Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For Republicans To Stand Up To President Trump, Delaying Judge Kavanaugh’s Hearing, And The Danger Of Government Funding Of Guns For Teachers

August 23, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 10:10 AM EST] regarding the need for Republicans to stand up to the president, delaying Judge Kavanaugh’s hearing at least until his full record becomes public, and the Trump administration’s consideration of diverting federal funding to arm teachers. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, by any account, this has been a momentous week in the history of the Trump presidency and in the histories of presidencies in general. President Trump’s former campaign manager was convicted on eight counts and still has another trial yet to go. The president’s former personal attorney, his lifelong compadre, pled guilty to multiple violations of bank fraud and campaign finance violations, implicating the President of the United States himself in one of those crimes. Let me just repeat that: President Trump was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal crime.

And what did we hear from our Republican friends on the Hill? Was this the moment when Republican leaders finally stood up and said ‘enough’?

Amazingly, apparently not. Apparently my Republican colleagues cannot rouse themselves to offer even a word of criticism for a president now implicated in a federal crime, a president who casually tosses around the idea of pardoning his convicted former campaign chairman, a president who speaks favorably of that convicted felon because he didn’t “break” while disparaging a former confidant for collaborating with law enforcement. Sounds like a scene out of The Godfather.


Just imagine if President Obama’s campaign manager was convicted of several, serious federal crimes. Do you think my Republican friends would give circumspect quotes to reporters? Or do you think they’d be down here beside me on the floor beside themselves? The answer is obvious.


And yet, when it comes to a president of their own party, hardly a word of criticism or censure from our Republican friends. At some point, after the Access Hollywood tape, after Charlottesville, after the Helsinki summit, and now after these most recent revelations, the broad failure of the Republican Party in Congress to condemn the president’s behavior, and what that behavior is doing to the American character, becomes a form of complicity. Without strong voices in his party to tell him when he goes too far, the Republicans have become complicit in bringing down the character of the United States – probably the best thing we have going for us. President Trump keeps destroying, hurting, and gnawing at that character with amazing narcissism, with total ego, with bullying, and with misstatement of truth after truth after truth after truth. And our Republican friends, the only ones who can really stop him -- we can’t -- they just shrug their shoulders. President Trump thinks he can keep testing the boundaries and our Republican friends say, ‘go right ahead, we’re not going to stop you. We’re going to be quiet. We’re going to be silent.’


It seems that Republican Party leaders have made the ultimate Faustian bargain: forgoing their duty to the constitution and the country in exchange for a corporate tax cut and stacking the courts. They are willing to ignore the corruption and law breaking so long as they have someone in the White House to sign their tax cuts, to gut health care, which they despise, and to nominate conservative ideologues to the bench.


The mantra of the Republican majority in the 115th Congress is ‘put your head in the sand.’ The symbol of the Republican Party – the elephant – is being replaced with the ostrich, the animal that just puts its head in the sand whenever trouble occurs.


Put your head in the sand, they must tell themselves, we want to pass a corporate tax cut.


Put your head in the sand, we want to eviscerate President Obama’s health care law even if it means raising costs on working Americans.


Put your head in the sand like an ostrich, we want a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.


If you ask me, the price of that Faustian bargain has already become too steep. I have real admiration for the never-Trumpers, hard-right conservatives who hardly agree with me on anything. But they’ve had the courage to say that the character of America, which President Trump, day-by-day, is destroying, is more important than a tax cut or a nominee to the Supreme Court. Because if our character goes away, we don’t have much left.  And President Trump’s actions – we all know what he did – I saw the majority leader in the House talk on Fox News, I said to myself, “he must believe that President Trump did what is alleged he did, paying dollars to someone to avoid her telling what happened between her and him.” Everyone knows that’s true, no one doubts it’s not true. President Trump knows it’s true, I’m sure. And yet, the Republican ostrich puts its head in the sand and ignores the day-by-day erosion of the American character that President Trump creates.


The price of the Faustian bargain has become too steep, my Republican friends. Considerations of country and constitution aside, if my Republican colleagues remain silent, the Republican Party is becoming a co-conspirator in the culture of corruption that surrounds this president.


Now is the time for Republican leaders to do what’s best for their party and for their country. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying ‘enough’ to this president. But it would be a far better thing, in addition to our Republican colleagues speaking out, to pass legislation to protect the special counsel from political interference. To hold hearings on the power of the president to pardon. To pass legislation to bolster election security and to hold Russia accountable. To use Congress’ power to investigate the serious crimes that were committed by the president’s close associates during the election.


But it has to start with our Republican colleagues recognizing the moment we’re in, for them to look back at figures like Howard Baker who rose to the occasion in a similar situation 45 years ago. Where are the Howard Bakers? Where are our Republican colleagues, who I know love this country, but it’s either fear or expediency or something else not admirable that is making them complicit with the president in their ostrich-like silence? It is time, my Republican friends, to quote the scriptures, to speak truth to power.


The recent legal developments for Mr. Manafort and Mr. Cohen shed an entirely different light on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. It is conceivable that, down the road, the Supreme Court could be faced with a decision as to whether a sitting president can be subpoenaed or indicted, something the court has not yet ruled on.


In my meeting with Judge Kavanaugh, he not only refused to answer crucial questions about whether Roe, Casey, or cases involving the Affordable Care Act were correctly decided, he even refused to affirm that a president must comply with a duly issued subpoena, even in a criminal investigation that concerns vital national security.


Considering Judge Kavanaugh has such a voluminous record on the issue of executive authority, on which he seems to take an almost monarchical view, his refusal to say a president must comply with a subpoena should give everyone great pause. Just as the president is implicated in criminal activity, the Senate is considering a nomination of someone to the Supreme Court who believes that sitting presidents are virtually immune from legal jeopardy.


I understand that my Republican colleagues don’t want to delay the hearings for Judge Kavanaugh, despite the overwhelmingly good reasons to do so, made ever more piquant by yesterday’s events with Mr. Cohen and Mr. Manafort. I still believe Chairman Grassley and Leader McConnell should consider, given the president’s legal trouble, given the fact that the majority of the Senate has not yet had a chance to review, or even access, Judge Kavanaugh’s full record on what he might feel about executive power, I feel that we should hit pause on the hearing.


Senators should be wary of the unknowns in Judge Kavanaugh’s hidden record. He’s been a hard-right Republican warrior for much of his career before he got on the bench. When he got on the bench, he was still a hard-right warrior in the decisions he made. President Trump didn’t vet him any better than he vetted Scott Pruitt or Tom Price or any of the other catastrophic appointments he made to the Cabinet. It will be a rude awakening for senators to find out, after a confirmation vote, that the nominee had a number of issues in his past that the Senate did not properly consider.


I repeat my plea: we should delay the hearing of Judge Kavanaugh, at the very minimum, until the full record on everything he has said and done on executive authority is made public.


Finally, Madam President, late last night – in this administration you just cannot believe what goes on, it is so far away from what the American people believe and feel, it is so dominated by a small, powerful group on the hard right, in this case the gun lobby -- what did Secretary DeVos say last night? Well, the Times reported that Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have a plan to allow states and school districts to use federal funds that were intended to help high poverty schools provide things like music, computer science classes, civics, and mental health treatment to instead buy guns for teachers. Is that amazing? Unbelievable. Teachers don’t want guns. They know it makes them a target if, God forbid, a shooter comes into the school. And now, Secretary DeVos wants to take federal funds away from instruction so that the school district can buy guns for teachers. What is that all about? What recklessness. What absurdity. Everyone know that arming teachers will not make our schools or our children safer, period. The teachers themselves know it.


That’s why Congress, Democrats and Republicans, explicitly prohibited the use of the Department of Homeland Security grants to purchase weapons or ammunition for schools. We just did that, Democrats and Republicans together. That’s why earlier this year, Congress explicitly prohibited the use of grants in the STOP School Violence Act for firearm purchases. Bringing more guns into our schools is not the answer at all. I can’t believe that Ms. DeVos is the Secretary of Education with the kind of reckless views that she has exhibited -- so antithetical to safety in schools, so antithetical to good public education. She’s highly unpopular with the American people, throughout the country, not just in the blue states. In some of the reddest states public education is so important that her kowtowing to just private education hurts millions of rural American school children.


The Trump administration, once again, led by Secretary DeVos, have concocted a plan to twist the law and cannibalize funding from high poverty schools to advance the NRA’s dream policy. That’s all it is. Again, the Trump administration is giving the keys to special interests, this time the NRA. Until President Trump breaks the NRA’s stranglehold on the Republican Party – he’s occasionally talked about it but then fearfully retreated from the things he said – meaningful gun safety reform in this country will continue to be subverted by radical and dangerous ideas from the NRA like arming teachers.


This announcement occurs as we wrap up the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. We have a bipartisan agreement to fund the Title IV grant program at $1.2 billion, the most since its inception, but this news about Secretary DeVos’ plan chills our celebration. 


I’m calling on my colleagues to reaffirm that we do not believe more guns in schools will create safe, effective, learning environments; that we certainly shouldn’t take federal dollars away from instruction so we can arm teachers. Let’s spike this harebrained idea before it gets off the ground.