Schumer Floor Remarks On The Report Of The Trump Administration’s Discussion About Possible Troop Deployments To The Middle East, The Need For A Disaster Relief Package That Includes Help For All American Citizens, And Republican Efforts To Sabotage Health Care

May 14, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding The New York Time’s report that the Trump administration may send “as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons,” the need for a disaster relief package that includes help for all American citizens, and the Trump administration and Republicans’ efforts to sabotage Americans’ health care. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, this morning’s New York Times contained a stunning report that President Trump’s top national security aides have been presented with a plan that “would send as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.” …120,000 American troops in the Middle East.

This report is completely baffling and incredibly alarming.

What is the strategy here? The administration just began a maximum pressure campaign of sanctions against Iran to squeeze its economy. Doesn’t it make sense to see if your policy is working before preparing for potential troop deployments – particularly in such large numbers?

Six months ago, the President was trying to pull U.S. forces out of the Middle East entirely, against the advice of many in our defense and diplomatic communities. Now his national security team is reviewing plans for war?

Meanwhile, President Trump has not laid out what his plans are, what his long term strategy in the Middle East is, or even given a speech about Iran. So why on Earth are his advisers discussing plans to entrench U.S. ground troops in the Middle East for who-knows-how-long?

It seems that the hardliners in the administration are pushing the conversation in a very dangerous direction and I’m very concerned.

U.S. foreign policy depends upon the stable execution of a consistent policy. But all too often the Trump administration has seemed capable of neither stability nor consistency. The erratic behavior of the president and the chaos he instills in his administration has led to numerous blunders at home and abroad. We should all hope that this report is just that – another blunder -- and not the beginnings of a rush by the president’s hawkish advisers to heighten military tensions with Iran.

There are many questions for the president, but here are two. Why do we need more troops in the Iran area right now? And why such a large number – 120,000, which is as many as the total number of troops we’ve had in Iraq at significant times?

On Puerto Rico and the disaster bill.

A lot of Americans still waiting for the Senate to put politics aside and help them piece their lives back together from natural disasters last year: from wildfires to floods, from tornadoes to hurricanes. Because of climate change, our weather is different, considerably different, and Americans are paying the price. We’re also paying the price for not taking leadership on climate change.

But now I’m here to discuss this relief package. Throughout our discussions here in Congress about a relief package, Democrats have maintained that it must include relief for ALL Americans affected by disasters last year, not just those Americans living in the West or Midwest or South, but also the three million American citizens living in Puerto Rico. It’s not a zero-sum game. It’s not that, if you help Puerto Rico, you won’t be helping Florida or Iowa. You can help them all and that’s what Americans have always done.

But there is some good news. I must say: I am encouraged that Republicans are starting to realize that we cannot leave Puerto Rico out. It may not have happened had Democrats not insisted all along that Puerto Rico be included. But our Republican friends are beginning to realize, if Puerto Rico’s not in the package, no package will pass. So their intransigence and obeisance to President Trump after he came in out of the clear blue one day and bollixed up the package that had been carefully worked out between Democrats and Republicans by insisting that no aid to Puerto Rico be in the package. It’s clear to our Republican friends that’s not working and I am encouraged that Republicans have moved in our direction when it comes to disaster aid in Puerto Rico.

I hope that we can find an agreement soon, and put this unnecessary political fight behind us, and finally deliver relief to disaster-stricken Americans wherever they may be.

Health care.

Madam President, 133 million Americans under 65 years of age are living with a pre-existing condition of some kind. Right now, because of the laws on the books, insurance companies cannot charge those Americans more or deny them coverage simply because they have a pre-existing condition. That’s a great thing. That’s something Americans longed for before these protections became law.

But unfortunately, that could all change and go away if the lawsuit against our health care law, brought by Republican Attorneys General and supported by the Trump Administration, succeeds. It would deprive health coverage for tens of millions of Americans and risk denial of coverage or exorbitant premiums for up to 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions. That scale of that cruelty is so large it’s almost unimaginable to tell 133 million Americans you won’t get protections if god forbid you have an illness and your insurance company wants to cut you off. And yet, those are the practical consequences of the lawsuit that the Trump DOJ continues to support.

While that lawsuit is a fundamental threat to our country’s health care system -- led by President Trump and supported by just about every Republican in this chamber -- the Trump administration has also spent much of the past two years sabotaging and undermining health care at every turn. This ideology - that the government should not help people who have health care problems - well about 90% of all Americans do not agree with that. But somehow it’s dominant in the White House and dominant in the Republican Senate. Last week, the House passed legislation that would reverse the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken protections for pre-existing conditions. So the new majority in the House has taken action. Later this week, the House is poised to pass another package of legislation to further protect pre-existing conditions and help Americans sign up for quality coverage.

But so far, none of the bills that protect American’s health care have received any attention from the Republican Leader, Leader McConnell, and that is a shame. A real shame. Leader McConnell has slowly but surely been turning the Senate into a legislative graveyard, where even the most consequential and noncontroversial legislation gets buried, indefinitely.

Just take the House-passed legislation on pre-existing conditions as an example. This is extraordinarily popular with the American people - a Kaiser poll found that nearly 70% of Americans do not want the courts to overturn protections for pre-existing conditions. I don’t think anyone of my colleagues would argue, on the merits, that we should go back to a health care system where insurance companies could discriminate against a child with cancer. In fact, several of my Republican colleagues who recently won re-election ran ads explicitly saying they were FOR protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

So why won’t the Republican Leader commit to at least bring up legislation to do that?

I hope it’s not because my Republican colleagues want to be able to say one thing and do another; I hope it’s not because of the influence of dark money. I hope that’s not why.

So I’d say to the Leader – don’t throw health care legislation into the legislative graveyard. Don’t throw the health care of the American people into the legislative graveyard. The American people are worried about rising costs and declining quality. They are worried that if they are sick, they could wake up any day and no longer have access to health care — that is a very real threat millions of Americans face under the Trump administration.

Health care was the number one issue for most Americans in the last election. We should be doing something to protect American families from the Trump administration’s effort to undermine health care. I understand my Republican colleagues don’t want to cross the president, but this issue is too important to too many American families to remain silent. Too important for our Republican colleagues not to go to their Leader, especially those colleagues who campaigned for pre-existing condition protections, and tell the Leader, we must bring this legislation to the floor.