Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For A Bipartisan Appropriations Process, The Upcoming Senate Vote On The Trump Administration’s Rule That Promotes Junk Health Care Plans, And The Future Of Clean Cars

October 29, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans’ hall-of-mirrors approach to legislating and the need for a bipartisan appropriations process, the upcoming Senate vote to overturn the Trump administration’s rule to push forward junk health care plans, and the future of clean cars in creating jobs. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Even as the Senate works through a grouping of appropriations bills here on the floor this week, the Republican Leader has been falsely accusing Democrats of delaying the overall process. He just seems to be in a box and pulls things out of thin air.

The crux of the issue, as everybody now knows, is that the Republican leadership in the Senate and on the appropriations committee has refused to sit down and negotiate with Democrats on bipartisan allocations to the various agencies. This is always how we have done the appropriations bills when we’ve succeed: Democrats and Republicans sit down together and negotiate the 302(a)s and 302(b)s. But here, the Republicans, without consultation of the Democrats, just unilaterally proposed taking over $12 billion from critical health programs and military families to pay for the president’s border wall. A wall that President Trump promised Mexico would pay.

Democrats, of course, are not going to proceed to a defense bill that steals from our troops to pay for a border wall the American people don’t want and aren’t supposed to pay for.

But in this Republican hall of mirrors, that means Democrats are “delaying a pay raise for our troops,” as the Leader charged yesterday, even though that is not true, and I believe that he knows very well that the pay raise is strongly bipartisan. The truth is simple: the annual pay raise will go into effect regardless of whether we pass defense appropriations or the NDAA. In fact, the Department of Defense just confirmed to Senate Democratic Appropriators yesterday that the pay raise for our troops will take effect on January 1st, without requiring any further legislation. The troops and their families will see a 3.1 percent pay raise in January. I know that the president ties the Majority Leader in a box, in a knot, and he sort of flails around and doesn’t know how to get out of it because he’s afraid to tell President Trump that what he’s doing won’t pass. But instead, he blames Democrats—that seems to be his wont these days—but it’s just totally false, not according to just me, but according the Department of Defense.

And then he even went a step further. In the Republican hall of mirrors, Democrats might even be “delaying military assistance for Ukraine.” Can you believe this, that the Majority Leader would say something like this? The comment is laughable! It was the Trump administration that delayed hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of already-appropriated, urgently-needed military assistance to Ukraine earlier this year—a fact now being investigated by the House impeachment inquiry.

The fact of the matter is the only purported “delay” in the appropriations process is Republicans insisting on taking money from our military to spend on a border wall, something Democrats won’t countenance. That’s it. If the Republican appropriators dropped that request and sat down with Democrats to negotiate a bipartisan way forward, which the only way appropriations can proceed, I am sure we could line up the rest of the bills for the year.

So let’s cut the nonsense. Leader McConnell, have the honor and decency and courage to tell President Trump he’s going to bollocks up the whole process again, just as he did last time. We can roll up our sleeves and get to work, if you would do just that. We’re already working on the non-controversial bills, and we could do it for the rest, if and when our Republican friends decide to meet us halfway.

Now on health care. Tomorrow, Senate Democrats will use a provision of the Congressional Review Act to force a vote on one of the most crucial policy questions we’ve faced all session—the future of health care protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

The Trump administration has tried several different ways to undermine these protections and sabotage our health care system, and one of the most damaging efforts is this rule that gives the states the green-light to use taxpayer dollars to push junk health insurance plans. 

These plans are hardly worth the paper they are printed on—many don’t cover maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health, or preventative services. And many could offer insurance companies a way around the requirement to pay for your treatment if you develop a pre-existing condition.

Just imagine you sign up for one of these plans and then you discover that your child’s heart condition or cancer or life-saving prescription drugs weren’t covered when you needed it most? That shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Republicans and this administration are trying to allow it to happen.

As you can imagine, many insurance companies love the idea—data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners shows that the top three companies that issue these junk plans spend barely forty percent of premiums on health care. Just forty percent. Just think about that. Republicans want to use taxpayer dollars to fund these junk plans. Is that money going towards paying for people’s health care? No, it’s going to pad insurance company profits.

Tomorrow, the Senate will face a simple choice on whether or not to defend protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. My Republican friends can either stand with the Trump administration and use taxpayer dollars to pad profits for insurance companies or stand up for American families who struggle to afford health care.

Finally on climate, last week, I announced a bold new plan to rapidly phase-out gas-powered vehicles for clean vehicles. We need a plan of this scale and ambition to reduce one of the largest drivers of carbon emissions (transportation) while at the same time creating tens of thousands of new jobs and reinvigorating American auto manufacturing.

Predictably, the deep-pocketed special interests in Big Oil and Gas are already lining up to oppose this plan. Over the years, Big Oil and Big Gas have spent millions of dollars in lobbying to kill climate-friendly legislation and protect their bottom lines. A headline ran yesterday announcing: “Big Oil gears up to fight Schumer electric vehicle plan.”

Well, I have three words for Big Oil: bring it on.

Bring it on, because this fight is too important. Climate change is happening right now, and it’s resulting in more severe weather, sea-level rise, and drastic changes to our agriculture. As we speak, California is suffering from some of the worst wildfires its ever seen. Scientists tell us if we do not take drastic action to alter our current path, we will not be able to avoid the most damaging consequences of climate change.

Bring it on, because this plan is supported not only by the environmental community and climate action groups, but by labor unions like the UAW, the IBEW and the whole AFL-CIO, and by large automakers like Ford and GM. They all know that the future is moving towards clean cars, and we ought to get there before China and create tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs right here in the US.

Bring it on. If the special interests of Big Oil and Gas want to oppose thousands of good-paying jobs for American workers; if they want to oppose America leading the world in the industries of the future; if they want to oppose protecting our planet for our children and grandchildren, they are on the wrong side of history and we will fight them every single step of the way. I yield the floor.