Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For President Trump To Take A Hard Line On U.S.-China Trade Negotiations, As He Did With North Korea, The Bipartisan Background Checks Act Of 2019, And Climate Change – A Real, Manmade Threat Requiring Immediate Action

February 28, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for President Trump to take a hard line on U.S.-China trade negotiations, as he did with North Korea, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, and climate change – a real, manmade threat requiring immediate action. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

M. President, several hours ago, in the middle of the night here in the United States, we received word that the summit in Hanoi between the US and North Korea would be ending prematurely. Unable to reach an understanding on either sanctions relief or denuclearization, President Trump decided to walk away from the talks without an agreement.

Though I don’t know all of the details yet and I look forward to speaking to Secretary Pompeo, I was pleased to see the president recognized North Korea’s unwillingness to strike a comprehensive deal. President Trump did the right thing by walking away and not cutting a poor deal for the sake of a photo-op.

Just like the president, I want a deal with North Korea that would bring an end to the conflict and change the course of the region. However, I have always been concerned about the possibility of a bad deal, especially with the other pressures currently on the president. A deal that fell short of complete, verifiable denuclearization would have only made North Korea stronger and the world less safe. And it would have squandered the substantial leverage our negotiators have now thanks to the bite of sanctions.

President Trump must now apply the lessons of North Korean diplomacy to our trade negotiations in China. President Trump must have the courage to do the same thing with China as he’s done with North Korea. The president must be willing to hold the line and walk away if China does not agree to meaningful, enduring, structural reform of its unfair trading policy.

President Trump should not fall into the trap of seeking a deal for the sake of a deal, especially now that the talks with Pyongyang are on hold. What he did in North Korea was right, he must do the same thing in China -- hold out, because he has the upper hand, until we get China to do the right thing. Just because an accord is for the moment out of reach in North Korea does not mean that the president should be any more eager to strike one with China if the terms are inadequate or unacceptable.

Now the president deserves credit for bringing China to the negotiating table with tariffs, but he must not squander that opportunity by cutting a deal that fails to achieve American priorities. Unless China promises to end its predatory cyber-theft of American intellectual property and know-how, unless China promises to stop artificially propping up its businesses, unless China promises to end its practice of forcing American companies to give away their IP to their future Chinese competitors in order to do business in China – President Trump should walk away from negotiations once again.

As important as North Korea is to American national security, China is just as critical, maybe even more critical, to American economic security. President Trump and his team have a generational imperative to get this one right. They have a generational imperative not to squander the chance to achieve permanent reforms to China’s economic relations with the world, changes that would finally put American inventors, businesses, and workers on a level playing field.

On the issue of guns, I was so glad to see the House passage of a background checks bill. I urge Leader McConnell to take it up in the Senate. Background checks are supported overwhelmingly -- close to 90 percent of the American people, a majority of Republicans, and a majority of gun owners. It won’t take anyone’s guns away. It simply says that if you’re a felon, a spousal abuser, an adjudicated mentally ill person, you shouldn’t have a gun, and provides the means to make sure that happens.

Now there are so many loopholes in the background checks law, the Brady law, which I was proud to lead the charge for in the House in 1994. Now that we’re some 25 years later, they found ways around it. Through the internet, through gun shows, and just as it was the right thing to close the loopholes that existed in 1994 with the Brady law. It’s the right thing to do to close those loopholes that have come about since the law passed. It’s simply an update to the Brady law which has saved tens of thousands of lives.

Finally, on climate. In a short time, I’ll be returning to the floor to lead a group of Democratic Senators to talk about climate change. One of the great but positive ironies of Leader McConnell’s stunt to put the Green New Deal on the floor is that it’s inspired members of both parties to talk about climate change probably more than ever before maybe under Republican leadership of the Senate.

Democrats are more than happy about that – we want to turn the spotlight back on the issue of climate change and keep it there, where it belongs. Climate change is an existential threat to our planet, not just in the future but right now. We should be talking about climate change nearly every day and more than that, the Senate should be taking bold action to address it. So, I’m glad at least Leader McConnell is talking about climate, he just says what he’s not for.

So I would repeat the three questions I have asked Leader McConnell repeatedly. One: Leader McConnell, do you believe that climate change is real? Two: do you believe, Leader McConnell, that it is caused by humans? And three: do you believe that Congress should take immediate action to address the crisis of climate change?

Until Leader McConnell puts something positive on the floor and starts talking positively, no one’s going to pay much attention to his stunts and his gambits. But certainly, we Democrats are energized to talk positively about the things we want to do to deal with this issue. And we will be positive and discuss positive proposals until we get something done in this chamber. I yield the floor.