Schumer Floor Remarks On The Resolution To Terminate President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, The Trump Budget Cuts To Medicare, Medicaid, And Other Essential Programs, And Ongoing Trade Negotiations With China

March 13, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the resolution to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration, the Trump administration’s budget proposal, which slashes funding for Medicare, Medicaid, and other essential programs, despite then-candidate Trump’s promises to the contrary, and ongoing trade negotiations with China. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on a resolution to terminate the President’s emergency declaration – a declaration which undermines our separation of powers in order to fund the president’s wall with American taxpayer dollars despite candidate Trump’s repeated promises that Mexico would pay for it.

The resolution could not be any simpler. All it says is this, it’s one single sentence: “Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, pursuant to section 202 of the National Emergencies Act, the national emergency declared by the finding of the President on February 15, 2019, in Proclamation 9844 (84 Fed. Reg. 4949) is hereby terminated.”

That’s the entirety. There are no political games here; there’s no “gotcha.” There’s no discussion as to whether we need a wall or not, whether there’s a crisis on the southern border or not. It simply says that this is not an emergency.

Now the vote tomorrow boils down to something very simple for our Republican friends: do you believe in the Constitution and “conservative” principles?

All these self-proclaimed conservatives. Well the number one tenet of conservatism is no one, particularly an executive or president, should have too much power. That’s been what conservatives have stood for through the centuries. And all of a sudden, because Donald Trump says that he wants to declare an emergency – are people going to succumb? The founding fathers would be rolling in their graves. They’d be rolling in their graves for any president, let alone this one who we know overreaches in terms of power. Who we know has no understanding of the exquisite and delicate balance that James Madison and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and so many others created in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

So do our Republican friends stand for conservative principles? Do they stand for any principles at all? Or do you just take a loyalty pledge to President Trump and meekly do whatever he wants. It’s that simple.

Now there are lots of issues we disagree on. There are lots of times our Republican friends bow to President Trump. But there ought to be an exception. And if there ever was an exception, it should be this.

Many of my Republican colleagues rightly stood up and told the president not to take this action. Leader McConnell himself said it was a bad idea. It’s a bad precedent that contravenes the power of the purse, a dangerous step and an erosion of congressional authority. And they, our Republican friends, were right.

The president himself said that he “didn’t need to do this.” That’s not an emergency. Are we going to say anytime that a president can’t get his way or her way with Congress, that they can declare an emergency and Congress will meekly shrug its shoulders and walk by? Bow in obeisance to any president, Democrat or Republican? What a disgrace.

This is one of the true tests of out Republican colleagues, one of the true tests. Because it’s always been the Democratic Party that’s been for a stronger executive. You know, Dwight Eisenhower, he was worried about too much power going to the president. So was Ronald Reagan.

Where are our Republican friends now? Has Donald Trump turned this Republican Party and its conservative principles so inside out that we can’t even get four votes to declare this isn’t an emergency? That we can’t get 20 votes to say to the president we’ll override this? Because this is far more important than any view on the wall or the southern border, which we all know has been going on for a long time. And while the president thinks it’s an emergency, Congress clearly didn’t. Even when Republicans controlled the House and Senate because they did nothing about the wall. And I talked to a lot of my colleague, my Republican colleagues. They know what this is all about.

Everyone here knows the truth: the president did not declare an emergency because there is one; he declared an emergency because he lost in Congress and wanted to go around it. He has no principles in terms of congressional balance of power. You know that. We all know that. We all know that. So to bow in obeisance to him when we all know what he’s doing is so wrong? A low moment, a low moment for this Senate and its Republican friends.

When it comes to the Constitution, you ought to stand up to fear. Do the right thing – no matter who is in the White House. Our Republican friends know the right thing to do. They should not be afraid to do it.

Last I checked, we all took the same oath of office. What did it say? Uphold the Constitution. And there are different views of the Constitution, but I haven’t heard one constitutional scholar – left, right, or center – say that this, upholding the president on this emergency is the right thing to do in terms of the Constitution. So I hope our Republican friends will join us.

Now it seems what I’ve read in the press reports this morning, some Senators are in search of a fig leaf – they want to save their consciences. They know this is the wrong thing to do, and so they come up with this idea that will change the emergency declaration for future moments.

Reports indicate that a group of Republican Senators is pushing legislation that would ignore the President’s power grab but instead limit future emergency declarations. What bunk. What a fig leaf. That will not pass. To my friend, the senator from Utah, who I know does have constitutional problems, constitutional qualms – he’s squirming. His legislation will not pass. And let me just read you what Leader Pelosi said a few minutes ago: “Republican senators – this is from her statement. Republican senators are proposing new legislation to allow the president to violate the constitution just this once in order to give themselves cover. The House will not take up this legislation to give President Trump a pass.”

Do you hear me, my colleagues, my Republican colleagues? This won’t pass. This is not a salve. It’s a very transparent fig leaf. If you believe the president is doing the wrong thing, if you believe there shouldn’t be an emergency, you don’t say, “Well in the Congress we’ll introduce future legislation to change it.” And then when the president declares another emergency, we’ll do new legislation to allow that, too. Come on. This fig leaf is so easily seen through, so easily blown aside that it leaves the constitutional pretentions of my Republican colleagues naked. The fig leaf is gone. Don’t even think that it will have anything to do with what we are doing. And so I hope my colleagues will stand strong.

What Republicans want to say with this fig leaf is, to paraphrase St. Augustine, our Republican friends are saying with this fig leaf, “Grant me the courage to stand up to President Trump – but not yet.” And next time. And next time. And next time they’ll say the same thing.

So let’s do the right thing. Let’s tell the president he cannot use his overreaching power to declare an emergency when he couldn’t get Congress to do what he wanted. And let us not make a joke of this by saying that there’s some legislation that won’t pass in the future that gives me the okay to vote for this, to vote against this resolution. That fig leaf makes a mockery of the whole Constitution and the whole process.

Now on another matter. So President Trump put out his budget yesterday. It says “Promises Kept.” That’s one of the biggest lies I’ve ever seen because if you look at the booklet, it’s “Promises Broken.”

President Trump said he would never cut Medicare or Medicaid. He slashes them – $845 billion cut to Medicare, and $1.5 trillion cut to Medicaid. The president says he believes in a strong infrastructure bill. Promises kept? This bill cuts transportation by over 20%. The president said that education is the civil rights issue of this generation. Promises kept? The president cuts education dramatically.

On issue after issue after issue, the president’s budget shows the real President Trump and how far away from the promises he makes to the working people of America. Many of them are catching on. Many more will. And this budget will be a way to show them who the president is. And even worse – not even worse, but compounding the injury – huge giveaways to the wealthy, more tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans. At a time when income distribution is getting more and more skewed to the top, so much of the wealth of America – and even the income of America – goes to the top few. To have a budget that hurts the middle class, that hurts those trying to struggle to get to the middle class and makes it even easier for the wealthy to garner even more money? How out of touch is this budget?

So I repeat my challenge. Leader McConnell, this is your president. You just seem to go along with him. Put this budget on the floor. Let’s see if even a single Republican will vote for it. I’d like to ask every one of my 53 Republican colleagues: how many of you will say I support this budget? I bet not one, not one. This budget is a slap in the face to every American who has worked hard every day, paid his or her taxes, expects Medicare in retirement, and expects some way to afford healthcare before retirement.

President Trump’s budget is inhumane. We Democrats will fight it and fight these heartless cuts at every single turn.

Finally, on China. Yesterday, U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee that he could not predict the success of a trade agreement with China, saying there are “major issues” left to be resolved.

I hope those “major issues” are the sinew, the meat of what China does to us. This is not an issue of soybeans or imports, or balance of trade which is getting worse even with what President Trump did. This is an issue of China stealing the greatness of the American economy. This is an example of China being able to cascade huge amount of products into America and not let us sell our products freely there. Or sell them under such conditions that it’s not worth it, such as turning over your intellectual property and know-how to China or government controlled companies.

Ambassador Lighthizer is doing a good job, but I worry that the president is more focused on getting a win than getting a good deal. The president should be proud he stood up to North Korea and walked away. He should do the same thing here. President Xi is not going to give him much, and the president should have the guts to walk away because China is in a much weaker position, in part because of the tariffs that the president correctly imposed on China. And if the president walks away from a weak deal, the odds are very he’ll be able to come back with a much better deal because China will have to relent. Stay strong, don’t cave. This is America’s whole future at stake. 

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