Schumer Floor Remarks on the Election of Doug Jones and Hitting Pause on the GOP Tax Bill

December 13, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the election of Doug Jones and the need to hit pause on the GOP tax bill in order to avoid rushing a partisan bill through the Senate before Senator Jones is seated.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madame President, last night, a Democrat won in the state of Alabama for the first time in a quarter-century.

Last night’s election of Doug Jones was not only the repudiation of a candidate that was unfit to serve in this body; it was an affirmation of a candidate who represents the very best of public service.

One story from his biography stands out in my mind: As a second-year law student, Doug Jones skipped class to attend the trial of the Klansman ringleader of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church – an event as we all remember that shook the conscience of our country and helped launch a mighty movement for civil rights. Though a young Doug Jones was moved by the disposition of justice in that trial, he was left with the impression that other members of the conspiracy had escaped the reach of the law. So twenty-four years later, when Doug Jones became the US Attorney in Alabama, he pursued charges against two more Klan members involved in the bombing, winning their conviction, and delivering a long-delayed but mighty, righteous justice.

Doug Jones deserved to win that race last night. He is a fine man, was an excellent candidate, and is going to make an outstanding Senator for the people of Alabama. I congratulate Senator-elect Jones and look forward to welcoming him to this chamber and our caucus.

I have two additional points in regard to the election has a link to the chamber here.

First, the election of a Democrat in such a conservative state is a clarion call for bipartisanship.

The American people are clamoring for us to work together, to eschew the politics of divisiveness and once again conduct our politics with civility, decency and an eye towards compromise. That’s what Doug Jones represented as a candidate, it’s what he campaigned on, and his election should signal to all of my Republican colleagues that the American people, from the deepest red states to the deepest blue, yearn for our politics to function again in a bipartisan way.

The people of Alabama have spoken, and they have sent a message asking both Democrats and Republicans to work together, that’s how Doug Jones campaigned, bringing us together to solve our greatest challenges. Let us pursue that course in earnest. Roy Moore did not try to pursue even a scintilla of bipartisanship and it might be one of the reasons he lost, particularly in the suburbs of Birmingham and other cities.

The election of Senator Doug Jones should have another effect on this chamber as well.

It would be unseemly and imprudent to rush a massive piece of partisan legislation through this chamber before Doug Jones is seated. To rush such a massive piece of partisan legislation when the people of Alabama have just sent us a new senator and try to jam it through before he gets here would be so wrong. Doug Jones will be the duly elected Senator from the state of Alabama in a few short weeks. The governor didn’t appoint him; the people chose him. It would be wrong for Senate Republicans to jam through this tax bill without giving the newly elected senator from Alabama the opportunity to cast his vote. The people of Alabama deserve to have their representative in the Senate to debate the biggest issues of the day – and the tax bill certainly falls under that category.

So today, Senate Democrats are calling on Leader McConnell to hit pause on his tax bill, and not hold a final vote on it until Doug Jones is sworn into the Senate.

That’s exactly what Republicans argued when Scott Brown was elected in 2010. Referring to health care, Leader McConnell said that it would be “gamesmanship” to pursue big-ticket legislation before Scott Brown was seated. He asked us to “honor the wishes of the people of Massachusetts.” Leader Reid, in fact, waited until Scott Brown was a Senator before any further votes on health care. "We’re going to wait until the new senator arrives until we do anything more on health care," he said. But as too often has happened, Senator McConnell does one thing when Republicans are in charge and a different when Democrats are in charge. Here’s another example, McConnell says when there’s a new senator, in that case Scott Brown, slow down work on major legislation and Reed exceeded.

We are calling on Senator McConnell to do simply the same thing today; let’s see if he does. So I call on Leader McConnell to do as Senator Reid did: honor the wishes of the people of Alabama that has newly elected a senator and wait to move forward on the tax bill until Senator Jones arrives.

If Republicans insist on barreling ahead, and I understand the pressure is on them from their hard right, multibillionaire paymasters, they’ll be pouring gasoline on the fire.

Their tax bill -- written in backrooms and rushed through this chamber with such recklessness, which gives enormous breaks to the wealthy and corporations while raising taxes on millions – many of them in the middle class is being roundly rejected by the American people. Poll after poll shows by ratios equal to, a little less than a little more than two to one, that the American people reject this bill. They know what’s in it, they don’t know all the details, but they know that it favors the wealthy in power over them, the middle class. They know that even though they’re getting a small tax break, the vast majority of the tax breaks go to the most wealthy and the most powerful and they don’t like it.

And, above all they know, the tax bill will clobber the suburbs. Drastically cutting back on SALT and other deductions that they cut back on will be a gut punch to millions of middle class and upper-middle-class Americans, who live in the suburbs, the same people who are turning away from President Trump and who helped propel Doug Jones to victory last night and helped propel Mr. Northam to the Governorship of Virginia when his opponent.

And the longer this bill sits behind closed doors, the worse it’s getting. Rather than improving it for the middle class, they’re cutting the rate further on the wealthiest Americans, according to all reports to reduce the top rate another two and a half percent, only going to people who make over 300,000 dollars a year while raising taxes on the middle class. What is going on in the heads of our Republican colleagues? Why would they do something that seems so wrong for America and seems so against what the American people want? We know why, the Koch brothers. The Club for Growth founded and funded largely by billionaires and millionaires. And all these other groups are fanatic. Just cut taxes on the rich. I don’t even hear them arguing for helping the middle class, except in TV ads that are deceptive in my judgment. But they’re doing it for that reason. Our Republican colleagues, by trying to appease these very wealthy, small number of greedy people, are writing their political doom, in my opinion. The longer this bill sits behind closed doors, the worse it’s getting. It’s not improving things for the middle class, it’s making it worse. So instead of learning from their mistakes, instead of heeding the lessons of the election last night, Republicans are doubling down on helping the wealthy and powerful and doing nothing if not harming the middle class.

In 2010, Leader McConnell said on the floor of the Senate that “We need to move in a new direction – a dramatically new direction. That is the message of Virginia. That is the message of New Jersey. That is the message of Massachusetts.” You could replace Massachusetts with Alabama and say the same exact thing today.

So Madame President, on process, on policy, and on politics, pausing on this tax bill and going back to the drawing board is the right thing for Republicans to do.

I hope for the sake of the country; they’ll do just that.