Schumer Floor Remarks On The Senate Passage Of A Permanent Reauthorization Of The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund And The Need To Bring Bipartisan Election Security Legislation To The Floor

July 24, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the passage of a permanent reauthorization of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony, and the need to bring bipartisan election security legislation to the floor. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

Well it’s the morning after, and it’s a happy morning after because the 9/11 bill passed. And now it’s on its way to the president’s desk. My understanding is that he’s certain to sign it, and our first responders can breathe a sigh of relief. It’s wonderful. Now I am filled with gratitude for a lot of people—above all, those who rushed the towers. Those patriots. Those brave men and women who put America, freedom—defending us at a time when we were under attack—above their own safety. God bless them. God bless those who have passed from the illnesses. God bless those who are suffering from the illnesses. God bless those who will get illnesses yet unknown. Their families, their friends, their units, fire, police, Port Authority, you name it—military. Yesterday I met an FBI agent—I had not met her before—who was suffering from cancer, who was there. God bless them all.

So first and foremost, I want to thank so many people who made this happen. Senator Gillibrand, champion for the issue like no other, constantly here on the floor buttonholing people—and she’s persistent, those of us who know her—over and over again until she got names like Cotton and Cruz to support our bill. It was a big turning point.

Second, her Legislative Director Brooke Jamison. She was sort of the quiet force behind all this, and I thank her, as well as the rest of the Gillibrand staff. Our co-sponsors in the Senate, every one of them. Thank you. And the leaders in the House: Congress members Maloney and Nadler and King, and so many others.

And there were these great advocates: Jon Stewart and John Feal. Man oh man, they were the heart and soul of this operation. And they kept going and going and going until they succeeded. And one of my great sadnesses was meeting some of the widows. I knew the widow of Ray Pfeifer, for whom the bill is named. I met briefly the family of Detective Alvarez while at his wake. And that was a sad thing. But a happy thing was seeing the genuine smiles on the faces of Stewart and particularly Feal, who doesn’t smile that much. But now he can. That was joy. And Suzy Ballantyne and Ben Chevat. Just again, relentless.

And what about the labor leaders and unions—and by the way, construction workers were another group who rushed to the towers and suffered many losses. Let’s not forget them. But the labor leaders and unions who organized with us every step of the way: UFA and UFOA, the NYPD and the Port Authority unions, the PBA and DEA, the teachers, the building trades, the laborers, AFL-CIO, AFGE, AFSCME, and so many more. The union movement always protects its workers. We need them to be stronger in America. One of the reasons income is floating up to the top and not going to the middle class anymore is that we don’t have as strong unions as we should. But the unions, when they get behind something, God bless them.

And so finally, to the first responders who came here themselves; who delayed cancer treatments to testify at hearings; who wheeled the halls of Congress in their wheelchairs to chase down legislators; who gifted lawmakers their NYPD badges and their FDNY patches—the sacred totems of their service—to remind those public servants to do the right thing.

Many are no longer with us: James Zadroga, Luis Alvarez, and my dear friend Ray Pfeifer. Wherever they now may be, let them breathe a final sigh of relief, knowing their friends are cared for, their job well done.

On another issue. All eyes are no doubt on the House Judiciary Committee, where, as I speak, Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is testifying. His testimony is unquestionably of great interest and importance to the nation. But even without the Special Counsel’s testimony today, Congress must grapple with the report that he’s already written.

The principal conclusion of the first section of the Mueller report was that Russia interfered in our 2016 elections—and this is his words—in a “sweeping and systematic” fashion. What he described in that section of his report constitutes nothing less than an attack on our democracy. It’s almost like going to war and hurting our men and women in the armed forces. And this administration and this chamber frankly has not done enough—not nearly enough—to respond to that attack and to prevent such an attack from taking place again. So, I know that we’re going to have a great deal of debate on the obstruction of justice. I’m appalled by what the president did there. But there should be no debate on a) Russian interference in our election, that’s unequivocal—and b) that we must do a lot more about it to prevent it from happening in 2020.

And the Trump Administration has been horrible on this issue. Unpatriotic, un-American, and almost letting America fall prey to a nasty, brutal foreign power: Russia. This administration has watered down or failed to fully implement sanctions against Russia for what they did in 2016.

And, here in the Senate as usual, our Republican colleagues just bow down in obeisance. Leader McConnell, shame on him, has stymied progress and consigned bipartisan bill after bill to his legislative graveyard. These are bipartisan bills. There are so many Republicans who want to do something here, and Leader McConnell doesn’t. And that has nothing to do with Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. That has to do with patriotism and defending America. Bipartisan bills to harden our election infrastructure are languishing. The Republican majority has even blocked Democratic requests to provide additional election security funding to the states.

Just yesterday, the FBI Director confirmed that President Putin remains intent on interfering in our elections and we have not done enough to deter them. Next to the brazenness of President Putin’s assault on our democracy in 2016, the response of the Republican majority in the Senate has been tepid. So, I know there will be great divisions about certain parts of the Mueller Report. We’re seeing it in the hearings that go on now. But there can be no division—and I haven’t heard any Republican on that panel thus far contest the fact that Russia interfered in our elections in a strong way in 2016. Why aren’t we doing something about it now? Let’s forget the political divisions, let’s forget the pettiness of President Trump, who says, ‘Well, my election may not be legitimate if I admit the Russians interfered.’ President Trump, the Russians have interfered, and every American knows it. Let’s not let it happen in 2020. Let’s work together on this. It’s vital to the future of American democracy.