Schumer Floor Remarks On The Hundreds Of Thousands Of Americans Harmed By The Trump Shutdown, Senate Republicans’ Responsibility To Help Re-Open The Government, And The Motion To Disapprove The Trump Administration’s Proposal To Relax Sanctions On Three Russian Companies

January 16, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the hundreds of thousands of Americans harmed by the Trump Shutdown, Senate Republicans’ responsibility to help re-open the government, and the motion to disapprove the Trump administration’s proposal to relax sanctions on three Russian companies. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
 
Now I just heard Leader McConnell, my good friend, rail on and on. First, he doesn’t agree with Speaker Pelosi on the wall. That’s a surprise. Second, he doesn’t like the fact that we want to get a vote to open up the government before we move forward on S.1. We know that. His arguments are getting kind of old and stale. I would say to the Leader very simply: you may disagree with us, open the government. Open the government.
 
You can do it, Leader McConnell. And all your blaming a flailing isn’t going to open the government. We all know President Trump is the obstacle here. You know it, I know it, we all know it. And the only way to help all the folks who need help is to open the government. There are a good number of Republicans on your side who have advocated that already. And to hold the government hostage? You’re losing the argument. You’re losing it with the public. An overwhelming majority of Americans think that the government should not be shut down over a wall. Even a substantial number of people who support the wall say, “Don’t shut down the government to get the wall.”
 
We have problems on the border. A lot of Americans don’t think it’s a crisis that demands hurting our economy and our government. So Leader McConnell, we know you disagree with Speaker Pelosi and I on what should be border security. We know you think we should pass S.1 before we open up the government. But Leader, you can open the government. And that’s what the American people want. And I dare say that’s what most of your colleagues want, at least if they talk to you privately.
 
Now it seems that every day the Trump shutdown drags on, we read another story about a new way it’s hurting our country.
 
800,000 public servants have been without pay, including thousands of veterans who work for the federal government. Each one of those Americans has a different story about how the shutdown is hurting them and their families.
 
Nine essential cabinet departments remain shuttered, and we’re learning that the effects of the shutdown are even more widespread and continue to worsen. Yesterday, President Trump’s own White House Council of Economic Advisers doubled their projections of how much economic growth is being lost each week during the shutdown.
 
Let me repeat that: the Trump Administration’s own economic advisers have just said that the Trump shutdown will substantially hurt our economy. Twice as much as they originally predicted. Growth is down, economic and consumer confidence is down, billions of dollars are being pulled out of our economy. And some of the leading financial leaders in the country are now saying we might even go into contraction in the first part of this year if this shutdown continues. Do you think, Leader McConnell, that’s benefitting President Trump? Do you think, Leader McConnell, that’s benefitting the Republican Party, who Americans know own the shutdown? No. So let’s open the government and then debate our differences on border security and whatever else.
 
Why is our country suffering such self-inflicted damage? Because President Trump is using the American government as leverage in an attempt to extract taxpayer money for a border wall he promised Mexico would pay for. You know I hear Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity: “He promised this in the campaign.” No he didn’t. He promised a wall that Mexico would pay for. He never said once that I can recall in the campaign, “But if Mexico doesn’t pay for it, we’ll pay for it.” Of course some people voted for it. Not that many.
 
So this is ridiculous. The president makes a campaign promise. He twists the campaign promise around, and now shuts down the government so he can show he’s keeping, not the promise that he made, but a different one.
 
It would sound ridiculous and absurd if it weren’t the reality.
 
The fact of the matter is eight cabinet departments not named Homeland Security have absolutely nothing – nothing – to do with our disagreements over border security. That’s why Democrats have offered – and continue to offer – to reopen the government while we debate border security. Again, three words for Leader McConnell, again: open the government. Three words to my Republican colleagues: open the government. Three words to President Trump: open the government. Then we can do all the discussion and debating as we’re supposed to do on these issues where we don’t agree.
 
Democrats have made an eminently reasonable proposal. We proposed to pass, to open the government, by passing Republican spending bills from the last Congress so that there would be no controversy. These are not bills Democrats put together, these are bills the Republicans put together with some Democratic input. Leader McConnell voted for every one of them. Every one of them. And this idea that he won’t move until President Trump agrees? That may have made sense in the first week or two. It makes no sense now because President Trump is adamant, all over the lot, and seems unwilling and unable to tie himself out of his own knots to get the government open. So someone should step in. On our side we’re willing to step in. Where is Leader McConnell? Where are the Republicans?
 
The American people support passing our bills – the bills we have asked unanimous consent for – by wide margins, over 2-1, including nearly 40% of Republicans – 40% of Republicans support passing our bills and then debating. So Mr. President. Even your prized base, a good chunk of it, about a third, is turning away from you on this issue.
 
When will the President and my Republican colleagues wake up to the hardship being inflicted on so many people across the country?
 
It’s time that the Senate act on the House-passed bills to open the government.
 
The president we know is inflexible. He “proud,” as he said, to have shut down the government. He is amazingly – I’ve never seen a president like this – impervious to the pain and suffering of federal workers and the American people. He makes stuff up. “The federal workers want the wall.” Who? Two people who are on Fox News all the time, who are part of a border patrol union? That’s it. Not the average worker.
 
The president has refused all entreaties to reopen the government, by Democrats AND Republicans like my friend Senator Graham. One of the president’s biggest allies here in this chamber. His deputies are hardly even empowered to negotiate with the Hill, since President Trump retracts their offers almost as soon as they’re made.
 
Everyone, everyone can see just how fruitless it is to try to negotiate with this president at the moment.
 
My friend Leader McConnell is the one who can break this impasse. He has declared before that “he’s the guy that gets us out of shutdowns.” He was proud of that. I wish he were still proud of it. I think we’re all ready for that Leader McConnell, because so long as Leader McConnell hides behind the president and the president’s absurd and destructive shutdown strategy, the Senate will be unable to vote on broadly popular legislation to reopen the government.
 
The longer Leader McConnell allows this to continue, the more he – and Republican Senators – will be tied to the president, and the president’s disgraceful tactic of government-by-extortion.
 
Last night, the Senate voted to proceed to the resolution to disapprove the Treasury Department’s plans to relax sanctions on Russia. Eleven Republicans – I’m proud of that, I’m proud of them – joined with every Democrat to advance the resolution, which will face a cloture vote today. Two or three more Republican votes would ensure cloture is invoked, and the passage of the resolution achieved.
 
So I’d like to make a direct appeal to my Republican friends who are wondering about this.
 
This resolution is about a very simple thing: do you believe America should take a tough line on Putin, or do you think we should go easy on Putin and his cronies? From where I’m standing, that’s an easy choice.
 
The past half-decade has seen Putin expand his malign activities around the world, from invading Ukraine and Georgia, to annexing Crimea, to propping up the brutal Assad regime in Syria, to directing nerve agent attacks on foreign soil. Russian intelligence has tried to destabilize Western democracies at every opportunity – France, England, many other European countries, and most obviously here in the United States. It’s proof positive. They go online and they try to sow dissention here in America, this beautiful country. As Leader McConnell said yesterday -- confusingly before voting against the resolution -- “We have long seen Vladimir Putin for the KGB thug that he is.” Those are strong words, but accurate.
 
In the face of this global assault on western democracies, of course we have seen that the Trump Administration has been shamefully, and suspiciously, weak on President Putin. The President has avoided criticizing President Putin at every turn. When asked about President Putin’s brutal tactics against his opponents, President Trump demurs.  When this body – nearly unanimously – passed the Russian sanction legislation, President Trump contemplated vetoing it. When President Putin told President Trump he didn’t interfere in our 2016 elections, the President reportedly said “I believe you.”  Last weekend, we learned that President Trump has expressed a desire to withdraw from NATO this summer. This past summer is when he expressed the desire. That’s Putin’s dream. All the advice of our military and our diplomatic leaders were against it. Somehow the president wants to do it. And who benefits the most? Putin. Who loses the most? The West.
 
And now – with this proposed sanctions relief – we have another example President Trump trying to lighten the burden on Putin’s oligarchs.

We should not allow it!
 
For a very long time, the Republican Party predicated its foreign policy on taking a tougher line against Russia and Putin. In so many campaigns for president, we Democrats were accused of not being tough enough on the Russians. I have always felt we have to be tough on the Russians. But it seems that acquiescence to the president; a fear of breaking with the president; has held back too many of my Republican colleagues from supporting this resolution.
 
The resolution, just to repeat – I know Treasury made an effort, although I don’t have much faith in the strength [of the Treasury Secretary]. I think the Secretary of the Treasury is an intelligent man, but he never stands up to President Trump. And I don’t have any faith in his strength in standing up this time. So if President Trump wanted a weakened resolution because maybe Putin or the Russians wanted it, then that’s what we have here. Forty-five percent? Forty-five percent ownership – which is what this does – takes Deripaska out of this? Forget it. And then add to his 45% the 7% the in-laws own. The large percentage that Russian banks, controlled by Putin, own – the control is just as tight as it was before. The people who are put in charge have close relationships with Russia. This is not a strong resolution. It’s slightly less than a joke. Slightly less than a joke.
 
So I hope some of our colleagues will come around. This is all about America, the West, the stability of our nation. And if Putin thinks he can manipulate our country and manipulate the president, and too many of my colleagues who have been strong against Russia go along, what is he going to do next? What is he going to ask President Trump to do next? And what will President Trump do?

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