Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For A Bipartisan Appropriations Process And Calling On Republicans To Join Democrats In Working To Pass Meaningful Gun Safety Legislation

September 17, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling for a bipartisan appropriations process and for Republicans to join Democrats in working to pass meaningful gun safety legislation including universal background checks supported by 93% of Americans. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

As negotiations continue on a continuing resolution to keep the government open past next week, we should be laying the groundwork to process the twelve appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2020.

In an ideal world, Republicans on the Appropriations Committee would be negotiating with Democrats on the Appropriations Committee—in good faith—to determine allocations and content of those bills.

But Republicans, unfortunately, have not chosen to do this. They’re acting in a totally partisan way. Republicans have chosen to back the president’s demand for an addition $12 billion in funding for his border wall, taken from other sources, including medical research, opioid treatment, and funding intended for our military, their families, and their kids. Mexico, oddly, isn’t chipping in a penny. This was all done totally on the Republican side. No consultation of the Democrats and certainly no buy-in.

So of course Democrats oppose taking funds from Congress for our military to use on the president’s border wall. Everyone knows that. In fact, twelve Senate Republicans opposed the very same thing this year. But in typical Washington blame-game fashion, the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, has been accusing Democrats of threatening to block military funding because we don’t want to pass a bill that steals money from the military.

That’s right. Democrats are the ones threatening not to vote for this bill because we oppose a Republican bill that would shortchange the military. I’ve heard some howlers in my day, but what Leader McConnell is saying is pretty rich.

Leader McConnell constantly talks about stunts. He doesn’t like stunts because they won’t be signed or passed into law. This is a stunt if I’ve ever seen one. Putting this bill—$12 billion more for the wall, no buy-in from Democrats—for a vote. It will lose. We know it will lose. What’s the point Leader McConnell? You say you don’t like stunts. You say you don’t want to bring bills to the floor that won’t become law. Well this one certainly won’t.

The fact of the matter is: the Republican Leader knows well that Democrats oppose taking funding away from our troops to use on the president’s wall. He knows that members of his own caucus oppose taking money out of their states to spend on the president’s border wall— and some have been quite vocal. And yet, Leader McConnell is moving forward with that bill all the same, knowing that it lacks votes. For him to say that Democrats are the ones threatening to block military funding when in fact we oppose a Republican bill that would shortchange the military is the height of double-talk by the Republican Leader.

Again, the Republican Leader is fond of reminding the press he doesn’t like to engage in stunts. That the Senate is for making laws, not a forum for political theater. But putting this bill on the floor of the Senate that everyone knows lacks the votes is the definition of a stunt.

Leader McConnell, and I mean this will all due respect: it’s time to negotiate. Both sides must sit down and have a serious negotiation. No stunts. No blame game. Democrats want to work with our Republican colleagues, but we need a willing partner. And time is quickly running out to get a bipartisan appropriations process back on track.

Now on guns. A week-and-a-half after our return from the August work period, Senators from both sides of the aisle are still waiting to hear what the president proposes to combat the epidemic of gun violence in America.

According to reports, the president’s yet-to-be-released plan will likely not include universal background checks or even a significant expansion of background checks. If those reports are true, that would be a profound shame. Without closing the loopholes in our background check system, most other gun safety measures—like emergency risk protection orders—would be severely compromised. Background checks must be the base, the foundation of gun safety legislation. If background checks aren’t included, we’d still be allowing guns to fall into the wrong hands. You can have one of these emergency protection orders issued to someone, let’s say Mr. John Smith, but if we don’t close these loopholes, John Smith the next day can go online and get a new gun because there’s no background check and the seller of the gun had no way of knowing that there was a protection order against him.

So without background checks, a lot of this other stuff isn’t going to do the job, isn’t going to save the most lives that we can. So I hope the president thinks long and hard before releasing a proposal that falls short of making meaningful progress, particularly on background checks.

In the past, Republican Senators, Congressmen, and candidates have promised action after mass shootings only to announce support for legislation specifically designed not to offend the NRA. We’ve seen that before. This is a chance for the president to do something different and, frankly, something courageous. It would be a terrible shame—a terrible shame—if he squandered that very much needed opportunity.

If whatever the president announces this week falls short of what the American people are demanding, Democrats will continue to press the issue. Later tonight, I will join several of my Democratic colleagues on the floor for an extended debate on the issue of gun violence. Many of my colleagues have seen their communities torn apart by gun violence; some by horrific mass shootings, others by a relentless, daily stream. Many of them have worked for years to bring commonsense gun safety measures before the Senate.

Tonight, Democrats will hold the floor and bring those stories to the Senate floor, the stories of families shattered by gun violence, the stories of our constituents who demand that we take action. My Republican colleagues, I hope, will listen closely, and more importantly, join Democrats in working to pass meaningful legislation.