Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For Secretary Pompeo To Warn Russia That Interference In Our Elections Will Not Be Tolerated In Upcoming Meeting with President Putin, Senator McConnell Turning The Senate Into A Legislative Graveyard On Election Security and Healthcare, And The Dire Need For A Disaster Aid Bill That Helps All Americans

May 13, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for Secretary Pompeo to warn Russia that interference in our elections will not be tolerated in his upcoming meeting with President Putin, Senator McConnell turning the Senate into a legislative graveyard by neglecting to bring important election security and healthcare bills to the floor, and the dire need for Congress to pass a disaster aid bill that helps all Americans. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, tomorrow, Secretary of State Pompeo will meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia and there’s something important he must do.

The Mueller Report, for all its revelations about the President’s conduct also reminded us of things we’ve known to be true and must resist at all costs. The Mueller report documented the “sweeping and systematic”, their words, disinformation campaign directed by President Putin to undermine our 2016 elections. Whatever you may think of the President’s behavior, foreign interference in our elections cannot be ignored.

It was an attack on democracy itself. And in my view, America’s response has not been adequate. The point of looking at this is what happened in the past happened as bad as it was, but it is to prevent it from happening ever again in the future. We don’t know what country may try to change our elections, and who they might support. Russia, China, Iran, North Korea. So we have to bolster ourselves, and until we get a full, full description of what happened, and a plan to stop it from happening in 2020, America should not rest, because it is an attack on democracy itself. America’s response thus far has not been adequate. The Congress has passed sanctions, but President then Trump has failed to implement some watered down others. Only a few months ago the Treasury Department cut a sweetheart deal on sanctions relief with Russian oligarch and Putin-crony Oleg Deripaska.

Even rhetorically, the President and members of his administration have shown an unbelievable willingness to look past President Putin’s actions in 2016. A little over a week ago, just after the Mueller report came out, President Trump held a phone call with President Putin in which he reportedly brought up the “Russian hoax” and he did not warn Putin not to meddle in our elections. Of course, the press conference in Helsinki last year was the epitome of President Trump’s inability to confront President Putin about his interference in our elections.

This matters a great deal because any softness on the part of the administration will be read by Putin. and other foreign powers, as an invitation to try to interfere in our elections again. We know - thanks to testimony from the FBI Director Wray and our national intelligence chiefs - that foreign adversaries are gearing up right now - right now - to try again and interfere in our elections in 2020. And it may not just be Russia next time; China, North Korea, Iran - who knows?

So it is long past time that the Trump administration make it crystal clear that another interference campaign by Putin will not be tolerated. The Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo has an obligation to warn President Putin that any action to interfere in our elections will be met with an immediate and robust response. Secretary of State Pompeo must make clear that the cost of trying to interfere with American elections will be dear. Secretary of State Pompeo must deliver a shot across the bow to Putin and any other foreign adversary that would dare think about trying to influence our elections. Anything less from Secretary Pompeo will be a failure of diplomacy.

Here in Congress, our response also must be strong. In the wake of multiple warnings about future election interference, we must do everything we can to harden our election infrastructure before 2020. There are multiple bills, bipartisan, sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, in committee right now that would do just that. But Leader McConnell will not commit to bring them to the floor—another example of his legislative graveyard. Instead, he just schedules nomination after nomination. This is now the third week in a row that the Senate will spend processing only nominations.

Leader McConnell is slowly but surely changing the chamber into a legislative graveyard, where even the most urgently-needed, bipartisan bills on election security and Russia sanctions get buried.

Now on healthcare.

It’s not just election security, of course, that finds itself in the McConnell graveyard. Bipartisan bills - background checks, paycheck fairness, Violence Against Women Act - have all passed the House with Republican support, but languished in the Senate. I wouldn’t be surprised if healthcare legislation is soon added to the list of tombstones in Leader McConnell’s graveyard.

At the end of last week, the House passed a crucial piece of legislation that would reverse the Trump administration’s attempts to weaken protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions – a policy supported by the vast majority of Americans and publicly supported by several state Senate Republicans recently up for re-election.  And this week, the House is poised to pass another great package of health care legislation to further protect pre-existing conditions and help people sign up for quality health care coverage.

Compare that to the Trump administration’s policies, which have only increased costs and lowered the number of Americans who have health insurance. The uninsured rate had been on a steady decline until President Trump took office. Now, for the first time since 2013, the number of Americans without insurance has been on the rise.

And as the Leader of the majority in the Senate, Senator McConnell has a responsibility to use our time here to help the American people.  As insurance rates fall, protections for pre-existing conditions are under attack, and prices go up for middle-class Americans, I believe the Senate must act to improve the nation’s healthcare system.

And so we have multiple, House-passed bills awaiting action. Leader McConnell need only call them up for debate. But instead, the legislative graveyard, where good legislation doesn’t even get debated or amended - let alone passed - is upon us.

Finally, on disaster relief.

Last week, our colleagues in the House passed yet another bill that would provide crucial aid for disaster-stricken communities, including our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico who are still suffering. Importantly, the bill passed with 34 Republicans voting in favor.

Negotiations on a disaster package continue, but I believe the House vote is a sign that Republicans in both chambers are beginning to realize that the people of Puerto Rico cannot be left behind.  And rightly so.  There will not be any bill if it doesn’t treat all of America fairly.  So don’t complain just about your state: go to the Republican leadership, if you’re a Republican Senator, and tell them we must pass a bill that protects everybody!

The president’s animus for the people of Puerto Rico is antithetical to our values as Americans. Americans help each other in times of need. We wouldn’t shortchange the farmers in Iowa, or the people of Texas, or California, or Florida. So why should we ask three million fellow citizens – the people of Puerto Rico, I remind my colleagues, are U.S. citizens - to keep waiting for help to rebuild from a storm that made landfall over a year and a half ago?

The bottom line is simple, very simple: We have to help everybody, and our Republican colleagues are beginning to realize. Their constituents are complaining and say ‘what’s the hold up?’ And we all know the story. It wasn’t the original idea of the Republicans in the Senate to treat Puerto Rico unfairly. President Trump came to a lunch, demanded that aid for Puerto Rico be eliminated or greatly diminished, and our Republican friends went along. They thought we would just bow down, as they did. We have not, neither in the House or Senate. And now, let’s get moving. It’s encouraging that Republicans beginning to realize that Puerto Rico needs help, or at least that they have to be part of the aid package. I hope those green shoots soon bear fruit and we can send something to the President’s desk and give the relief to all of those who need it – in California and Texas and Iowa and Nebraska and Alabama and Florida and Puerto Rico.