Schumer Floor Remarks On The Passing Of Former Senator Kay Hagan, The Death Of ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi And The Need For A Comprehensive Plan To Defeat ISIS, The Need for Republicans to Reckon With The Facts Uncovered By the House Impeachment Inquiry, The Upcoming Senate Vote on the Trump Administration’s Rule On Junk Health Care Plans, And The Future Of Clean CarsOctober 28, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor on the passing of former Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Senator Schumer also spoke about President Trump neglecting to notify Congressional leaders of U.S. operations to eliminate ISIS Leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the administration’s need to create a strategy to defeat ISIS forces, the need for all members to consider evidence discovered in the course of the House impeachment inquiry, the upcoming Senate vote to overturn the Trump administration’s rule to push forward junk health care plans, and the future of clean cars in creating jobs. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Scripture tells us that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” That’s Psalm 34:14. I pray those words are true because we have lost a member of the Senate family today, and many of us have lost a dear friend. We are brokenhearted at the news that former Senator Kay Hagan passed away at the age of sixty-six.
I spoke to her husband Chip a few hours ago and I told him that from the moment I first met Kay Hagan, I knew she was special—she remained that way every day since.
She was an amazing force: never loud, but always strong; effective; hardworking; dedicated; principled; and just a kind-hearted person. He told me that he and Kay had just had a wonderful weekend: a dinner, a wedding, surrounded by friends and family. She even got to spend some time with Joe Biden who was in town. Chip said she was just beaming.
I take some comfort in knowing that; in fact, it reminded me of how Kay lived her life. She was never one to let sometimes-painful realities of life and politics get her down. I knew Kay for over a decade, as a state senator, as a candidate, a brilliant Senator, and as a former Senator who returned to private life without an ounce of regret or ill-will. In all that time, I never heard her once, never heard her once, complain. She was never sour, or sarcastic, or dejected. She remained, always, to her last day, a cheerful optimist, a happy warrior.
It’s only one of the many reasons that Kay Hagan was beloved by members on this side of aisle, and I believe by a great number of those on the other side as well. Boy, will we miss her. My heart goes out to Chip, to their three children: Jeanette, Tilden, and Carrie, and their wonderful grandchildren, of whom Kay was so proud and loving.
Now on another subject. Yesterday morning, it was announced that U.S. special operations forces killed Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. The death of al-Baghdadi is great victory for the safety of our country and the safety of our allies and partners. All Americans salute the special operations forces who executed this mission, the intelligence community professionals whose work helped enable the mission, and our allies and partners, particularly the Syrian Kurds, who have contributed to the global coalition to defeat ISIS.
Despite this great victory, however, we must not confuse the death of this one very evil man with the defeat of ISIS. There are still potentially hundreds of ISIS prisoners and sympathizers who have escaped in recent weeks, a result of President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from northern Syria and greenlight Erdogan’s invasion.
We cannot allow ISIS to regroup or gather renewed strength. New Yorkers know all too well the destruction a small group of terrorists can cause from half a world away.
So make no mistake: we still need a plan for the enduring defeat of ISIS, they are not gone. We must include details on how we will deal with the escaped prisoners. Nobody knows. These are evil people. The want to hurt us. And they can escape from the prisons and lord knows where they’ll go. But we know a good chunk of them will want to do damage to our homeland.
So far, the administration, unfortunately, has articulated no coherent plan. Its top officials, Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Esper, seem unable to find a time to even brief Congress. In all likelihood because they have nothing real to say. No plan.
For almost a month now, we have been requesting an all-Senators briefing from the administration on its Syria policy. That is the bare minimum we expect from the administration when it comes to major policy decisions. And yet, we have had two briefings scheduled and then canceled and we still cannot get the Department of Defense or the Department of State to commit to a time for those Secretaries to brief Congress.
And according to reports, the Trump Administration gave Russia and Turkey some kind of advanced notice of the raid of Al-Baghdadi but – seemingly by deliberate choice – neglected to notify the leaders of Congress, as is custom in this case. Based on the President’s remarks yesterday morning, it seems he may have made a solitary exception for the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. That’s not what the founders envisioned when they imagined Congress and the executive branch working together to conduct the nation’s foreign policy. It seems clear that the Trump Administration is either reluctant or simply unwilling to keep Congress in the loop on its plan to defeat ISIS and protect American interests in the region. The most likely explanation, unfortunately, is that it does not have one.
This needs to change. There needs to be a plan, and there needs to be some accountability to Congress. We need to hear from Secretaries Pompeo and Esper, in Congress, this week.
And now, on another matter. As the House of Representatives continues to do its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of any wrongdoing by the executive branch, our Republican colleagues in both chambers have made great pains to make its “process” an issue. A group of House Republicans stormed the secure facility in the Capitol to highlight the purported secrecy of the process. It was later revealed that fully one-third of those members were already allowed in the closed hearings. Here in the Senate, Sen. Graham introduced a resolution with a list of trumped-up complaints about the House process and I just heard my friend the Republican Leader talk about the process in his opening remarks.
Now…I’m going to say something that might surprise everyone listening out there. I actually agree with what President Trump said this morning about the impeachment inquiry in the House. The president said, “I’d rather go into the details of the case rather than the process,” adding, “I think you ought to look at the case.” The president! The president himself is saying look at the substance. We want to look at the substance. That’s what the House is doing. That’s what our Republican friends, either those who in a fit of rage or whatever, stormed the secure facility. That’s what so many of our colleagues on this side of the aisle are doing, just focusing on process because they’re afraid to focus on the substance, and how wrong it was, what the president did, if the facts proved he did it. Which I believe the House is looking at.
So, let’s not forget, the impeachment inquiry stems from a very serious allegation, that President Trump pressured a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival. Allegations were deemed “credible” and an “urgent concern” by a Trump appointee. Allegations which have been further corroborated by the memorandum of conversation released by the White House, testimony gathered by the House, and public comments made by no one less than the President’s Chief of Staff. We have a responsibility, a responsibility, a constitutional responsibility, to grapple with the facts in the public record, and ultimately make a judgments based on the merits of the case.
So the President of the United States, in this case, happens to be right—Congressional Republicans in the House and Senate should focus on the details of the case, rather than the process.
Another subject. Later this week, Senate Democrats will again use their authority under the Congressional Review Act to force a crucial vote on the future of health care protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.
The Trump Administration has done nearly everything imaginable to undermine these protections over the past three years, including by suing to repeal our health care law in its entirety. But this vote concerns the Administration’s expansion of junk insurance plans, which offer a way around requirements to cover Americans when they need health care most.
This rule gives states the green light to use taxpayer dollars to buy junk health insurance plans. Oftentimes the plans are so skimpy that they hardly cover anything at all – they are barely worth the paper they are written on. Imagine, you’re a mother of a child with cancer, a father, and you sign one of these plans, the insurance company says, “We don’t have to take care of your kid,” for something devastating, as life-threatening as cancer. Imagine how you’d feel! Yet, our Republican friends and this administration want to give insurance companies the green light to make a ton of money and write this junk insurance and have hundreds of thousands, millions of Americans not covered for even the most important and vital of coverages.
Well, that is what is at stake this week. The Senate will vote, Republicans will have to go on the record: either defend the Administration’s actions or protect Americans who have pre-existing conditions.
I know several of my Republican colleagues have publicly declared their support for these protections when they have their campaign ads going. That hasn’t been the case here in Congress, where Republicans have repeatedly voted against the same protections. Wednesday will be another important test for Senate Republicans.
And finally on climate. On Friday, I announced a new proposal to rapidly phase out gas-powered vehicles and replace them with “clean” vehicles like electric cars. The goal of the plan, which also aims to spur a transformation in American manufacturing, is that by 2040 all vehicles on the road should be clean.
We need a plan of this scale and ambition to fight one of the largest drivers of carbon emissions – transportation – which account for over one-third of America’s carbon output. Scientists now tell us that to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change, the world needs to be carbon neutral by midcentury. At the moment, we are not on track, even remotely, to meet that target.
So we must act urgently and ambitiously, which requires building diverse coalitions of support. What distinguished my proposal is not only its scale, but its ability to unite the American environmental movement, the American labor movement and large automakers. Listen to who’s supporting this proposal: the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the League of Conservation Voters; unions like the United Auto Workers, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the AFL-CIO; and car manufacturers like Ford and General Motors. When have we ever seen the car manufacturers and the unions and the environmentalists agree on a major proposal that will stop carbon from poisoning our atmosphere? Well, here it is.
How would this plan work? First, it would provide a large discount on an American-made vehicle when drivers trade in a gas-powered car. Second, it would provide grants to states and cities to build charging stations, with a particular emphasis on low-income, rural and other underserved communities. And third, the plan aims to establish the US as the global leader in electric vehicle and battery manufacturing by providing grants to retool existing manufacturing plants in the United States and build new ones in this country that specialize in those technologies. It’ll clean our atmosphere, save families money (the cost of these cars will be less than the cost of maintaining a gasoline-driven vehicle), and it will establish America once again as the preeminent automobile power as electric cars become the way of the future.
Critics say that acting on climate change has to cost us jobs and money. It’s simply not true—my plan is actually estimated to create tens of thousands of new jobs, good paying jobs, right here in the U.S. Much as America experienced a revolution in auto manufacturing at the outset of the 20th century, America under this plan will experience a revolution in clean auto manufacturing at the beginning of this century.
But if we are to reach our goal, we have to move fast. China now accounts for more than half of the world’s electric vehicle market, and if we don’t match the level of China’s commitment, we going to miss a tremendous opportunity. We’ve missed too many already.
If Democrats win control of the Senate in November 2020, I, as majority leader, will introduce bold and far-reaching climate legislation. This proposal for clean cars would be a key element of that bill. This is about American jobs, American global economic leadership and protecting our dear planet. Nothing, nothing, could be more worthy of pursuit. I yield the floor.