Schumer Floor Remarks on the Republican Tax Bill and Budget Negotiations

December 4, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the passage of the Republican tax bill and the need for a bipartisan budget agreement. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, in the early hours of Saturday morning, under cover of darkness, the Republican majority rushed through one of the worst, most hastily-considered pieces of major legislation I’ve seen in my time here in the Senate.

The bill will cause one of the greatest transfers of wealth to Corporate America and the already wealthy, while Working America picks up the tab. Millions of middle-class families will pay higher taxes under the Republican plan in only a few short years. Because the bill is unpaid for, the deficit will skyrocket, cannibalizing resources for education, scientific research, infrastructure and our military, endangering Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As I said last week, I have not seen a more regressive piece of legislation, so devoid of a rationale, so ill-suited for the condition of the country, so removed from the reality of what the American people need.

The text of the bill itself was released in the early evening, only several hours before a final vote took place. Lobbyists had a chance to read and change the bill before members of the U.S. Senate. When we received the bill, there were sections of text handwritten in the margins concerning some of the most complex tax provisions. The Joint Committee on Taxation was not even able to produce an analysis of the bill until after the final vote took place around 2 or 3 in the morning.

Amidst such haste, the Republican majority likely made drafting errors and inclusions that will have unintended consequences, even severe ones. Amidst such secrecy, such cloak-and-dagger legislating, the majority slipped in several additional goodies for big corporations and the very wealthy that will are already being uncovered. I’m sure more will come to light in the coming days.

The appalling process we all witnessed last week led Bloomberg News – a middle-of-the-road, business-oriented publication – to write the following in an editorial today: “In their rush to pass something, anything, that they can call ‘tax reform,’ congressional Republicans have achieved the impossible: They have made an awful plan even worse. The end result is sheer absurdity: a reform that actually complicates the tax code further, and that must contradict itself and partially self-destruct to attain some semblance of the fiscal discipline Republicans claim to value. It’s hard to imagine a more egregious waste of time and energy, or a worse outcome for taxpayers and the broader economy.”

That’s Bloomberg News, not some left-wing publication. It’s a business publication. And if they can say that, imagine what average Americans are saying.

What a condemnation from a publication that would be inclined to favor tax reform.

My Republican friends ought to be ashamed of the process and the product that emerged from the Senate last week.

As the two houses of Congress prepare to go to conference, I suggest my Republican colleagues reconsider their efforts – and think again on how much better of a product we could produce through a bipartisan, open, and transparent process.

Regardless, Madam President, with so much left to do before the end of the year, the Republicans should not be devoting their energies towards a conference on tax reform because this bill, in both the House and Senate, needs dramatic repair.

The most pressing matter before the Senate this week is not tax reform. That has no immediate deadline. It is to make sure we keep the government up and running on Friday.

Nobody should want to see a government shutdown; we should all be working to avoid one. And I must say I don’t believe my Republican friends – Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan – want a government shutdown. The only one at the moment who’s flirted with a shutdown is President Trump, who tweeted earlier this year that we could use a “good shutdown to fix the mess” and was quoted in last week’s Washington Post suggesting to associates that a shutdown could help him politically.

While Congressional negotiators have continued the hard work of hashing out a deal, the President’s unproductive behavior has been the only monkey wrench in the process. It’s difficult to find consensus when one of the parties at the table tweets that he “doesn’t see a deal.”

In a very positive development, however, the White House has reached out and asked for a second meeting with Congressional leadership.  We hope the President will go into this meeting with an open mind, rather than deciding that an agreement can’t be reached beforehand as he did before the first meeting.

We need to reach a budget agreement that equally boosts funds for our military and key priorities here at home including the opioid crisis, pension plans, veteran’s health care, student loan debt relief, and rural infrastructure.

We have to provide funding for community health centers and CHIP, as well as relief for the millions of Americans still reeling from natural disasters that hit us earlier this year.  And we must also come together on a bipartisan deal to pass the DREAM Act along with tough border security measures. There is a bipartisan path forward on all of these items.

As negotiations with our Republican counterparts continue, we are hopeful the President will be open to an agreement to address the urgent needs of the American people and keep the government open.