Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For A Bipartisan Appropriations Process, Calling On Republicans To Put Country Over Party And Examine The Facts In The House Impeachment Inquiry, And Protecting Hard-Earned Pensions For American WorkersOctober 31, 2019
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Leader McConnell’s hall-of-mirrors approach to legislating and the need for a bipartisan appropriations process, and called on Republicans to quit their theatrics and examine the facts in the House impeachment inquiry in light of the House resolution today to codify the impeachment process. Senator Schumer also spoke regarding the thousands of Murray Energy workers at risk of losing their pensions after the company filed for bankruptcy and legislation to protect the hard-earned pensions of all American workers. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Today, we come to an inflection point in the appropriations process this year. Leader McConnell has scheduled a vote on the defense appropriations bill, which comes with a certain irony. A bill that is supposed to provide resources for our troops and their families actually steals money from them and puts it towards a border wall that President Trump promised Mexico would pay for.
Democrats will not vote to proceed to a bill that steals money from our troops and their families. Republicans know it’s a nonstarter. And yet, Leader McConnell has scheduled a show vote this afternoon to demonstrate something that everyone already knows: there is nowhere close to the necessary votes in the Senate for President Trump’s border wall and, of course, there is not in the House. So this is just a show vote. Now Leader McConnell has gone on the floor and railed against show votes. He said, ‘I only want to put things on the floor that are going to pass.’ Well we all know this ain’t passing.
I understand memories in politics can be short. But the exercise we will go through today is absurd even by those low standards. Senate Republicans—by pursuing a partisan process, by doing President Trump’s bidding on the wall, they know he’s wrong, most of them, they’re just so afraid of him they just say “yes sir” whenever he proposes an absurd idea and they repeat the same failed strategy that led to the longest shutdown in our nation’s history.
I’d warn Leader McConnell and my Republican friends, if you continues down this path, you could lead us straight into another government shutdown, and your party and President Trump will shoulder the responsibility. Last time you had to retreat from that position after the longest shut down in history with your tail between your legs. Isn’t history teaching you anything? We know it won’t teach President Trump much but we’d hope that our Republican colleagues here in the Senate would have more sense.
Instead of standing up and defending their own position that they want the money for the wall—however indefensible in my judgment—Senate Republicans have resorted to bogus attacks against Democrats. Senate Republicans accused Democrats of delaying a pay raise for our troops, even though, first, the pay raise is strongly bipartisan and – even more important – the standing law of the land dictates it will go into effect regardless of whether we pass defense appropriations.
Our Republican friends are so desperate to divert attention that they’re holding up these bills for President Trump’s wall that they come up with completely false arguments like the fact that if we don’t pass this the troops won’t get a pay raise.
Yesterday, Leader McConnell and President Trump repeated a slightly less specific but even more outrageous charge, claiming that Democrats were not supporting the fight against ISIS due to the disagreement on appropriations. Hello? Who was it who abandoned our Kurdish friends who led the fight against ISIS? Not the Democrats in the Senate. Not even the Republicans in the Senate. It was President Trump. President Trump’s reckless decision to green light President Erdogan’s invasion of northern Syria let hundreds of hardened ISIS fighters out of jail and, and according to most experts, set a course for a likely resurgence of ISIS.
But instead of blaming President Trump, although some of them did early on, they’re now trying to switch the blame. It’s a typical tactic that Leader McConnell is using with more and more regularity, but like his previous attempts, it fails. We were briefed yesterday by senior administration officials, and they acknowledged the fallout in the wake of the president’s decision and the need to pick up pieces of what was their strategy to defeat ISIS.
Now, the Majority Leader and I have been working together on legislation requiring specific plans and reports from the administration on the ISIS threat. I hope it will receive some action on the floor soon. So let’s cut the nonsense that Democrats don’t support the troops or the fight against ISIS. It’s not true, it’s laughable, it ain’t going to stick. So instead of this bunk, Leader McConnell, my Republican friends, roll up your sleeves and work with us and get something done.
Democrats and Republicans have been working through a package of appropriations bills. As is clear, the bills we are voting on, where there’s agreement we can move forward. This week has shown that the Senate can efficiently work through these bills when we have bipartisan buy-in. That’s how Democrats want to proceed on the remainder of the bills. Republican friends, work with us as you did on these four bills to come up with bipartisan bills and we can get them done.
Now, at least a dozen witnesses have testified in Congress as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry. The facts that are already in the public record are troubling and require further investigation. The founders greatly feared foreign interference in our elections; here we have a president who allegedly used the powers of his office to pressure or coerce a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival. The matter at hand is serious. Both parties must treat it as such.
But already some of our Republican colleagues have tried to kick up as much dust as possible to distract or detract from the facts of the case, because they know it’s so real and so damaging to the president, if these facts prove to be true. Last week, roughly 40 Republicans stormed the secure facility in the Capitol in a fit of staged protest, even though a third of them were already allowed to participate in the hearings that were taking place.
Here in the Senate, my colleague Sen. Graham—a veteran of the House impeachment process—put together a resolution of trumped-up charges that the House process was unfair, all of which, all of which, have been thoroughly debunked as misleading or baseless. Again, an attempt by our Republican friends to do President Trump’s bidding no matter how false, reckless, or harmful that bidding is.
Meanwhile, the White House and its allies in Congress and the media have leveled shameful attacks against the witnesses of the House inquiry, questioning the loyalties of a U.S. Lieutenant Army Colonel and Purple Heart recipient and calling the whistleblower a “treasonous spy.” That is despicable.
Worse still, reports suggest that Republicans on the House Committee and members of their staffs are conducting a vicious campaign to deliberately disclose or cause to be disclosed the identity of the whistleblower, placing that courageous individual’s safety and that of his or her family in jeopardy.
We are supposed to be engaging with the facts of the case on the merits. We have a solemn constitutional duty to do so. Even the President himself has said that he’d “rather go into the details of the case than the process.” My Republican friends in Congress should stick to the facts, quit the partisan theatrics, quit the politics of blame, and quit trying to harm very serious patriots whose lives and safety might be in danger. This is a time to put country over party and examine the facts, and only the facts.
And finally, on pensions. This week, Murray Energy, which employed over 5,000 people, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy, putting thousands of hard-working Americans at risk of losing their pensions. Forty per cent of Murray’s employees are represented by either the United Mine Workers or the Seafarers International Union—Murray faces over $8 billion in pension obligations, of which over $2 billion are unfunded and under threat.
This is only the latest example of the danger now facing millions of Americans with pensions from construction, mining, truck driving, bakeries, and other industries. These workers did nothing wrong—they saved up little by little, week by week, expecting to retire with security and dignity—but their pension plans are, sadly, now at risk of becoming insolvent because of circumstances totally outside of their control.
The time has come for Congress to bring relief to these working families. Members on both sides of the aisle have been working on legislation that would provide relief to these underfunded pensions. Just two months ago, the House passed the Butch-Lewis Act, which I proudly support and which would provide immediate relief to “critical and declining” pension plans. But Leader McConnell has inexplicably refused to take action on this bipartisan legislation, another tombstone in his legislative graveyard. Leader McConnell and the Republican majority are turning their back on hardworking middle-class Americans who need their pensions, and they could be robbed of them through no fault of their own. I hope the news this week magnifies the consequences of Republican inaction.
President Trump has claimed to be a champion for American workers—but under his presidency, working Americans have slipped further and further behind. Now, for millions of hardworking Americans, a secure retirement is also at risk. If the president were truly a champion for working Americans, now is the time for him to show some leadership by urging Leader McConnell and his Republicans in the Senate to work with Democrats to protect these pension plans. I yield the floor.