Schumer Floor Remarks On The Impact Of The Trump Shutdown On Hundreds Of Thousands Of Federal Workers And The Responsibility of Senate Republicans To Help Re-Open Government

January 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the impact of the Trump shutdown on hundreds of thousands of federal workers and the need for Republicans to work with Democrats to re-open government. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, today is the twentieth day of the Trump shutdown. Tomorrow, it will tie the record for the longest shutdown in American history, and eight hundred thousand federal workers will miss a paycheck.

TSA agents and border patrol. Air traffic controllers and food safety inspectors. Veterans and FEMA aides and more.

Many federal employees -- particularly the GS-3s and 4s and 5s -- live paycheck to paycheck. Who’s going to make the next mortgage payment for them? Who’s going to put food on the table? And what on earth do these employees and their agencies have to do with disagreements here over security down on our southern border?

The president is treating these hardworking Americans as leverage -- pawns in his political gambit to extract $5 billion from American taxpayers to fund a border wall that he promised Mexico would pay for.

This is ridiculous and cruel. And it needs to end now. Right now.

The Democratic position is very simple: let’s separate our disagreements over border security from the government shutdown. Reopen all the government agencies unrelated to border security and let’s continue to work to resolve our differences. Do not hold all of these workers as hostages, as pawns, as leverage.

That’s why Democrats have passed the House legislation to re-open government that was drafted and supported by Senate Republicans! We Democrats are not trying to push down the throats of Republicans something they don’t support or they can’t swallow. Four of the bills in this package passed the Senate 92-6. The other two came through committee, they didn’t get to the floor. They passed 31-0 and 30-1. There is nothing – I repeat, nothing – contained in the legislation that Senate Republicans oppose.

So why aren’t we voting on them?

Because Leader McConnell is hiding behind President Trump, saying he won’t bring to the floor a bill to reopen the government unless the president says OK.

Now, for the past three weeks, we have tried to get the president to “yes.” We have gone around and around and around with the White House and made little progress. Congressional leaders have now been to the White House three separate times for negotiations.

Each time, the president is intransigent and uncompromising. He refuses to back down from his position that the price to reopen the government is 5 billion dollars of taxpayer money for a wall that he promised Mexico would pay for. On multiple occasions, he has refused our request to reopen unrelated parts of the government and continue negotiations on border security, revealing that he’s holding the American people hostage as leverage. And he seems to be in his words, “proud” of it.

After only a short time in yesterday’s meeting, the president got up, said “bye-bye,” and left. Does that sound like someone who’s working to solve this impasse?

Allies of the president pointed out that he passed out candy to start the meeting. With all due respect, President Trump: we don’t need candy, federal workers need their paychecks.

The Congress, the Senate in particular, can no longer wait for this president to see the light of Reason. We gave it a good faith effort. Staffers worked over the weekend. Speaker Pelosi and I have gone over to the White House whenever we’ve been asked. But the president is simply not budging.

A few weeks back, we all thought that the president, realizing he does not control the House, would come around and support a true compromise before hundreds of thousands of federal workers would miss their paychecks. Clearly, that was wrong.

We need intervention, and Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans have a responsibility not simply to wait for the president but to intervene.

Leader McConnell has voted for every single one of the six appropriations bills Democrats passed through the House; he voted for all six of them in committee, and he voted for four of them again on the floor because two didn’t get to the floor. There is nothing that he or his party truly opposes about this legislation. They are refusing to vote on it because the president has bullied them into his hostage-taking gambit.

I know that’s not where most of my friends on the other side want to be. I don’t even believe it’s where my friend Leader McConnell wants to be.

Just listen to Leader McConnell from last year: “Well I’m in favor of border security. There are some places along the border where [a wall is] probably not the best way to secure the border.”

And here’s Leader McConnell in 2014: “Remember me? I am the guy that gets us out of shutdowns…it’s a failed policy.”

Fast forward to today, and Leader McConnell – “the guy who gets us out of shutdowns” -- is aiding and abetting the blockade against re-opening the government over a policy he doesn’t fully support.

In a moment, my friends Senators Cardin and Van Hollen will give the Senate a chance to do the right thing by asking this chamber to vote on the six appropriations bills already supported by Senate Republicans and a short-term continuing resolution for Homeland Security.

Frankly, even if President Trump doesn’t support this legislation, his intransigence has forced our hand and hurt America. We need to move forward. And Leader McConnell should allow the vote to happen.