Schumer Floor Remarks On The Widespread Suffering Caused By The Trump Shutdown And The Upcoming Senate Vote On House-Passed Legislation To Reopen The Government

January 24, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the widespread suffering caused by the Trump Shutdown and the upcoming Senate vote on House-passed legislation to reopen the government. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now President Trump has now kept the government shut down for thirty-four days, and the pain inflicted on the American people and its government getting deeper and deeper every day.
Our economy is suffering. First quarter GDP is in the tank and consumer confidence is falling.
Our national security is suffering. FBI agents attest that criminal and anti-terrorism investigations are severely constrained. Border patrol, TSA, and hundreds of thousands of homeland security personnel are working under limitations. These people are all part of our security. President Trump keeps saying “we need the wall for security” – most people disagree with that. But even if you didn’t, it’s going to not be built for years. Our security is suffering today because of the Trump shutdown. It’s so bad, listen to this: five former DHS Secretaries wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to end the shutdown without the wall, including his former Chief of Staff John Kelly, a loyal solider if there ever was one. But Mr. Kelly knew, and they all knew, that this shutting down the government for the president’s wall, which most American’s don’t believe we should build, is wrong. The president’s former Chief of Staff is telling President Trump that his position on the shutdown is wrong, that his position on the shutdown is a threat to national security. I would argue far more than not building a huge, ineffective wall.
Yesterday, a joint statement from the air traffic controllers, pilots and flight attendants union issued a dire warning. It said: “In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the system will break.” President Trump, you care about security? You’ll open the government now. You’re the only one standing in the way. Because, we know, most of our Republican colleagues want the government opened up. They are, in a positive way, loyal to you. In a negative way, afraid to buck you. But they all know it, everyone knows it.
And, of course, 800,000 federal workers are on the cusp of missing their second paycheck, a month’s share of pay. Some require the assistance of food banks to get by. That is so disheartening. Hard working people who just want to help their families, have a decent life, have to go to a food bank. They did nothing wrong. President Trump is using them as hostages. And here is how callous this administration is: When asked about that fact this morning, the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a billionaire, said, “I know they are - ‘he’s talking about federal workers.’ I know they are going to food banks and I don’t really understand why.” His quote exactly is: “I know they are and I don’t really quite understand why.” He was arguing that it’s easy for furloughed workers to get a loan.
Those comments are appalling, and reveal the administration’s callous indifference towards the federal workers it’s treating as pawns. Secretary Ross’ comments are the 21st century equivalent of “let them eat cake.”
Many of these federal employees live paycheck to paycheck. Secretary Ross: they can’t just call their stock broker and ask them to sell some of their shares. They need that pay check.
We need to end this shutdown now. There’s only one way to do it. And this afternoon, for the first time since President Trump shut the government down in December, the Senate will have a chance to vote on a bill to reopen the government. Now Leader McConnell says that President Trump’s bill is the only way to open up the government – bull. He claims our bill won’t pass because President Trump won’t sign it. Has he ever heard of a veto override? Has he ever heard of Article I? But the bill that President Trump has put together can’t pass the House and can’t pass the Senate, so it has no change of passing. So for Leader McConnell to say that the only bill that has a chance of opening up the government is President Trump’s bill – where he puts in a $5.7 billion wall, undoes much of the asylum provisions, and is broadly unpopular – is false. It’s just wrong.
The two bills that are on the floor are not equivalent votes. My friends on the other side, and some in the media who are being lazy, call the two votes “dueling proposals,” as if there is one Republican proposal and one Democratic proposal and they’re sort of equal. It’s just not true.
The president’s plan demands 100% of what the president wants – 5.7 billion for a border wall plus radical new changes to our asylum laws – before reopening the government. For the Republican Leader to call this a “compromise” is laughable. No Democratic sign off. Not from me, not from Senator Durbin, not from any other Democrat. It’s a harshly partisan proposal that essentially codifies the president’s position that government funding is a bargaining chip. A vote for the president’s plan is an endorsement of government by extortion. If we let him do it today, he’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. The whole structure of our government will change and the chaos we now see will be magnified.
Even some of my Republican friends have admitted the president’s plan is not a serious offer. A few days ago, my friend from Oklahoma called it a “straw man proposal.” I think that says it all. The President’s plan is a “straw man” – not a serious offer, merely a way to save face.
The second vote is the opposite. It demands nothing before we reopen the government. Nothing. No partisan demands. Not things we want or we’ll shut down the government. We don’t do that. Only President Trump does that, and our Republican colleagues go along. Our proposal allows us to reopen the government and then – then, after government is open – settle our differences over border security. I know it’s not partisan because every single Republican supported the same basic idea just one month ago when we voted on it. And when President Trump changed his mind and said “no” everyone sort of did a 180-degree reversal, including my friend, the Republican Leader. He knows it.
So the two votes are not the same. They are not flip sides of the same coin. The first vote is harshly partisan and one-sided, the second vote seeks to be down the middle and reopen government and has received overwhelming support from both sides before President Trump said he wouldn’t do it.
Calling the two votes equivalent is not an attempt just to simplify but to mislead. Nonetheless, in a few hours, we’ll take these two votes. The Senate will have a chance to say no to the president’s hostage-taking. And then the Senate will have a chance to send a clear message that Congress is ready to reopen the government.
To my Republican colleagues, even if you’re for the wall, all of those who have said, “I may be for the wall but I want to keep the government open,” have a chance to do it on the second vote. Let’s see how they vote.
Throughout this debacle, I have not heard one good reason why 800,000 federal employees must be held hostage for us to discuss border security. Democrats are happy to discuss border security under regular order with the government open. We support stronger border security. President Trump believes the best way to do that is an expensive and ineffective wall. We disagree sharply over that – but there’s no reason we can’t negotiate and figure it out.
What we cannot allow is the president to hijack our government and hold it hostage every time we disagree over policy – which he will do if he wins this time.
The votes this afternoon are about more than just this shutdown, they’re about how we govern in a democracy. We’re allowed to come here and disagree over policy. In fact, our system of government was designed to allow for progress despite our large and sometimes raucous differences. But when one side, in this case the president, throws a temper tantrum and uses the basic functioning of our government as leverage in a policy argument, our system of government breaks down.
If every president decided to shut down the government when they didn’t get a policy from Congress, America would careen from crisis to crisis, an endless spiral of gridlock and dysfunction.
So the votes this afternoon are not about border security. These votes are about ending a manufactured crisis, a self-inflicted wound that is bleeding our country out a little more each day. And I hope – I pray – the Senate rises to the occasion.