Schumer Floor Remarks On The Trump Administration’s Anti-Immigration Reform Plan, The Need For Defense And Intelligence Chiefs To Testify Publicly On The Administration’s Strategy on Iran, Leader McConnell Turning The Senate Into A Legislative Graveyard For Middle-Class Priorities, And The Admin’s Recent Actions Against Huawei

May 16, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Trump administration’s new immigration reform plan, which is not a serious attempt at immigration reform, the need for defense and intelligence chiefs to testify publicly on the administration’s position on Iran, Senator McConnell refusing to take up important legislation, and the Trump administration’s executive order that lays the groundwork for Commerce Department to ban all purchases of telecommunications equipment from China’s state-controlled firms. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Well, I thank my colleague Senator Casey for, as usual, his thoughtful and erudite and on the money remarks, this time about judges. And I’m going to talk about that in a minute but we see something happening here. We see state after state trying to repeal Roe. When we ask our Republican colleagues directly, ‘Do you want to repeal Roe?’ They’re usually silent. But their votes on judges say they do, and that’s what they’re doing and the voters should hold them accountable. Now, I’ll get to that more in a minute but I wanted to follow up on my good friend from Pennsylvania’s remarks about judges.

Yesterday, the Trump administration released the outlines of its plan for immigration reform. Truth be told, the reported White House plan isn’t a serious attempt at immigration reform; if anything, it’s a political document that is anti-immigration reform.

It repackages the same partisan, radical anti-immigrant policies that the administration has pushed for the two years – all of which have struggled to earn even a simple majority in the Senate let alone 60 votes.

The hands of Stephen Miller are all over this plan. And over course, he had a watchful eye when other administration officials came into the Republican lunch yesterday and talked about it. The plan they put together holds immigration precisely at current levels, meaning that for every new immigrant the plan potentially lets in, it must kick one out. What kind of logic is that? What kind of harebrained logic is that? The idea that for every immigrant you help, you have to hurt another? How arbitrary. How simplistic. How cruel. It’s like the Procrustean bed of immigration policy.

We need immigrants in America. Our labor force is declining. You go to businesses at the high end, the middle end, and the low end they say their greatest problem is a lack of workers. And we come up with a policy like this? Make no mistake about it, it’s cruel and inhumane but it also hurts our economy significantly. And if you don’t believe me talk to business leaders, any business leader you know.

Shockingly, the White House’s immigration proposal fails to deal with Dreamers or the 11 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States. The White House Press Secretary said Dreamers were quote “left out on purpose.” What does that say about the administration? That goes to the root of what is wrong with this administration’s approach to immigration. And if they think they can repeat what they failed to do in the past—if they try to repeat it saying ‘okay we’ll let Dreamers, in but you accept a whole lot of bad things,’ which is why immigration failed last time, last year—it ain’t happening. It ain’t happening.

So I would say two things. If you’re going to do major immigration reform through Congress, you’re going to need bipartisan support. That means you sit down and talk to Democrats. Four of us on the Democratic side, four of us on the Republican side and the gang of eight spent hours and weeks and months together. And carved together a bill that got overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans in this chamber, and was overwhelmingly supported by the American people – and still is, I think it’s 68% now still support comprehensive immigration reform.

But what does the White House do? Typically, they put together their own plan -- Stephen Miller, chief Cook and bottle Washer, -- and then say, ‘Democrats you should support this!’ Ain’t happening. No consultation, no nothing.

That’s not the way you’d go about putting a bill that you really wanted to pass. It’s not the way to go about things if you really wanted to solve our immigration problem.

When Stephen Miller, one of the president’s most virulently anti-immigrant advisers, is in the room crafting your immigration plan, it’s a surefire failure.

The fact that the President is announcing his bill today provides a further bit of irony, because this afternoon, the new Statue of Liberty museum opens. There is no greater symbol of America’s openness to immigration, of the greatness of America, than the Statue of Liberty. Which reaches out to people from every corner of the globe, and it towers over nearby Ellis Island where generations of hopeful strivers shuffled off boats and into a new life in a new country and helped build America into the greatest country in the world.

The White House immigration bill is an insult – an insult – to our grand tradition of welcoming immigrants from all walks of life. And it’s an appropriate metaphor that the President today is skipping the opening of the new Statue of Liberty museum, even though he’s in New York, to simply go to political fundraisers. He skips real immigration reform and offers a political document, and his trip to New York embodies that. Ironically and metaphorically.

Now on Iran.

This has been a chaotic week of news about the Trump administration’s position on Iran. We have gone from reports that the Trump administration’s national security team was discussing possible troop deployments, one newspaper, the New York Times, reported 120,000,  to coverage now of infighting among the president’s staff about the credibility of the threat from Iran. As usual, the signals indicate chaos coming out of the White House. Individuals fighting with each other, no real plan, no real pattern. And no discussion, with the American people or with Congress.

Yesterday, personnel were evacuated from our Embassy in Iraq and Republicans in Congress have now started to echo some of the saber-rattling we typically hear from folks like Ambassador Bolton.

At this moment, the only thing that is abundantly clear about the administration’s Iran policy is its lack of clarity and the lack of consultation with Congress and the American people.

Congress has not been fully informed about the intelligence, and we have not been properly consulted about the administration’s strategy (to the extent one exists). But more importantly, the American people deserve to know what’s going on here. They are rightfully skeptical and tired of wars in the Middle East – a skepticism many of my Republican friends across the aisle do not seem to share.

So we need to get a better public understanding of what President Trump and Republicans in Congress plan to do. Yesterday I called on the Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Dunford to testify publically before the Senate Armed Services Committee. So the American people can at least get an idea of what’s getting cooked up here. We learned sadly in Iraq, when things are done behind closed doors and the American people aren’t fully informed, it can lead to significant foreign policy blunders. So they should come up here, General Dunford, Acting Secretary Shanahan, as well as Secretary Pompeo. I hope that the request will be granted.

Now on healthcare.

And our friends creating the Senate graveyard as well as the abortion bill in Alabama.

The House has passed over 100 pieces of legislation, many of them with bipartisan support, only to get buried in this graveyard of a chamber. Leader McConnell, who controls the calendar, prefers to run it as a legislative graveyard.

Let’s take health care as an example – the number one issue the American people care about. Our colleagues in the House recently passed a modest bill to protect families from getting charged more if they have a pre-existing condition. It should be bipartisan. And most Republicans, or many at least, Senate Republicans, say they agree with that policy, when asked. But we have a bill that does it, and what does Leader McConnell do? He just deep-sixes it and sets aside another tombstone for his legislative graveyard.

What about today’s House vote on another set of health care bills to protect people with pre-existing conditions and help them sign up for insurance? What is the fate of those bills in the Senate? Will Leader McConnell sentence them to the same legislative death as all these other proposals? Or will Leader McConnell actually allow us to debate something of great importance to the American people – to amend it and then vote on it? Hopefully it would pass, I believe if would. What is Leader McConnell afraid of? Is he afraid that the American people will get protection from pre-existing conditions? Is he afraid that he might anger some special interests? Is he afraid that he might anger President Trump? We have a higher obligation here.

Now, instead of debating these crucial pieces of legislation, Leader McConnell has treated the Senate like a rubber stamp for the Trump administration’s often radical nominees. For three straight weeks, we’ve only processed nominations, including several judges who were either unqualified ideologues or merely unqualified.

And this matters. The judges we have heard from are narrow, many have often bigoted remarks in the past, really bigoted. They’re not who a judge should be. A judge is supposed to be able to walk in the plaintiff’s shoes and the defendant’s shoes, and then come up with a decision that is governed by existing law. These people are ideologues, many of them stooges and accolades to the Federalist Society. And now, we have in Alabama, the most radical anti-abortion bill in the country, inviting a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the courts. So the effort by the Republican Leader to remake the federal judiciary into a conservative redoubt has a direct impact on these legal challenges. Now, if you ask most of the Republican members of this chamber, ‘Are you for repealing Roe v. Wade, hook line and sinker?’ They’d say, ‘No. I’m not.’ Or they’d mostly be silent, they’d be afraid to answer. But then they vote for judges who want to do it. Either frontally or by various deep cuts. When our Republican friends vote for these radical, hard right judges, they are saying they want to repeal Roe v. Wade, even if they won’t say it directly.

So I’d say to my colleagues: much as you may prefer to stay silent on the Alabama Republican abortion bill, your votes for hard-right, anti-Roe judges speak volumes – volumes.

And I’d say that the whole impetus of the Alabama bill is now that we have very conservative, anti-Roe judges on the Supreme Court, supported universally by the members of the other side, they feel they have the boldness to introduce a bill that actually repeals Roe instead of just curving it.

Finally, something good that I think the administration has done. I was pleased, for two reasons, to see that the administration issued an executive order laying the groundwork for Commerce Department to ban all purchases of telecommunications equipment from China’s state-controlled firms.

First, it was a good decision for our national security. We have long known the threat posed by foreign telecommunications companies, particularly Chinese firms like Huawei and ZTE. The tentacles of the Chinese government are deep in these two companies. Our intelligence and defense communities – concerned about our own security here in America – have banned the use of Huawei products in the military and labeled its technology a national security threat. That’s serious stuff. So I applaud the decision to protect our networks from potential malware, foreign surveillance, and cyber espionage. And I applaud the administration. They backed off on ZTE a year ago despite the overwhelming support in this chamber for not letting ZTE sell products. But they’re now doing the right thing with Huawei, which is an even greater danger than ZTE.

And there’s a second reason this is a good decision aside from national security – it’s called reciprocity. In America we make great products, and time and time again when we make great products the Chinese don’t let us sell them to China. They instead keep the product out, steal the technology, and then produce it themselves. Well it’s about time there’s a little fair play, a fair play. China, for years, sells products – likely with stolen IP - here in the United States cheaply while denying American businesses access to its markets. Reciprocity matters. A lot of people say to get China to negotiate, tariffs aren’t the way to go. I’ve made my views on that clear, but reciprocity is another way to go. China, you don’t let our best stuff in? We’re not letting yours in. Open up, play fair. Because if we don’t do something about China today, our economy will be second rate 10-15 years from now. And our children and grandchildren will suffer economically – make no mistake about it.

Telecommunications, especially 5G technology, are already a major focus of American innovation. We shouldn’t let Chinese companies worm in on the cheap and put American businesses at a disadvantage. The United States, with our allies, should lead the development of a safe, secure, and economically viable alternative to the 5G architecture of firms like Huawei, that are subject to infiltration by the Chinese government, which has showed no qualms about stealing everything of our intellectual property they can.

And I would say to our European, Japanese, Australian, and other allies: stick with us on this. It will benefit everybody – everybody.

China is our number one global economic competitor, and it’s about time they played fair. What was done yesterday with Huawei by Secretary Ross will help make that happen, and it’s a very good decision.