Schumer Floor Remarks On the Passing of Two Long-Time Senate Employees, Disaster Relief Negotiations, Republican Attempts To Strip Women Of Their Reproductive Rights And The Administration’s Recent Actions Against Huawei

May 20, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor recognizing two late Senate staffers that regretfully passed over the weekend, disaster relief negotiations, the recent abortion ban passed in Alabama and Republican attempts to strip women of their reproductive rights ultimately leading to a Republican led attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, and the administration’s recent actions against Huawei. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Well we have two bits of sad news about long-time Senate employees.

David Miles Knight – the beloved barber in our barber shop – one of the Senate’s master barbers for the last 36 years, lost a lengthy battle with cancer. His most noticeable and notable trait was kindness. Not just friendliness, but actual kindness and a generosity of spirit. He was always eager to ask about a customer’s day or a colleague’s weekend, and just as eager to regale those folks with stories about his family: his wife Joanne, his three sons, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Dave’s life was filled with these people, his friends, his family. I offer my prayers to them now, to Dave’s family, his friends, and his Senate family as well. He was considered a member of the Senate family and had been here decades. He was beloved. We miss him.

And Berner Richard Johnson III, a Senate staff member for 30 years, known to all here as “Bud,” also passed away last night. He was a victim of a violent crime last week in DC, and recently succumbed to the injuries that crime involved. Bud was beloved by his Senate family, the softball team he’s coached, and his many friends and family. I offer my prayers for his partner, Diane, his son Bo, and for all who loved and will miss him. 

Mr. President, may the memory of these two men be a blessing to their loved ones and a reminder to all of us that life is fleeting and to hold tight to those we love.

Now on disaster relief. Millions of Americans have waited long enough for their government to provide relief in the wake of the recent natural disasters. We have one week left in this work period. This is crunch time. It will be an awful conclusion to this work period if we leave without passing a relief package.

So we must focus on concluding our negotiations and reaching consensus on our final legislation. That’s why I am alarmed by rumors that the Republican Majority may attach a simple extension of the Violence Against Women Act to the disaster bill, rather than the new reform bill that was passed by a huge bipartisan majority in the House. That’s a formula for deadlock. We pass it here, send it to the House, and they won’t vote for it. And why do we have to load up the disaster bill with extraneous provisions, especially those that might bring conflict?

We must be very careful not to allow this and other extraneous provisions that has opposition from members to get on a bill. It would only imperil the success of bipartisan disaster relief. We’ve come to a conclusion on Puerto Rico and I’m glad our Republican friends have finally seen the light and not treated Puerto Rico unfairly so we can move forward with all disaster relief.

The president sent over a proposal on the border and we have sent back a counter-proposal with many of the things that he included, not all that he included – some are objectionable. That is extraneous, but we may be able to come to an agreement on that. But these other extraneous provisions? Our Leader has said – our Republican Leader – that he wants to get this done by Thursday. Well a surefire way of not doing it is jamming the House bill, filling it up with provisions that would not pass the House. So let’s all roll up our sleeves, get to work, refrain from our desires to put other things on this must-pass bill and get disaster relief done.

We Democrats will work in good faith to resolve all the remaining issues, but before the week is out, let’s get a bill we can vote on. Let’s deliver relief to disaster-stricken Americans and put an end to what has been a needlessly partisan episode.

Now on women’s health and a woman’s right to choose and the judges we are appointing. The past week marked a low point for our country on the issue of women’s reproductive rights. While an overwhelming majority of Americans want to keep Roe v. Wade, a total of 30 states have now sought to restrict the rights of women to make their own health care decisions, and some would either directly or virtually undo the Roe v. Wade decision. Alabama’s Republicans have passed the most extreme example – that’s the one I was talking about – but Republicans in Missouri and Texas are not far behind. And this is not merely a few fringe politicians making a statement way out of the mainstream – this is a systematic effort by Republicans in state legislatures to restrict women’s reproductive rights and ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade, even though the vast majority of Americans don’t want that to happen.

Meanwhile, here in the Senate, Leader McConnell has lined up a conveyor belt of far-right judges who have reprehensible records on women’s rights. Last week, the Republican majority considered a judge, Kenneth Lee of California – here’s what he said about sexism: he said it’s “irrelevant pouting.” Tell that to women who have been discriminated against in so many different ways that we read about.

How about Ms. Wendy Vitter? Our Republican friends voted to put this woman on the bench. She once promoted the idea that contraceptives cause cancer and claimed that Planned Parenthood kills 150,000 women a year. Both were confirmed to lifetime appointments. It’s incredible. These are people way on the extreme – way on the extreme.

And here comes another one: the Senate is voting on yet another judge with a horrendous record on women’s rights.

Mr. Daniel Collins, nominated to the 9th Circuit over the objection of both his home-state Senators, and he’s defended the rights of pregnancy clinics to withhold from their patients that they don’t provide abortion services and filed an amicus brief in support of the Hobby Lobby’s petition to deny its female employees contraceptive care. He’s a longtime donor and member of the Federalist Society, and he’s ensconced himself in one of the most anti-choice organizations in the entire country. Let’s make no mistake about it, to read some of the articles about the Federalist Society, which was formed with the goal of curtailing women’s rights. Many of its advocates believe that Roe v. Wade should be repealed.

And let me just call out my friends on the Republican side. The vast majority of my friends on the other side, when the Alabama law came about, either stayed silent about the extreme anti-abortion measure in Alabama and some of the other states. And then some said “we oppose what Alabama does.” But at the same time, they’re rubber stamping judges who would do the same thing, repeal Roe through the courts.

There is a direct contradiction here, there’s hypocrisy. Republicans who say they don’t like the Alabama decision, and then vote for judges who would ratify it and repeal Roe or cut back so dramatically on Roe that it hardly exists, are engaged in subterfuge. They say “watch this hand, I’m saying that I’m not that extreme. Don’t watch this hand, where I’m putting extreme judges on the bench who will do exactly what I say I’m opposed to.” It’s outrageous. They’ll be caught, but it’s outrageous that they’re on the bench.

Finally, on Huawei.

Positive news about an administrative action. I am in full support of what the Commerce Department did on Huawei, and I want to give a shout-out to Google for joining in and urge all other American companies to join as well.

The administration issued an executive order laying the groundwork to ban the purchases of telecommunications equipment from China’s state-controlled firms. The decision, as I said, is having an impact because of Google. We’re waiting for other countries to join in.

For years China has prevented the great American technology companies like Google, like Facebook, like so many others, from operating in China. They put barrier after barrier in the way because we’re better, and they know American firms would capture the Chinese market. They put barriers in the way, they steal our technology, and then develop it – and then even try to sell it back here. It’s happened with computers, it’s happened with so many other things that America and American know-how developed.  

So, what we did with Huawei - it’s a national security concern, this Chinese company that could pry into all of us - but it’s also an excellent weapon to get China to finally start treating us fairly, which they haven’t done for 30 years. We have lost tens of millions of American, good paying jobs, trillions of dollars, to what China has done to us. And I have to say both Democratic and Republican administrations in the past just sat there, under some guise of free trade – which wasn’t free or fair at all.

And now, we have some weapons. A lot of these folks, these pundits, these critics, these editorial writers say “tariffs is the wrong way to go.” Talking is the wrong way to go. It got us nowhere. But one other way to go is reciprocity. China: we’re going to treat some of your companies the way you treat our companies. That’s what we did with Huawei. It was the first time I’ve seen something really strong.

Now, I hope the president doesn’t back off. He did with ZTE because President Xi asked him to, head of China asked him to. Don’t back off, Mr. President. This is the right thing to do, and I’ve been advocating for decades. I’ve advocated President Bush, President Obama, to use reciprocity as a tool to stop China. It’s another tool in our toolkit, and an effective one.

If China won’t let our most productive companies compete in its markets, we shouldn’t let China’s state-driven companies compete in ours. They get subsidies from the state. We should not give Huawei, particularly Huawei, which is a security concern as well, free reign in the United States.

China’s got to learn something. It has to open up its markets if it wants access to ours. They talk about “oh, we’re an affront to China.” Because we’re asking for fairness? Give me a break. Give me a break. We know what fairness is. I believe that the Administration’s decision was very smart, to put pressure on China to reform its economic policies and I’m really glad they did it.

###