Schumer Floor Remarks On The Motion To Terminate President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration And Ongoing Trade Negotiations With China

March 14, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the motion to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration, and ongoing trade negotiations with China. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President. I thank my colleague and friend from Tennessee for deferring. First, on Don Stewart. I know Leader McConnell talked about him. Everyone is going to miss him here in the Senate. He was truly somebody who everyone liked. He always had a great sense of humor, a big smile. He served his boss, Leader McConnell, extremely well, but he never let that get in the way of being friendly and working with the other side. He’s somebody we will all miss. I enjoyed my interactions with him a great deal and I think that’s true of just about every member here. So we wish “Stew” the best, and thank him for serving this so long and so well.

Madam President, today the Senate will vote on the resolution to terminate the president’s declaration of a national emergency. This is not a normal vote. This is not a normal day, what we’re doing here today. This is not your typical vote on an appropriations or authorization bill; it doesn’t concern a nomination or an appointment. This will be a vote about the very nature of our constitution, our separation of powers, and how this government functions henceforth.

The framers gave Congress the power of the purse in Article I of the Constitution. It is probably our greatest power. And now the president is claiming that power for himself under the guise of an emergency declaration, to get around a Congress that – repeatedly – would not authorize his demand for a border wall.

The president has not justified the emergency declaration. You would think at a moment like this, when it’s not a war or it’s not an immediate disease, that’s when we’ve had other declarations. A disaster. They don’t need an elaboration but this one would. But the president hasn’t done that. He simply said he “didn’t need to do this.” That’s amazing, folks. My colleagues, the president said he “didn’t need to do this” and yet he’s declaring an emergency. It’s a direct contradiction of his own words. Everyone knows the truth here, Democrats and Republicans both know the sad truth: the president did not declare an emergency because there is one, he declared an emergency because he lost in Congress and wants to get around it. He’s obsessed with showing strength. And he couldn’t just abandon his pursuit of the border wall, so he had to trample on the Constitution to continue his fight. That is not how this democracy is supposed to function. That is not how this democracy has functioned. I’ve never seen it, where out of pique, out of anger, out of a desire to win the fight regardless of the consequences, that a president would do this.

Nor has President Trump laid out from where he plans to divert funds, though we know it’s going to be from our military – from the men and women serving us, and from the things they need. Senators who vote against this resolution this afternoon may be voting to gut funding for a military installation in their state, or a cut to military pay or military pensions. How could they do that?

But most importantly, Madam President, President Trump has shown zero understanding of what his emergency portends for the separation of powers in our democracy. The president seems to regard the government – not just the Justice Department – as his own personal tool to do whatever he wants, whether it’s in the private sector or the public sector. We’ve never had a president like this. We’ve had lots of presidents with lots of foibles, but none of them seem to equate their own ego with the entire functioning of the government of the United States – except this one.

Well we can’t succumb to that. It’s our job here in Congress to limit executive overreach, to defend our core powers, to prevent a president – any president – from ignoring the will of Congress every time it fails to align with the will of the president. That’s what balance of powers is. That’s what checks and balances are. That’s what every one of us learned in second grade civics class. But all that teaching in the second grade civics class seems to be lost on so many of my Republican colleagues in blind obeisance to this president, no matter what the consequences.

This is not an issue of the wall. It goes way beyond that. We’ve had our fights and disputes on the wall for several years here. However you feel about our policy at the southern border, however you feel about the president, Senators should vote YES on the resolution to terminate the emergency declaration. This resolution is about more than this president; it’s about the presidency. Now and on into the future.

It should not be that difficult for any of my Republican colleagues to take this vote. Conservative principles would demand it. And some of the true conservatives like Mr. Lee yesterday, understood that logic. Conservatives have always feared an agglomeration of power in any branch of government, but particularly the executive. The conservative movement has been designed to reduce the powers of the federal government. That’s why they are for lowering taxes so much. And all of a sudden, again because President Trump wants it, they say, “Let’s abandon those principles and vote to change fundamentally the way the balance of power works?” Shame.

If conservatism today is to mean anything, self-branded conservatives should vote to terminate the emergency declaration. Deep-seated principles like that shouldn’t take a backseat to the politics of the moment. They should not be abandoned just because the president shares the same party as you.

Now let me speak from the heart to my Republican colleagues. I know that President Trump is extremely popular among Republicans for many reasons. I know he commands the vast majority of the Republican Party. And I know that the president never shies away from threatening, bullying, or publicly castigating members of his own party if they refuse to do what he wants. So I realize this. This is a much more difficult vote for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to take than for those of us who are Democrats.

But I would say to them, I would say to every Republican: there are times when loyalty to America, to our constitution, to our principles, to what has made this country great – should lead members to rise above, rise to the occasion. I hope, I pray this moment is one of those times; when members choose country over party; when members rise above politics for the sake of fidelity to our constitutional principles and to this great United States of America.

In conclusion, Madam President, on this issue, this is not an everyday moment. This is not just about going along with this president or that one. This is about a red-letter day in the history of how the United States government functions. The judgment of our founding fathers, the judgment of History, weighs upon this vote.

Now on one final matter, China. The trade negotiations with China are moving forward, and I continue to have concerns that President Trump will accept a weak deal for the sake of a headline.

Apparently, I’m not alone. President Trump’s former top economic adviser Gary Cohn told a podcast that the president is “desperate” to reach a trade deal. He also expressed deep skepticism that the Administration would be able to stop the Chinese from stealing intellectual property or from holding the Chinese accountable. I hope Gary Cohn is wrong. The president – to his credit – was not desperate for a deal in North Korea, and stood up to Kim Jong-Un and looked strong for that. I hope he realizes that as he negotiates with someone with even more consequences at stake for the long run of America, President Xi – and with a country that can do far more harm to our country – ultimately, in the long run.

Ambassador Lighthizer has said there are still “major issues” left to be resolved. If that’s the case, President Trump should not be pressing for a quick solution. The Chinese are more desperate for a solution than we are, although obviously some harm has been created to bring the Chinese to the table with tariffs. But the Chinese are desperate. And it’s like you’re ahead in the 7th inning and then you say, “I quit the ballgame. I lose.” Don’t do that Mr. President. The tariffs you have imposed at some political cost, have brought China to the table and given us the first opportunity in decades to make the Chinese reform so they don’t take total advantage of American workers and knowhow.

Soybean purchases, promises to import more American goods are not sufficient if we don’t win concrete concessions on “major issues.”

If President Trump caves to China for the sake of soybean purchases, he’d be trading America’s economic future – literally – for a hill of beans. We want to help the soybean farmers. We want to help everybody else. But not at the expense of the future viability of jobs and wealth in America.

So my message to President Trump is the same one I mentioned I gave to him before he met with Kim Jong-un: don’t back down. The president should be proud that he stood up to North Korea and walked away. He will be proud if he does the same with China. Unless President Xi makes enduring, verifiable reforms of China’s economic and trade policies. Because the odds are high that if the president walks away from a weak deal, he’ll be able to get a much better deal down the road.

I yield the floor and once again thank my colleague from Tennessee.