Schumer Floor Remarks Urging Immediate Passage Of The Bipartisan Budget Caps Agreement, Election Security Legislation, And Temporary Protected Status For Venezuelans Residing In The U.S.

July 30, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor urging the immediate passage of  the bipartisan budget caps agreement, election security legislation, and Temporary Protected Status for Venezuelans residing in the U.S. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here. 

Now Madame President, the Senate has just a few more days this week to pass legislation to lift the budget caps and extend the debt ceiling before the summer state work period. As the minority leader, I don’t have control over the schedule here on the floor, much to my dismay. So I am left to ask my friend the Majority Leader, who does control the floor schedule, why don’t we vote on the caps deal today?

The four congressional leaders and the White House reached an agreement two weeks ago. The president supports it. The House has already passed it. Secretary Mnuchin has said we needed this legislation urgently, before the state work period, because he can’t guarantee we won’t hit the debt ceiling before Congress reconvenes. The majority leader spoke about the importance of moving a budget agreement back in mid-May. Now the clock is ticking.

So I’d like to make clear to the leader and all of my friends on the other side of the aisle, as well as all Americans: Democrats are ready to vote on the House bill today so it can get to the president’s desk and we can avoid even a glimmer of default.

On another matter. Last week, former Special Counsel Mueller testified that Russian interference in our democracy “wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it in the next campaign.” The Russians, he said, interfered in the last election and are trying to interfere again. 

“Much more needs to be done,” said Mueller, “in order to protect against these intrusions, not just by the Russians but by others as well.” 

And it was not just Mueller who said these things or agreed with these ideas and sentiments. FBI Director Wray—appointed by President Trump—has shared similar sentiments. Departing DNI Director Coats—lifelong Republican, former member of this body, well respected by all, and appointed by President Trump—has repeatedly warned about the threat posed by Russia. The Senate Intelligence Committee—chaired by a Republican, Senator Burr —did the same. 

It is with these facts as the backdrop—the testimony of prominent Republicans, allies of President Trump, friends and allies of our colleagues here—that Democrats have been pushing for election security. So far, to little avail.

Leader McConnell and the Republican majority have not allowed a single election security bill to reach the floor of the Senate; we haven’t had a single bill open for amendment all year.

So last week, understandably frustrated at the lack of progress, Democrats asked unanimous consent to pass House legislation to safeguard our elections. Leader McConnell blocked that request, saying yesterday: “I’m not going to let Democrats and their water carriers in the media use Russia’s attack on our democracy as a Trojan horse for partisan wish-list of items.” 

“Partisan wish-list of items…” Really? What are these items on our partisan wish-list you might ask?

Using paper ballots, that’s partisan? Using paper ballots: a widely agreed-upon as a reform to protect our elections from manipulation. Does Leader McConnell object to paper ballots? Does Leader McConnell believe paper ballots are “partisan”? They’re part of our elections, whoever wins. 

How about this one? We wanted post-election audits to make sure the Russians or any other foreign power didn’t interfere. Does Leader McConnell object to auditing our elections to make sure the outcomes are accurate? Are election audits “partisan”?

Making sure states and localities have adequate resources to update and maintain election infrastructure. Does Leader McConnell oppose that? When 21 Attorney’s General have said that they do not have enough money now to guard their election processes and regimes from manipulation by Russia or others.?

So, that’s our “partisan wish-list.” Paper ballots, election audits, money to protect us from the Russians. If Leader McConnell opposes those policies, fine, but let him say so. Protecting our election from Russian interference is not a Democratic issue, not a Republican issue, or an independent issue. It’s not a liberal issue. It’s not a conservative issue. It’s not a moderate issue. It’s an issue that goes to the wellspring of our democracy. Something the Founding Fathers warned about. Foreign interference—James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin—all were worried about foreign interference in our elections. And now, Leader McConnell calls that “partisan” to worry about it. Please. 

If Leader McConnell wants to debate other legislation—legislation like the FIRE Act or the Duty to Report Act or the Prevention of Foreign Interference with the Elections Act, bring it on, let’s do it! If Leader McConnell wants to address election security in the appropriations process, we’d welcome his support on an amendment to send more funding to the states.

We want to get something done on election security because this is not—is not—about party. This is a matter of national security. This is about the sanctity of elections, something Americans have died for generations. It’s not partisan at all. It’s the wellspring of our democracy. But so long as the Senate Republicans prevent legislation from reaching the floor; so long as they oppose additional appropriations to the states; so long as they malign election security provisions as “partisan wish lists,” the critics are right to say Leader McConnell and Republican Senators are blocking election security. Because at the moment that’s true.

One last subject: after I conclude my remarks, I will yield to my friend, colleague, former roommate from Illinois, who will ask this body to take up and pass what I believe is a very important measure: temporary protected status for Venezuelans currently residing in the United States. Last week, the House passed bipartisan legislation that would grant these protections—a lifeline to families who are facing a forced return to unstable and dangerous situations in their country. 

Few nations outside wartime have endured the economic, humanitarian, and political devastation that Venezuela endures today. Hospitals and pharmacies lack basic medicines; the rate of violent crime has risen sharply; 300,000 children are at risk of dying from malnutrition. Venezuela clearly meets the standard for temporary protected status. The situation is too dire, too dangerous for Venezuelan nationals to return to the country. So I am glad the House has taken action to pass these temporary protections on a bipartisan basis, and the Senate should do the following.

The President could have acted on his own to help Venezuelans living in America, but he has repeatedly denied congressional requests to extend TPS relief for them during this critical time of transition from the despotic regime of Nicolas Maduro. President Trump’s inaction has compelled Congress to act. 

So I salute my friend Senator Durbin as well as Senator Menendez, our two leaders on this issue, as they ask the Senate to take up the House-passed TPS Bill. I hope, earnestly, that our friends on the other side will let it go through.

###