around the globe. As our weather changes, as we face more disasters, the average American is more and more saying, “Oh no, climate change!” I wonder what the people in Nebraska and Iowa think now that they’ve gotten these huge floods. So devastating to them.

So it is long past time for Republicans to take the issue seriously. This chamber is supposed to debate the most serious issues of our day. Climate change is at the very top of the list and should be no exception.

That is why for over a month, all 47 Democrats have asked our Republican colleagues three simple questions, which none of them will answer. They’re going to have to answer sooner or later. One, do to you agree that climate change is real? Two, do you agree that is it caused by human action? And three, do you believe that Congress should take immediate action to combat its effects? We’re not prescribing one part or another, we’re saying let’s debate it. Let’s not do a sham vote that’s meant to embarrass one person or another. This is too serious an issue for that.

Republicans owe the American people some real answers, not games, because just over the last week as I mentioned, in the plains of Iowa, we saw the devastating effects of climate change with devastating clarity. The kind of weather we saw in the Iowa plains has no precedent – it was the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane lambasting the heart of the Midwest. Our hearts are with the people whose homes were destroyed or damaged and whose farms were decimated, the animals that were lost. The science is clear – a changing climate, and warmer air, makes these freakish weather incidents more likely and more intense.

Now Republicans may want to keep their heads in the sand. I think that’s a losing strategy for them – especially among younger voters, young voters, younger voters. Like in so many other issues, our Republican colleagues are clinging to the past, not looking at what’s happened. But Republicans do so at their own peril. With each passing year, their climate change denial is increasingly out of step with the American people. A majority of Americans – two-thirds, including a large percentage of Republicans – believe climate change is real, believe human action has accelerated its pace. And they know it for a very simple reason—they can see it for themselves. On the south shore of Long Island, very Republican areas, all of a sudden after Sandy understood the need to address climate change. And that’s happening all over the country.

Every time another forest fire devastates California, another hurricane lands in the Gulf States, biblical flooding strikes one part of the country or another – the American people see the effects of climate change. They see them personally, not theoretically. That’s what’s happening. Indeed, scientists in the US and Canada now say that the evidence for climate change has reached a “Gold Standard” level of certainty.

And so what have Republicans done about it? Rather than take these warnings seriously, they choose to play games with our planet’s future. Rather than get serious about the world our children will inherit, Leader McConnell has elected to push a sham vote on their version of the Green New Deal. And they’ll play that game right before voting on funding for natural disaster relief. Let there be no doubt – these disasters are magnified precisely because of climate change. I cannot fathom the level of cognitive dissonance required to schedule these two votes one right after the other.

But Mr. President, no one is fooled by the Republican attempts to posture and politicize climate change. If they really want to debate the issue, let’s debate it. Let’s bring different views to the floor. Let’s see how people vote. Let’s not put something on the floor. For the first time, a serious proposal on climate change – which the Leader has never put on the floor – let’s debate them all. We’re not getting that to happen. Oh no, just a game. Politics, politics, politics, which the American people on this issue and so many others dislike. So let Republicans come at us with all they’ve got. The facts are on the side of people who understand that climate change is real. It’s no wonder our Republican colleagues don’t want a real debate, but a game. But the American people are not going to be fooled by the Republicans’ stunt vote.

Democrats are prepared to take bold action to address the climate crisis head on. That is why we are pushing for the creation of a bipartisan committee on climate change, so we can examine this issue with the level of urgency and depth that is deserves. I urge my colleagues on the other side who know the truth to speak out and join us as we try and put a halt to the greatest threat of our time.

Now, on another matter: last night, Attorney General Barr delivered a brief letter to Congress that included his summary of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. We have all seen the Attorney General’s letter but none of us – neither Congress nor the public – has seen the report itself.  The Justice Department has declined even to say how many pages the report includes – as if that were some sort of state secret After all, let’s not forget why we are here in the first place. Two years ago, a hostile power attacked our democracy. As Mr. Barr’s letter says, Russian actors, with backing of Mr. Putin, waged a sophisticated and malicious campaign of disinformation and falsehoods in order to influence the outcome of our elections. That’s never happened before. The American people deserve to see the documentation. What did they do? Who did they approach? What happened? Sweep an issue like this under the rug? And the security of our wellspring. Elections… fair and un-interfered with by foreign power elections is at stake.

So it is evident, it’s self-evident – and overwhelmingly – in the public interest for the Mueller report to be released to the people.  The American people simply want the truth.  Each American, if he chooses or she chooses, can read the report for themselves and draw their own conclusions. Whether or not you're a supporter of President Trump or not, whatever you feel, there is no good reason not to make the report public.

On March 14th, just prior to the recess, the House of Representatives surprised a lot of our Republican colleagues here in the Senate. They passed a resolution calling for the report to be made public.  Guess what the vote was. 420 to nothing! Even the most vociferous defenders of President Trump. Mr. Meadows, Mr. Jordan voted yes. When the resolution arrived here in the Senate later that day, I asked unanimous consent that it be adopted. I thought it would be.  

Regrettably, one Senator objected.  The Senator from South Carolina, my friend Senator Graham, said he would not agree unless the resolution unless it was amended to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton.  And so the Senate was unable to pass a resolution that passed the House unanimously, without controversy.

In fact, President Trump himself has said even before the report came out and repeatedly afterword several times, he supported House passage of the resolution. He supports making it public. So have a good number of my Republican colleagues, a whole bunch today.  So in a moment I am going to renew my request of March 14th that the Senate adopt House Concurrent Resolution, calling for public release of the Mueller report.  Now that President Trump supports public release of the report, there is no good reason for anyone to object to this request.  It is a simple request for transparency, nothing more, nothing less. Not to make a decision as to what you believe. Not to say what we ought to do about it. Just to make it public. Transparency, a great American virtue that we've tried to uphold through the centuries.

I hope we will not hear a request from the other side to amend the resolution to call for a different special counsel investigation. If there's going to be objection, the American people deserve to know why. Why should this report not be made public? Not why something else shouldn't be done. Not some extraneous issue. Why shouldn't this report be made public? And I'd ask my friend the leader because I see him rising, I imagine he's going to object to give a reason why this report should not be made public. Not that something else should be done at the same time. This is serious stuff. If there is such an objection raised, it will only serve to frustrate the compelling public interest that is made in the Special Counsel’s report, and making it public.

Therefore, M. President, I will now give the Senate another opportunity to join every one of their colleagues in calling for public release of this important report. And so, Madam President, as if in legislative session, I ask unanimous consent the Senate proceed to the immediate consideration of H. Con. Res. 24 expressing the sense of the Congress that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to congress and which is at the desk. Further, that the concurrent resolution be agreed to, the preamble be agreed to, and the motions to reconsider be considered made and laid upon the table with no intervening action or debate.

[Subsequent to the objection by Senator McConnell (R-KY)]

The resolution does not say it has to be done immediately. The resolution certainly allows for the Attorney General to make sure that nothing is released that violates the law. All it says is it ought to be released. It is hard to understand why the Majority Leader wouldn't be for that resolution. None of his objections – none – are in the words of the report. In fact, the words in the report are very simple. It should – a sense of the Congress that it should be released, not when, not in violation of the law, not in a hurried matter – just be released. I’m sort of befuddled by the Majority Leader's reasoning in this regard because it is not in the words of this resolution. I yield the floor.

[Subsequent to the response by Senator McConnell’s (R-KY)]

This language was good enough for every Republican in the Senate, as well as every Democrat. The president himself says it should be released. It’s hard to understand why the Majority Leader should stand alone with objections no one else found to be reasonable or sustainable and oppose this resolution. The report should be made public, and the Senate should resolve that it should be. I yield the floor.