Schumer Floor Remarks on the Year-End Congressional Agenda, the GOP Tax Plan and the Directorship of the CFPB

November 27, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the year-end Congressional  agenda, Senate Republicans’ tax plan and the procedure for choosing an acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, I welcome you, the Senator from Texas, and all of my colleagues back after the Thanksgiving break. I had my parents, 94 and 89, at our Thanksgiving dinner with all their children and grandchildren and cousins and this’s and that’s. So I had a lot to be thankful for, I’m blessed to have my mom and dad see their whole family and be so happy about it. We have a lot of work to do before the end of the year and precious little time to do it.

Funding for the government expires a week from this Friday. 800,000 Dreamers are waiting to hear whether they can live and work in the only country they’ve ever known. Almost 9 million children are waiting for us to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program and millions more are waiting for us to restore funding for community health centers, the most cost-effective and often times only healthcare lots of people can get. We need to fund the cost-sharing program that holds down premiums and out-of-pocket costs for low-income Americans because the Administration refuses to do so. Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are desperately in need of additional aid to recover from recent natural disasters. And the debt ceiling must be raised again in short order.

We need to come to agreements on all of these issues, and quickly.

To that end, the four leaders will meet with the President tomorrow. Hopefully, we can make progress on an agreement that covers those time-sensitive issues and keeps the government running and working for the American people.

We could be working on all these issues in the Senate this week, but instead, the majority is pursuing a partisan tax bill at a breakneck pace.

Since the Republicans released their first draft of a tax bill a few weeks ago, we’ve had one week of markup in the Senate Finance Committee during which the bill shapeshifted on several occasions.

Aside from the testimony of one representative from the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Senate hasn’t heard from any expert witnesses in a hearing room. Can you believe that? A major tax bill in front of the American people, changing lives dramatically, and no expert witnesses except the JCT gentleman. Still, the bill may change drastically again on the floor of the Senate, with little time for Senators of either party to grapple with the consequences.

The Republicans are moving so fast the JCT will not have time to produce a full analysis of the economic impact of the bill until after the bill is voted on. Is that backwards or what?

The Republican tax bill will affect every taxpayer and business in America, and my colleagues won’t know many of its impacts before they vote on it.

Two things about this bill, however, seem certain: first, it will raise taxes on millions of middle-class families in every state of the union and second, it will explode the deficit.

Every independent analysis of the Senate tax bill shows that millions of families making under $200,000 a year will eventually pay more, not less, in taxes under the Republican plan. The most recent Tax Policy Center analysis showed that about 60 percent of middle-class families, those making between $28,000-$155,000, would see a tax increase at the end of the day. Most middle-class families by the time the 10-year window is up will see a tax increase, 60% according to the Tax Policy Center.

Meanwhile, while middle-class people are struggling – they either get a small decrease in taxes or an increase - folks making over $1 million a year will get an average tax cut of over $40,000, more than many Americans make in a whole year.                                               

The tax breaks for individuals all expire; the tax breaks for massive corporations are permanent. Because the individual mandate is repealed, the tax bill would cause 13 million fewer Americans to have health insurance; meanwhile, couples with estates worth over $11 million get a tax break.

This bill is terrible for the country. It is a massive transfer of wealth to the already-wealthy. It would exacerbate inequality and set the middle class back at the worst possible time.

At the same time, it would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion…at the very least. Some of my Republican friends are saying that future Congresses will extend the middle-class tax breaks that are now set to expire. Well, that would increase the deficit even more significantly. You can’t have it both ways. Either the bill socks it to the middle class, or it blows a giant hole in the deficit. A Scylla and Charybdis no one wants either. The tax bill gives you that awful choice.

Some of my Republican friends say that the tax bill will unleash such economic growth that the tax cuts will pay for themselves and the deficit will evaporate. It’s curious to me that those same Republicans are rushing their bill through so fast that JCT won’t have time to assess its economic impact. Of course, they are afraid of what it will say. They know it is going to say nothing close to what our Republican optimists are predicting. According to a former JCT economist, “there is good reason to expect that the estimate of current legislation will show less-than-flattering growth effects.” So you have to wonder, are the Republicans afraid that the experts will find that the Republican promises of economic growth are pure fantasy? It sure seems that way.

The majority shouldn’t be ramming through such an ill-conceived, backward bill -- breaking all of the traditions of this body, busting the deficit, hurting millions of middle-class families -- when there is so much potential agreement between our two parties on tax reform. We could come up with a good, bipartisan bill. Not through reconciliation, through regular order, and we would all be the prouder for it.

We want to lower middle-class taxes. We want to reduce the burden on small businesses and encourage companies to locate jobs here instead of shipping them overseas. And we want to do those things in a deficit-neutral way. Those thoughts probably have a majority on each side of the aisle. It’s a shame that the Republican leadership has chosen reconciliation, which means no regular order, no hearings, no sunlight, and no Democratic input into the bill.

We could put together a bill that does all of those things. This bill doesn’t.

If Republicans turn their backs on this deeply flawed approach, and I plead with the handful who haven’t committed yet, we can work together on bipartisan tax reform that delivers real relief for everyone in the middle class.

Finally, on the matter of the directorship of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

There should be no dispute about who is the Acting Director of the agency. The process for succession laid out in Dodd-Frank is clear: Leandra English, not Mick Mulvaney, is the acting director of the CFPB.

Let me underscore that point: I was involved when Dodd-Frank was written. Congress intentionally established a clear line of succession for the CFPB when we wrote the Dodd-Frank Act, separate and apart from the Federal Vacancies Act. I remember; I was there.

The language in question wasn’t a part of the House version of Dodd-Frank, but we included it in the Senate version for an explicit purpose: we wanted the CFPB to be an independent agency, free from the political considerations of the White House. Free of the influence of lobbyists who we knew would not like that consumers are finally protected in the financial area. We wanted a watchdog whose only job was to look out for consumers. That was the whole structure of the bill, that’s why it has such a unique structure. To shield it from an administration, whoever it would be, that would be influenced by lobbyists.

That’s why we expressly stipulated that if the Director wasn’t available, the Acting Director shall be the highest-ranking member of the CFPB, not whoever the White House believes is in their best political interest. By attempting to install Mr. Mulvaney as director, the Trump administration is ignoring the established, proper, legal order of succession that we purposefully put in place, in order to put a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Mr. Mulvaney has throughout his career criticized the mission and purpose of the CFPB. The man the President chose to be the Director of the agency called it a “sick, sad joke.” He clearly does not believe in the agency. He would prefer it didn’t even exist. That’s not speculation; those are Mick Mulvaney’s own words. In 2015, Mr. Mulvaney said, “I don’t like the fact that the CFPB exists.” The only reason the Trump Administration would put Mr. Mulvaney forward for this position would be so that he can rot the agency from the inside.                                       

It is part of a clear pattern in the Trump Administration. Rather than trying to scrap agencies the Administration doesn’t like – a tactic that would never fly with Congress or the American people, who know how important these agencies are – the Administration puts in charge people who will undermine them.

To head the Environmental Protection Agency, the Trump Administration selected an industry advocate who is against just about every advance in the Clean Air and Clean Water Act. To head the Department of Energy, the Trump Administration nominated someone who called for its abolishment. To head the Ex-Im Bank, which helps exports throughout this country and new jobs, the Trump Administration nominated someone who called for it to be disbanded.

Mr. Mulvaney is only the latest in a long line of Trojan-Horse candidates selected by this White House to undermine federal agencies from within.

The CFPB should be led by someone who believes in its mission; someone who is committed to working around the clock on behalf of consumers, not by a part-time director who clearly disdains this agency.

President Trump must nominate a permanent director and eventually that person will take charge of the agency if confirmed. Whoever is nominated must have a demonstrated record of standing up on behalf of consumers. Former Director Cordray and Leandra English fit that mold, Mick Mulvaney does not.

And for the interim, the law established under Dodd-Frank dictates that Ms. English is the acting director of the CFPB. The White House should abandon any efforts to circumvent that succession process.