Schumer Floor Remarks on Urgency to Work on Legislative Priorities Before February 8th and the Republican Tax Bill

January 24, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the urgency to work on legislative priorities before the February 8th deadline and the Republican tax bill. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here

Mr. President, the government funding bill that passed on Monday left us all with three weeks to come to a resolution on legislation to protect the Dreamers.

At the same time, we must be working on legislation to improve American health care – I see the Senator from Washington state who has been so vigilant in that area - and a budget agreement that supports our military AND our middle class -- delivering long-awaited funds – we Democrats will insist on these - to fight the opioid epidemic, veterans’ health care, and pensions.

We should feel a sense of urgency about all of these issues and many more that we can make happen.

Leader McConnell’s promise to take up immigration on February the 8th should light a fire under everyone. The Republican leader and moderate Republicans bear a special responsibility to make sure these votes happen. And all of those out in the country who want to make sure that the Dreamers get treated fairly, should be focusing their attention on getting 60 votes on a resolution that is fair to the Dreamers.

The clock is ticking. If we don’t solve this problem in fourteen days, the Republicans are going to have to explain to dreamers what their plan is to prevent them from being deported.

Every Democrat – all forty-nine of us – supports DACA. Many of my Republican colleagues do as well. We can certainly find a bill that gets sixty votes here in the Senate, and that’s where our focus is. 

I hope people throughout the country, of both parties, of all political persuasions, business, labor, will join us like a laser in appealing to, imploring, more Republican Senators to join us so that we get 60 votes on a fair DACA bill. 

We cannot let those who are anti-immigrant, who call giving the Dreamers hope “amnesty,” block us. Because then we will fail, and it will be on the other side of the aisle that made that happen.  

Over the weekend, and I’m very glad about this, a bipartisan group of moderate Senators from both parties came together in a very inspiring way. Their efforts led to the agreement between the Majority Leader and me that an immigration bill will receive fair consideration in a few weeks, the first time we’ve ever had that guarantee.

But let me say: the same energy and spirit the bipartisan group put into forging a compromise this weekend ought to be committed to finding a bill on DACA that will pass this body with 60 votes. 

I support the bipartisan group. In fact, as some of our members here on the Democratic side had plans for it, I encouraged them to join it and form it. I’ve had very good conversations with both leaders – Senator Manchin, the Democrat, Senator Collins, the Republican – and what they are doing is very, very good for the body. 

Speaking as Democratic Leader, I encourage these kinds of groups to come forward. I remember the old Senate. I remember that individual Senators were involved in negotiating very important and very difficult issues. And it made the Senate a better place. It made the members feel more fulfilled, and it made our ability to get things done much, much more likely. 

The bipartisan working group will have to fill the void left by the President, who has proven an unreliable and ineffective negotiator over the course of this debate.

Our task is now very different from our task last week. The Senate must find consensus. For that reason, we need to start from a new place. My negotiations with the President shouldn’t dictate talks here on the Hill. That was then; this is now. What happened, it was a hope that last Friday, the President would have reached out and supported something that he wanted, to get something that we wanted, and he proclaimed to want too. Didn’t happen. So now the group has to start in a new way, with no preconceptions, and come together and find a bill that can garner 60 votes.

That’s a job for the Senators who came together so well in the last few days.

Protecting the Dreamers is our moral obligation. The Senate is in the spotlight. 

The eyes of the American people, who overwhelmingly sympathize with the Dreamers, 90%, a majority of Republicans, believe in these Dreamers. They don’t go for these calls of amnesty. These people have worked hard, they’ve been trying so hard to be Americans. They came across the border when they were little and now they are in our armed forces, they are in our factories, they are in our schools, they are in our offices. We need to get the job done. 

Finally, a word on the Republican tax bill.

Republicans promised that the massive corporate tax cut they passed would unleash unprecedented economic growth, raise wages and boost jobs. But already we have evidence that big corporations are not turning their new tax cut into jobs for the middle class.

· There was a lot of hoopla when AT&T said they’d have bonuses. You know what they did at the same time? AT&T announced plans to fire more than a thousand workers starting early this year, despite the tax cut.

· Macy’s announced that it would be cutting 5,000 jobs, despite the tax bill.

· Kimberly-Clark plans to cut up to 5,500 jobs and close or sell about 10 plants, saying the savings from the tax bill gave them the “flexibility” to make these reductions. Is President Trump going to claim credit for that one?

· Carrier, a company the president promised to save, continues to bleed jobs.

They are a metaphor. A lot of nice announcements, a lot of bits of glitz, but actually the condition of the American worker is not getting much better, and often many times worse. 

Meanwhile, what are most companies doing, so many of them, with these big tax breaks, these massive tax breaks they got? They are announcing stock buybacks. That benefits the CEO, raises their stocks.

· MasterCard has announced $4 billion.

· Bank of America has announced $5 billion, while also announcing it would start charging low-income customers for free checking.

· Pfizer announced a $10 billion buyback, while also announcing it would no longer research treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, resulting in 300 layoffs.

· Wells Fargo just announced $22 billion, while also announcing that it plans to close 800 branches by 2020.

· And there are many, many more. In fact, over $100 billion in stock buybacks since the Senate passed its tax bill. 

When the American people learn that some of them are not getting anything, some of them are getting raises, and the rest are getting crumbs, and big corporations and wealthy individuals are getting nice, fat pieces of pie, they’re going to be outraged. They are already. 

My friend the Majority Leader will not come to the floor and brag about the stock buybacks. He will, however, announce whenever a company gives its workers a bonus. Let’s hear both sides and let the American people judge. These bonuses are a good thing, but the truth is, these one-time bonuses are a drop in the bucket compared to what corporations could be doing for their workers.

Here’s a paragraph from yesterday’s New York Times: “Bank of America’s bonuses will cost the bank $145 million in 2018, or about 5 percent of the nearly $2.7 billion in savings it is expected to reap in 2018 from a lower, 21 percent corporate tax rate. Apple’s bonuses will cost $300 million, a fraction of the $40 billion, at least, that the tech giant is saving from a single provision in the law, which allows it to return earnings held overseas at less than half the rate it would have paid under the old system. And two days before Walmart snagged glowing headlines for handing out $400 million in bonuses and lifting its minimum wage at a cost of $300 million, the nation’s largest retailer by sales unveiled a plan to buy back company-issued debt. The cost of the buyback: $4 billion.” 

Minimum wage, they pay out $300 million. Stock buyback, $4 billion. 

Mr. President, I’m glad these workers are getting bonuses – they deserve them. But it seems that recently, these bonuses are token efforts to give corporate executives something to point to while they reap huge benefits for themselves and their shareholders. A recent CNBC survey found quote “cuts in corporate taxes haven't yet had a meaningful impact on American companies' plans to boost investment or raise workers' pay.” That’s CNBC. 

We could have imagined tax reform bill that was deficit neutral; that closed loopholes while lowering rates. That lowered corporate taxes but actually stipulated that that money be put into wage increases and new jobs, instead of what many companies are doing now – one-time bonuses and massive stock repurchasing programs.

Middle-class families have waited so long for better wages and more jobs. A tax bill properly constructed could have helped deliver them. Instead, Republicans squandered their once-in-a-generation opportunity on an extraordinary tax break for big corporations and the already-wealthy.

And we’re already seeing the consequences.