Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Pass The Bipartisan House-Passed Resolution To Condemn The President’s Decision On Syria; Forcing A Vote To Repeal The Trump Administration’s So-Called “Affordable Clean Energy” Rule, And Marking 1,000 Days Of Broken Promises Under The Trump PresidencyOctober 17, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to hold a Senate vote on the House-passed resolution to condemn the president’s reckless decision-making on Syria and around the world; Senate Democrats’ plan today to use Congressional Review Act authority to force a vote to repeal the Trump administration’s so-called “Affordable Clean Energy Rule;” and marking the 1,000th day of broken promises to the American people under the Trump presidency . Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday, the United States military carried out airstrikes to destroy what, only a few weeks ago, had been the headquarters of the American campaign to destroy ISIS in Syria. Nothing encapsulates the failure of President Trump’s decision to stand aside for Erdogan more than the fact that we are now bombing our own bases rather than allow them to fall in the hands of Assad, Erdogan, or Putin. If Erdogan, Putin, and Assad are such great allies, or no problems, as President Trump told us yesterday at the White House, then why do we have to bomb our own headquarters after American troops evacuated so it doesn’t fall into Syrian, or Turkish, or even Russian hands? That one thing encapsulates the absurdity, the awfulness of President Trump’s lack of policy and erratic, impulsive, and whimsical movements in the Syrian front.
Yesterday, the president said this withdrawal was “a strategic move.” It certainly is not that because this is not the action of a military that carried out a deliberate withdrawal. It’s the action of a military that was given a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants decision by the president, contrary to the recommendations of commanders on the ground. President Trump has the nerve, the gall, to think he knows more about the military than these generals who have served our country for decades. It’s appalling. How does America put up with this? How do our Republican colleagues put up with this? He doesn’t consult the generals. What a blunder. And it seems to be the result of the president’s inability to say “no” to dictators. He seems to like a Putin, and an Erdogan, and even a Kim, more than our allies. This is also a clear demonstration of the President's fecklessness and recklessness both.
Or, as my colleague Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the President’s staunchest allies in Congress, said: “I fear that this is a complete and utter national security disaster in the making.”
So, yesterday afternoon, congressional leaders went to the White House, at its request, to meet with the president about the rapid disintegration of the situation in northern Syria. Speaker Pelosi and I talked about it ahead of time and we talked about it with Senators Reed and Menendez as well. And we had a very serious purpose: to find out if the president actually had a plan to contain ISIS and fix the mess precipitated by his decision to green-light Erdogan’s military incursion into Syria.
Alarmingly—alarmingly—President Trump had no plan. The greatest insult that occurred in that room was not any of the name calling that President Trump did. A far greater insult to America, to all of us, was the lack of any policy guidance, any policy decisions, any direction from the president and his top national security advisors on how to contain ISIS.
I reminded the president that, as two New Yorkers, we probably knew better than most the damage that a small band of terrorists can do, even from half a world away. I asked: what is your plan to prevent ISIS from re-grouping and re-surging? He didn’t have one. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper didn’t have a plan.
After we pushed them and pushed them, I said who’s going to take care of all these prisoners? The president said there were 70,000 ISIS prisoners and their families. Who’s going to take care of them? Make sure they don’t escape as some have already? And they finally said, ‘Well the Syrians and the Turks will do that.’ So. I asked the group if they had any intelligence or assurances that the Turks and Syrians would do decent job. Secretary Esper himself said that there was no evidence of that.
This is amazing. Terrorists, who we’ve spent a decade fighting. We’ve spent billions of dollars and lost lives to fight ISIS. Finally they’re in prison. The Kurds are guarding them. The Kurds are leaving, understandably, because they have to fight the Turks now. What’s the plan? There isn’t any! Except to rely on Syrians, Turks, who have not even close to the interest we have in curbing ISIS. Assad is much more interested in gaining back his Syrian homeland. Erdogan is focused on hurting the Kurds who he is fanatically against. So they’re not going to pay much attention to ISIS.
Appalling. Just appalling. President Trump has stepped aside for Putin, Assad, and Erdogan. Our allies, the Kurds, are being slaughtered as a result of our betrayal. And most importantly, as Secretary Mattis said, “if we don’t keep the pressure on [in Syria], ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.” President didn’t like hearing Mattis’s words but all of America should. He’s one of the most respected military minds, one of the most respected leaders on both sides of the aisle, liberals, independents, conservatives. Here’s what he said again, repeating, “if we don’t keep the pressure on [in Syria], ISIS will resurge. It’s absolutely a given that they will come back.”
So make no mistake, the president’s incompetence, his impulsiveness, his erratic-ness, has made Americans less safe. American here in our homeland.
Congress, today, must make that fact clear to the president in a bipartisan fashion. We have the opportunity, my colleagues. The House passed a resolution condemning the president’s decision by an overwhelming vote, 354 to 60. That means the vast majority of House Republicans – 129 to be exact – condemned the president’s decision in Syria. Leader McCarthy, Whip Scalise, number three Rep. Cheney, all voted for it. They’re as loyal to President Trump as anybody, but they saw the danger, the real danger. Today, the Senate should, and I hope will, follow suit. We can quibble about the language, but I have no doubt we can agree on the basic message, and there’s no reason we can’t vote on a Senate resolution today. Time is of the essence! To say, well I’d like to add this word or add this sentence as Kurds are being slaughtered, as ISIS terrorists are escaping? No, no, no; no, no, no.
We should move the House bill immediately because we all know there’s only one person who can reverse this and that is the president. And the greatest ability to make him reverse is an overwhelming message from the Republican side, House and Senate, that this is wrong. He doesn’t hear that too often publically from our Republican friends. He’s heard it from the House, correctly and courageously. Please, my friends, my Republican friends in the Senate, let’s put politics aside. Let’s vote the House bill passed yesterday by them today. There is no time to waste. Time is of the essence because the president still doesn’t get it. Our meeting at the White House demonstrated that to all who were present. Hopefully, an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the Senate will break through to him. So I strongly, strongly, in the strongest of terms urge my friend Leader McConnell and our Republican colleagues to allow a vote on a Syria resolution today. Security, justice, fairness demand no less.
Now on climate. As Senator Cardin well knows, later today, the Senate will vote on his resolution of disapproval to repeal the Trump Administration’s so-called “Affordable Clean Energy Rule.” This is one of the few opportunities where the minority can force a vote on the Senate floor, and there may be no more worthy an issue than protecting our environment.
Four years ago, the Obama administration put in place new standards and safeguards for CO2 and fossil fuel emissions from power plants—the first of their kind, intended to meet the threat of climate change. But earlier in July, by employing shady science, the Trump administration obliterated these safeguards, so vital to protecting our globe, our world, and frankly a lot of the forests in my home state of New York. In its place, the Trump administration enacted a new rule that will allow big polluters to wreck our air, dirty our water, and poison our Earth, with little to no accountability.
Thanks to this new rule, common-sense limits on carbon emissions have been blurred, and deadlines for implementing the reductions have now been tripled or even quadrupled. Time is running out for the United States to meet the existential threat posed by climate change. And that’s why this new rule is such a grave, grave mistake.
Thankfully, in this case, the minority can do something about it under the Congressional Review Act. We are allowed to overturn some of the rules that this administration unilaterally put in place. Later this morning, we will vote on Senator Cardin’s resolution of disapproval, which, if passed, would repeal the Trump administration’s destructive rule, and reinstitute the safeguards that were originally in place.
So our Republican colleagues have a choice. They can either stop the rollback of life-saving environmental protections, or they can side with energy companies that put their fortunes ahead of our future. The choice is theirs.
One final note, today marks one thousand days of President Trump’s time in office. If we were to summarize his administration over the last two and a half years in a single phrase, it would be this: broken promises to working people.
When candidate Trump ran for office, he promised to drain the swamp. But after a thousand days as President, this place is the swampiest it’s ever been, with conflicts of interests crippling this administration and inexperienced billionaires running our government.
Candidate Trump promised insurance – health insurance – for everybody. But after a thousand days as President, costs are higher, coverage is skimpier, and his administration is suing to repeal the healthcare we have in place that would send prices skyrocketing for millions.
President Trump promised a tax bill that would be a “middle-class miracle.” But the only miracle this has been has been to corporate America who uses it for stock buybacks instead of increasing salaries for their workers, increasing their investment in plant and equipment. So, so much of these tax breaks went to buybacks. Shame.
One thousand days in, President Trump has failed to follow through on promise after promise after promise to working Americans. But he isn’t the only one at fault. Democrats have fought to do the work of the American people. But as the House passes things, Leader McConnell and my Senate Republican colleagues have simply turned this chamber into a legislative graveyard where good ideas that would help the middle class and those trying to get to the middle class just come to die.
We could be voting to reauthorize the Violence Against Women’s Act. We could be voting on election security. We could be voting to on background checks. But Leader McConnell has buried hundreds of House bills in his legislative graveyard.
After a thousand days since President Trump took office, he and his Republican colleagues have made clear whose side they are on. If you are ultra-rich, if you’re very powerful, if you’ve got great connections it’s been a great few years. But for everyone else, it has been a string of disappointing, broken, and heartbreaking promises. Come next year the American people will have a chance to vote for real change. I yield the floor.