Schumer Floor Remarks On The Passing Of Robert Pear, The Mueller Report, Disaster Relief Funding For All Americans, The Nomination Of Michael Park To The Second Circuit, And Republican Attacks On Women’s Health Care

May 8, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the passing of Robert Pear, Leader McConnell’s refusal to bring important election security legislation to the floor following the release of the Mueller Report, making the Senate a legislative graveyard, the need for disaster relief funding for all Americans affected by natural disasters, the nomination of Janet Dhillon to be Chair of the EEOC, the nomination of Michael Park to the Second Circuit, and the Trump administration’s and Republican attacks on women’s health care access. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now first, Madam President, I begin this morning with a heavy heart, having heard of the abrupt passing of New York Times journalist Robert Pear.
It just so happens that Robert lived on my floor in college during freshman year. While everyone else in those days had long hair and wore bell-bottoms, Robert had a flat top, was always studious, inquisitive, polite and very decent, earning him the nickname “the deacon.” He was the first to go into the library, and the last to come out late at night. “The deacon” was different than most of us, but earned all of our respect.
Robert maintained the qualities of studiousness, inquisitiveness, politeness, decency throughout his personal and professional life, and in my view, he represented the very best of America. When Robert’s byline appeared on a story – and so often, his stories were on the front page, above the fold of the New York Times – the reader knew that the reporting would be both important and authoritative. His death is a loss for journalism itself. I send my condolences to his family in this moment of profound grief.
Now, Madam President, we all know that Leader McConnell would like to move on from the Mueller report. We all know that he and many Senate Republicans are ready to say “case closed.” We all know, that whether he’s been bamboozled by, afraid of, worried about, or simple enamored with President Trump, Leader McConnell would prefer to sweep the entire report under the rug.
So yesterday, Leader McConnell’s speech here on the Senate floor struck me as an impassioned bit of wishful thinking that I believe the Leader will regret in later days that he gave.
I’m sure President Nixon wished that the investigations into Watergate would simply go away. Just as I’m sure President Trump wants Mueller’s investigations to fade in the background. But in the first case, we had courageous Republicans who put the rule of law above simple fealty to a president, and they resisted. Unfortunately thus far, Leader McConnell has shown none of that nobility and that strength. He is simply going along with President Trump.
Just for a moment though, let us set aside the discussion about the President’s repeated attempts to obstruct a federal investigation. Let’s just talk about the conclusions Mueller came to about election interference in 2016. Separate from his views of the investigation of Trump, does Leader McConnell agree that election security is a serious and ongoing challenge? Does Leader McConnell agree with FBI Director Wray that 2018 was quote “a dress rehearsal” for foreign influence campaigns against the United States? Does the leader agree with our intelligence and law enforcement officials who are warning us, right now, that foreign capitals, Russia above all, but perhaps Iran and China and Turkey, are gearing up to try and interfere again in our elections in 2020?
This is the wellspring of our democracy. Russia may temporarily want to choose one candidate over another as they chose Trump in 2016, and may well again. But their ultimate goal is to sow such dissention, and worry, and lack of faith in our democracy that it could crumble. If everyone believes that foreigners are influencing our elections and the outcome isn’t just, that is a terrible step downward for America that none of us want to take.
So then why doesn’t Leader McConnell at least do something about election security? Independent of President Trump, although those investigations and hearings should go on and will.
If so, if Leader McConnell believes that foreign interference in our elections is a serious problem, he has an obligation to separate himself from his desire to shield the president from accountability and act on this national imperative to defend our democracy from insidious and foreign attack.
Whatever Leader McConnell believes about the president’s behavior and for whatever reason, there is no reason for Leader McConnell to resist bipartisan bills like the Secure Elections Act that would harden election infrastructure.
There is no reason for Leader McConnell to oppose additional funding in the appropriations process for states to safeguard their election hardware.
For God’s sake, there is no good reason for Leader McConnell to resist or delay scheduling an all-Senators briefing on an election in 2020. The only reason to do that would be false. I hope the reason that Leader McConnell is resisting us strengthening and securing our elections is not because he believes Russia will help President Trump and he’s willing to let that go forward. I hope that’s not true. But there is no good reason on God’s green Earth why we shouldn’t be making our elections more secure, even though we may have different views about the Mueller report.
So I urge my friend the Republican Leader: disentangle yourself from the self-serving desire to sweep the Mueller report, and all of its findings, under the rug. Recognize that it is indisputable, that Russian interference is a grave threat to our elections, and the Mueller report helped corroborate and document that. And work with us, for the sake of America, Leader McConnell, work with us to protect our country from foreign influence in our elections in the future. Do not sit on the sidelines.
Now, Mr. President, on another issue. Yesterday we heard Leader McConnell say he would like to get a disaster relief package done by Memorial Day. Democrats in this chamber are going to hold him to that standard, and we will make sure that package provided will have funding for all affected communities, from Hawaii all the way to Puerto Rico.
My colleagues from the Midwest and the South are starting to feel the heat. According to press reports they are going to Leader McConnell and saying “we have to get something done.” Because they realize, with each passing week, the cost of inaction grows. Cities in Iowa have endured another round of flooding. In the South, hurricane season is around the corner. We need to get disaster aid out the door.
But when you want to know why it hasn’t happened? First and foremost is because President Trump disrupted a bipartisan bill that would have passed a month and a half ago and said “no aid for Puerto Rico.” And second, our Republican colleagues in the Midwest and the South willingly went along with that, thinking that they could roll over Puerto Rico, roll over the House, and roll over the Democrats here in the Senate. Well now you’ve learned, that’s not happening. So work with us on a bipartisan package. We want to get it done, we want to see aid go to every part of the country including the Midwest, including the South, including Florida, including Texas, but Puerto Rico must be treated similarly and fairly.
I promise that we could solve this impasse in a moment. If Republicans agree to treat Puerto Rico fairly, a disaster package will pass this chamber like a hot knife through butter.
And our position is very simple: Democrats support a package for disaster relief that provides support for all affected Americans. Hawaii. California. Iowa. The South. The Atlantic Coasts. The Pacific Islands. And the Island of Puerto Rico.
And we’re not going to move forward unless everyone is included, and everyone is treated fairly.
Now, on nominations Mr. President. Today is a great example of how Leader McConnell and the Senate, in place of real legislative progress, in place of helping middle class in this turbulent world in which we live, simply uses floor time as a legislative graveyard and only rubber stamps extreme and unqualified nominees, with no legislating. We’ve become a legislative graveyard under Leader McConnell’s leadership. And the middle class, and the people trying to get there, suffer.
This afternoon, Senate Republicans are going to confirm Janet Dhillon to be Chair of the EEOC. This move to restore a quorum by confirming a Republican nominee while refusing to consider Democratic nominees, which has been the Senate’s tradition to always do these nominees in a bipartisan way – one Democrat and one Republican together – is going to imperil equal pay rules and protections for LGBTQ workers.
This afternoon, the Senate will vote debate on the nomination of Michael Park to the Second Circuit.
A quick overview of Mr. Park’s experience reveals some pretty outlandish views. In private practice, he advanced arguments that would limit the civil rights of millions of Americans on matters pertaining to the census and educational opportunity. He represented groups in an amicus brief arguing against the constitutionality of Medicaid expansion and worked to defend the Kansas’ effort to defund Planned Parenthood.
Since the Second Circuit covers my home state of New York, I met with Mr. Park to try to understand why he was being nominated for a lifetime position as a Circuit judge.
Frankly, his principal qualification seems to be that he’s a card-carrying member of the Federalist Society.
Mr. Park has little experience and little judicial background. He’s an ideologue. He doesn’t have the kind of balance and integrity and compassion and understanding on both sides that any judge needs. It will become obvious to anyone who reviews his record that he lacks the breadth and objectivity that we prize in our judges.
But my Republican friends, like Leader McConnell, have a singular goal to remake the federal bench in their image. So Federalist stooges like Mr. Park, who aren’t qualified for a District Court, are being rammed through as Circuit Court judges.
The Senate ought to reject his confirmation. And in the less partisan Senates of the past, it wouldn’t have even come forward. But regrettably, instead of legislating, instead of doing things for the American people, all Leader McConnell is doing is ramming through these nominees, most of whom are way out of the mainstream, far away from the views of most Americans, and unqualified for their jobs. This wouldn’t have happened years ago. I hope my colleagues, when they look at Park’s record, will do the right thing.
Finally, on women’s healthcare. Later today, a group of Democratic Senators will come here to the floor to highlight what’s been a campaign –a campaign – by Republicans to strip women of the right to make their own health care decisions.
At the federal level, the latest salvo in their offensive is Title X “gag rule,” which would hurt low-income individual’s access to reproductive health. In my view, this is a disgusting attempt to restrict women’s freedom.
The effects of these policies are real and threaten the lives of women across America. Take Natarsha, one of my constituents in New York. Natarsha was 33 and she found two lumps in her left breast. She went to see a gynecologist at Planned Parenthood. Natarsha was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent treatment. Now, praise God, more than five years later, her cancer is in complete remission.
If not for the exams and other prevention offered by Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, Natarsha and other women like her might never have received their life-saving diagnoses.
But Republicans have time and time again pushed to defund Planned Parenthood and threatened access to the essential care it provides. Republican-led state legislatures across the country, emboldened by President Trump, have continued their attack on the reproductive rights of women. Just last month, both the South Carolina and Ohio passed bills banning abortions after only six weeks of pregnancy—when many women may not even know they are pregnant. Just yesterday, Georgia’s governor signed his state’s version of that bill into law.
Since taking office, President Trump and his Republican colleagues have prioritized – prioritized – restricting women’s reproductive freedoms. They believe they know better than American women, they impose their views on American women – and that is just wrong.