Schumer Floor Remarks on Year-End Issues, the GOP Tax Bill, the Mueller Investigation, and the Republican Senate’s 2017 Record

December 21, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding year-end issues, the GOP tax bill, the Mueller investigation, and the Republican Senate’s 2017 record. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, on the year-end issues.

We are staring down a litany of unresolved issues and very quickly running out of time to solve them. Not only do we need to pass an extension of government funding, but as I’ve said many times, we must deal with the budget caps, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, community health centers, the 702 FISA program, the disaster supplemental and, of course, the Dreamers.

I believe we could have resolved all of these issues had my Republican colleagues, especially in the House, not put them on the back-burner while jamming through their tax bill.                                                   

It’s still unclear what the House is going to send us to keep the government open, and whether or not it will be acceptable to the Senate.

At the same time the House may move forward on an unacceptable disaster supplemental, which still does not treat fairly California, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It doesn’t include – as best we know, they are still working on it - cost-sharing waivers for Puerto Rico and additional funding for Medicaid, mitigation, resiliency, and drinking water infrastructure. While House Republicans included some tax provisions in the disaster supplemental, they failed to extend the EITC for Puerto Rico or expand the Child Care Tax Credit consistent with other states.

The tax bill also included a new business tax that treats Puerto Rico as if it is a foreign country, which could encourage manufacturers to leave the island. This tax could cost thousands of jobs and decimate Puerto Rico’s economy, at exactly the time when Puerto Rico is hurting from the hurricane and needs all the help it can get. Those things must be fixed before a disaster supplemental can move forward.

Because of these inadequacies in the bill, the disaster supplemental may slip to next year. I think we can work it out in a bipartisan way, I certainly do, but just jamming it through without consulting us and not being fair to so many other parts of the country doesn’t make sense.

Unfortunately, we still have not reached a deal yet on the Dreamers, who are very important, not only to my caucus, not only to some on the Republican side, but to the American people. They have overwhelming support. These are kids who were brought here very young, through no fault of their own. They learn in our schools, work at our companies, serve in our military, and pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in every single important way but one – their paperwork. This is an issue that we have a moral imperative to solve here in Congress. 

So Democrats want to make sure that we have equal bargaining, and we are not going to allow things like disaster relief go forward without discussing some of the other issues we care about, as I’ve mentioned. We have to solve all of these issues together, even if that means passing a clean, short-term CR extension of government funding with some anomalies – we understand there always have to be some anomalies, but not those that change the structure - and continuing the negotiations into January.

Now on tax. Earlier this week, the Senate passed one of the worst pieces of legislation in at least a decade, maybe longer. The Republican tax bill will go down in history as a rushed, sloppy, partisan bill that benefited those who already have so much, while doing little for or hurting those who have too little.

It will be remembered as throwing the extraordinary income inequality we see today into overdrive, and fulfilling very few of the ambitious Republican promises about growth and job creation and deficit reduction.

But perhaps most of all, the Republican tax bill will define the Republican Party in next year’s election as the party of the rich and powerful, against the middle class. And that will be a rubric we will hear from now until next November, and even further on.

Yesterday in the Oval Office, President Trump admitted that cutting the corporate tax rate was “probably the biggest factor in our plan.” Despite all his rhetoric about this being a middle-class tax bill, as soon as it passes, he admits that lowering the corporate rate was the Republicans’ primary goal.

As corporations get a massive, permanent tax break, individuals will get small and temporary ones.

By 2027, 145 million American families making under $200,000 – 83% of the middle class – will either be paying more in taxes or get a cut of less than $100. That’s according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, no partisan affiliation.

Meanwhile, the top 1% of income earners in our country will reap 83% of the benefits from this tax plan.

Those facts are what make this bill so dramatically unpopular with the American people – by a 2 to 1 margin in some polls.

And next year, the American people will have the opportunity to reject this bill and move our country in a very different direction.

Finally, on Special Prosecutor Mueller. I want to spend a moment in praise of my friend from Virginia, Senator Mark Warner, Vice Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for his speech yesterday about Special Counsel Mueller. It was an eloquent speech and I would like to associate myself with the substance of his remarks.

If President Trump were to fire Special Counsel Mueller, our country would face a constitutional crisis. As my colleague from Virginia said, it would cross a red line. Additionally, there are steps below that brash and brazen act that would also cross red lines here in Congress, as Senator Warner noted, including the use of the Presidential pardon on members of the Trump campaign who have been convicted – whether those pardons are intended to subvert the investigation or prevent testimony and further cooperation. So I say to my colleagues, just as firing Special Prosecutor Mueller would cross a red line, so would pardoning people like Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn.

The bottom line is: President Trump must allow this investigation to proceed without a scintilla of interference. He would be wise to listen to Senator Warner’s speech yesterday, and act accordingly.

Finally, Mr. President, as this may be the last time I will be able to address this chamber before the end of the year, I’d like to look back at what the Senate has accomplished this year.                          

The long and short of it is, the Senate has not accomplished much of anything to be proud of.

Despite winning only a slim majority in the last election, a condition that made this year ripe for cooperation between our parties, the Republicans have used their power not to seek consensus or bipartisanship, but rather to try to jam through their partisan agenda.

My friend the Majority Leader once promised that if he were ever given the majority, he would return the body to regular order. He cautioned against the Senate becoming an “assembly line for one party’s partisan legislative agenda.” That’s what Sen. McConnell said a few years ago. Sadly, that’s exactly what the Senate has become under his leadership this year. For a man who has professed to love the Senate and relish bipartisanship, this is probably the most partisan Senate that I have served in in all the years I have been here. And we’ve departed from the regular order and the customs of the Senate in ways never seen before.

And to what end?

This chamber, under Republican leadership, has devoted itself to furthering the interests of the wealthy and powerful, while ignoring or harming the interests of the middle class and working America.

Republicans will argue that they had a great year, pointing to three things: Judge Gorsuch, their use of the Congressional Review Act to roll back regulations, and their tax bill. All three of those things will help the rich. They’ll help corporations. But they won’t help the middle class.

Senate Republicans engaged in historic obstruction to keep a Supreme Court seat open so that the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society could hand pick a judge that would rule on the side of corporations instead of people.

Senate Republicans jammed through Congressional Review Act bills that rolled back protections for women, students, and workers, while lifting requirements placed on bad actors in the big oil, gas, mining, and gun industries.

And they capped the year by passing a tax bill that provides huge tax breaks for the rich and biggest corporations, while providing crumbs and even tax hikes for the middle class.

They tried for months to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would send costs soaring for millions of Americans and cause millions more to lose coverage.

They’ve failed to fully reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They’ve failed to rebuild our infrastructure, despite the President’s promise. The stock market is up, but wages are flat, nearly flat. The President and Republicans promised that they’d stop outsourcing, but that hasn’t happened. Even companies the President said he’d personally save have sent jobs to Mexico, leaving families in the Midwest and across the country without the income they need this holiday season.

Time and time again, the middle class was an afterthought or simply forgotten by Senate Republicans and President Trump. That’s been the story of this year. Republicans haven’t accomplished much, but what they have accomplished has only benefitted the wealthy and well-connected.

The Senate’s record this year has exposed the faux populism at the center of President Trump’s political identity. Though he rode into office promising to help the forgotten man and woman, those are exactly the people he’s forgotten, abandoning them in favor of wealthy, special interests. Populism, unfortunately under President Trump, has been traded for plutocracy.

The millions of Americans in 2016 who were frustrated at a Washington that didn’t work for them must feel even more frustrated today; and the millions of working men and women who voted for President Trump must feel betrayed.

We hope the future will be different and our Republican friends realize that their legislative and political goals are better served by bipartisanship and compromise, rather than gridlock and strife. If they do, we’re ready and willing to work with them.

But if they don’t, voters will have a chance to move our country in a dramatically different direction in 2018. We’re already seeing a yearning for that new direction in elections in Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee and even in deep-red Alabama.                                                           

If Republicans continue to hurt the middle class and give handouts to big corporations and the wealthy, then they’re in for a reckoning next November.