Schumer Floor Remarks Urging Senate Republicans To Put Country Over Party And Not Pre-Judge Results Of Impeachment Inquiry; The Threat To National Security Posed By President Trump’s Decision To Withdraw From Syria; The Need For Senate Republicans To Work With Democrats To Pass Bipartisan Appropriations Bills; And Protecting Hard-Earned Pensions For American WorkersOctober 16, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor urging Senate Republicans to fairly judge the findings of the impeachment inquiry; how President Trump’s reckless decisions regarding our Kurdish allies puts American lives in danger; the need for Senate Republicans to work with Democrats to pass bipartisan appropriations bills; and legislation that protects hard-earned pensions for workers. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here:
The House of Representatives continues to investigate the circumstances of the president’s interactions with Ukrainian President Zelensky, and whether he used the power of his public office to pressure a foreign leader to intervene in an American election on his behalf. The facts that are already in the public domain are so deeply troubling and must be taken very seriously. I know that our colleagues in the House of Representatives did not run for office to begin an impeachment inquiry, but this task was thrust upon them by the president’s alleged conduct and the demands of our constitution of our Republic.
Here in the Senate, our job is even more austere. We are assigned the power not only to examine the evidence but to render judgment. We all have a solemn duty to follow the facts impartially, and let ourselves be governed by reason rather than by passion or by politics. That role means we have a responsibility to behave impartially, in a nonpartisan manner, from the outset. As my friend Leader McConnell said during the 1998 impeachment debate, this is McConnell – “It’s been my view that I don’t, as a potential juror, if it’s serious enough to warrant a potential impeachment proceeding, I don’t think I ought to pre-judge the case.”
And yet, already, a few of my Senate Republican colleagues seem determined to turn this serious inquiry into another partisan exercise. My friend the Republican Leader, here on the floor yesterday, made the sadly predictable attack of calling the work of the majority in the House partisan. Another of my colleagues, Sen. Graham, said that he was trying to organize a letter of Senate Republicans promising they would not vote to convict the president—before the House even completes its inquiry, before any Articles of Impeachment are even drafted, let alone voted on, before a scrap of evidence was considered in a Senate trial, if that comes to it. Senator Graham seems to be advocating ‘Alice in Wonderland’ justice. First the verdict, then the trial. I hope he’ll rethink that.
Over the state work period, the Republican Leader ran an advertisement in which he declared “the way impeachment stops is with a Senate majority with me as Majority Leader.”
That is a far cry from what he said in 1998 “not pre-judging the case.”
We are several steps away from a potential trial in the Senate. The House continues to do its work diligently, even-handedly, with only the facts in mind. So I’d remind my Republican colleagues in this chamber that committing, today, to vote “not guilty” is contrary to their oath to “do impartial justice.” That’s their oath. Instead of pre-judging, I would remind my Republican colleagues in this body: you have a responsibility to put country over party. Our national security, the rule of law, democracy are at stake.
On Syria. We are witnessing, in real-time, the collapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Five years of hard fighting in Syria – first destabilize and then degrade ISIS has been potentially undone in one phone call. The president’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. forces has abandoned the field to our enemies, ISIS, Iran, Putin, and Bashar al-Assad, and it’s put our friends in danger, including two of the closest friends we have in the Middle East: the Syrian Kurds and Israel.
But I want to be very clear: the president’s decision poses a threat to our national security here in the United States. By green-lighting President Erdogan’s operation and abandoning the Syrian Kurds to face the onslaught on their own, the president has made an already fragile situation in northern Syria more dangerous and handed a get-out-of-jail-free card to potentially more than ten thousand ISIS fighters.
ISIS has threatened the United States and our allies repeatedly, taken Americans hostage, executed them, and will undoubtedly continue to threaten our security if they experience a resurgence. We New Yorkers know best, unfortunately, how a small group of fanatics half a world away can do incredible damage and kill thousands of Americans, here, on our soil. And now with ISIS prisoners escaping, unfortunately, the chances of that are increasing. Not just according to me but to an expert like General Mattis.
So make no mistake. The president’s incompetence has put American lives in danger.
Now, today, the House of Representatives will consider a resolution that condemns the president’s decision and demands that he reverse course. It should pass with bipartisan support and should be the first order of business for us here in the Senate – the first order of business.
Sanctions against Erdogan are fine and good. President Erdogan should be punished for his military adventurism and his aggression. But sanctions alone are insufficient.
And they’re particularly insufficient in regards to ISIS. Sanctions will not put ISIS fighters back on the run or back in their cell, they will not stop Iran and Putin’s growing influence in the region, nor will they undo America’s betrayal of our partners and allies.
Sanctions can be an effective tool, but they are not the only tool. Especially when the crisis, in this case, is of the president’s own making, the simplest and most effective remedy would be for the president to admit his mistake and correct course.
Now, appropriations. Earlier this summer, both houses of Congress and the White House arrived at a budget agreement that gave us a blueprint for funding the government. But in September, Republicans unilaterally walked away from our agreement and proposed taking $12 billion from domestic programs, including Head Start, HHS, and even the Pentagon, to fund the president’s border wall. That is a non-starter— there aren’t enough votes in this chamber to pass it.
As we look to get the appropriations process back on track, I was disappointed that Senate Republicans let the entire state work period pass by without responding to Democratic offers. Instead of spending that time negotiating with House Democrats on allocations, Senate Republicans have sat on their hands. And now we’re back in session this week at the same impasse: Republicans insisting on the same thing that they unsuccessfully shut down the government for last year—$12 billion for a border wall that President Trump promised Mexico would pay for.
If Senate Republicans don’t wise up and resume good faith negotiations with Democrats, I fear we are headed down the same road.
Finally, on pensions. For decades, millions of Americans labored in construction, and mining, and truck driving, and other industries with the promise of a secure retirement when they reach old age through their pension. But through no fault of their own—forces like the financial crisis, a dwindling labor force, and inaction on the part of the federal government—their pension plans are now at risk of becoming insolvent within a decade. This is an immediate problem. It’s going to destroy the security of millions of retirees, people who worked all their lives. They put money, a little bit of money that they could have spent and needed, but they put it in for their retirement hoping that the day they retire they wouldn’t become rich but at least they could live decently and now that may be vanished. Vanished!
Congress has the power to stop this problem dead in its tracks. Just two months ago, the House passed the Butch Lewis Act, which would provide immediate relief to “critical and declining” pension plans so that we keep our promise to our workers. Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans once again inexplicably have refused to take action on this bipartisan legislation, and Senate Republicans again blocked us from even debating it last night. So, in a short time, I will join with several colleagues, including Senators Brown, and Stabenow, and Manchin, and Murray, and Wyden to demand that Leader McConnell allow us a vote on legislation to protect these millions of workers and secure the retirements that they have earned.
President Trump often claims to be looking out for the American worker, but his policies set them further and further adrift. This one’s notorious. Retirement, it’s part of the American dream, part of the American way, a decent retirement. Well, here’s a chance for President Trump to actually defend American workers instead of hurting them. If President Trump is truly the champion of the American worker, he’ll prevail on our Republican colleagues to start working with Democrats to make sure, make sure, we protect the pensions that millions of families rely on for their security and have paid for.