Schumer Floor Remarks on the New York Terrorist Attack, Judicial Nominees, and the Republican Tax Plan

December 11, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the attempted terrorist attack in New York City, the fitness of recent judicial nominees, and the Treasury Department’s analysis of the Republican tax plan. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, this morning as everybody knows there was an attempted terrorist attack in New York City, near the Port Authority Bus terminal and very close to Times Square. I was about 15 blocks away from where that happened.

Thankfully, praise God, the attack was a failure, and the only serious injuries were sustained by the would-be perpetrator. On mornings like this, I’m thankful for the service of the New York Police Department, the Port Authority Police Department, the FDNY and Bomb Squad who responded so quickly to the scene. Today was a startling reminder of why the “see something, say something” campaign is so crucial to keeping our cities safe, and why we must always remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism.

Now on judicial nominations. This evening, the Senate will vote on whether or not we should consider the nomination of Leonard Grasz to be a judge on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This nomination is significant because Leonard Grasz is just the third nominee since 1989 to be unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association. To underscore that fact: The ABA has reviewed over 1,700 judicial nominees since 1989.  Before this Administration, only two were ever unanimously deemed “not qualified.”  Those two, nominated by President Bush, were not confirmed.  The nominee we’re voting on this evening is the third.

A panel of nonpartisan, legal experts unanimously concluded that this man is not fit to be a judge. What else do my colleagues need to know? They should vote no this evening.

Instead of withdrawing the nomination and finding someone better – which is what President Bush did in a similar situation – some of my Republican colleagues have started attacking the ABA. The junior Senator from Texas said, “The ABA's record on judicial nominations has been highly questionable. It has demonstrated over past decades repeatedly partisan interests and ideological interests." I don’t remember my colleague from Texas complaining when his party was touting then-Judge Gorsuch’s favorable rating from the ABA. I heard over and over again from my Republican colleagues ‘you’ve got a favorable rating from the ABA.’ All of a sudden we attack it?

Leader McConnell once likened a well-qualified rating from the ABA to “getting straight A+’s on your report card.” Now, members of his party are singing a much different tune as not one – but two – of President Trump’s judicial nominations have received unanimously not-qualified ratings.        

Unfortunately, this is indicative of what has become a part of the Republican playbook: the playbook that President Trump specializes in, and unfortunately my colleagues are joining right in. If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger.

If you don’t like what the CBO is saying about your healthcare bill, attack the CBO – even if you hand-picked its director.

If you don’t like what the JCT is saying about your tax bill, attack the JCT – even if it’s using the exact type of economic modeling you asked it to use.

If you don’t like what the ABA is saying about your judicial candidates, call it partisan – even if you praised its judgment only a few months ago.

This is the Republican Party of President Trump, who, instead of mounting a credible defense of his record using facts and arguments, will always resort to shooting the messenger: whether that’s Special Counsel Mueller, the CIA, the Intelligence Community, or the entire FBI. Imagine attacking the entire FBI. I know those agents. They are so dedicated to the country, they are non-political. But you know, when they investigate President Trump because he might be doing something wrong, he just attacks them recklessly. 

The same thing has happened with our Republican colleagues. Much like President Trump, when Republican lawmakers don’t agree with what independent arbiters are saying, they try to discredit them.

These attacks may suit their short-term political interests, but they will have devastating effects on our country. A tax bill that explodes the deficit and raises taxes on millions of middle-class Americans may pass because Republicans refuse to believe the analyses that say it does. Our federal judiciary may be filled with unqualified candidates because Republicans refuse to trust the advice of independent legal experts.

And more broadly, these attacks, in small but important ways, diminish our democracy. We are a country, Madam President, founded on facts. People have different views once they view those facts. But we are founded on facts, that is what the Founding Fathers did at the Constitutional Convention. They debated, but they started from the same fact base. That is what the town hall meetings throughout America have done for two centuries or more. They are beautiful. They debate. They discuss. But people accept the role of given facts. That is what we are supposed to do in the House and Senate, and for many years we did.

But now, led by President Trump, unfortunately, facts don’t seem to matter. Anything he doesn’t like he calls fake news, even though it is real. He contradicts himself. Says one thing one day and one thing the next, and it doesn’t even matter. And that is him and he was elected, but why are our Republican colleagues so willfully going along? Why are they not saying truth matters? Why do they attack a place like the ABA, which has been non-partisan and has had a grand tradition for decades, and when the ABA approved Judge Gorsuch they embraced it? This is not a good thing for democracy. We cannot have a debate here in Congress if we don’t accept a common baseline of facts. We cannot hope to make progress on the most pressing issues in our country if the news we don’t agree with is fake, and every fact has an alternative.                                                                     

American democracy depends on our ability to work together, around a common baseline of facts, to find solutions that work in the real world. We can’t do that if Republicans are going to discredit or ignore the judgments of agencies like the CBO, the JCT, and the ABA. We’ll wind up with an even less productive debate here in Congress – something no one will like and the American people can ill-afford.

Now, Madam President, a word on the Republican tax plan.

For months, Republicans have promised that their 1.5 trillion dollar tax plan would reduce the deficit through economic growth, never mind the multiple analyses that concluded the exact opposite.

Just today, three new analyses of the Senate Republican tax bill came to the conclusion that the bill would not reduce the deficit, but rather explode it – including a report by the Trump Administration’s own Treasury Department.

The Tax Policy Center estimated that the tax plan would result in only $179 billion of growth, leaving $1.4 trillion in red ink on the deficit and increasing our debt-to-GDP ratio by over 5 percent.                                                              

Another analysis of the Senate Republican tax plan using the Penn-Wharton model found that “even with assumptions favorable to economic growth, the Senate tax bill increases debt by over $1.5 trillion over the next decade.”

And, amazingly, the Trump Administration’s Treasury Department released a one-page report estimating that the bill would pay for itself, but only if you factor in the rosy assumptions of growth that were included in President Trump’s budget, and are widely discredited by economists of all stripes. The President’s budget request assumed the passage of entitlement reform and an infrastructure bill, both of which have not yet been written or proposed, let alone enacted.

Even with an audacious use of fake math, the Treasury Department’s analysis has to assume that yet-to-be-proposed bills are passed in order to say the tax bill doesn’t add to the deficit.

Madam President, no amount of fake math can change the fact that the Republican tax bill will be a boon to the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations while increasing taxes for millions of middle-class families and leaving 13 million Americans without healthcare.

And as all three reports today prove, it will add over a trillion to the debt and deficit, starving our ability to invest in infrastructure, education, and scientific research, and endangering Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Republicans still have time to turn back from this ugly, awful bill – widely disliked by the American people - and work with Democrats on real bipartisan tax reform that actually lowers taxes for middle-class families and stimulates economic growth without adding a penny to the deficit.