Schumer: Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans Must Take Action to End the Trump Shutdown

January 4, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the convening of the new Congress amid a Trump Shutdown:

Now, first, Mr. President allow me to welcome all of the new members who were just sworn in for the first time as U.S. Senators, as well as my friends who were re-elected to this body. We are entrusted with an awesome responsibility: to conduct the vital business of this country we all love. We come at it from many different perspectives and backgrounds and geographies, but the hope is that we can come together and get some good things done. I hope that in this New Year and throughout this new Congress, the Senate will prove itself worthy of that responsibility, and faithfully discharge our duties: to our states, our country, the constitution, and of course, the well-being of the American people.

But, now sadly, Mr. President, as I address you, this new Congress under the shadow of a government shutdown. Only one person is to blame for this predicament: President Trump.

Democrats made several offers to the president that would have kept the government open over the holiday break. We even agreed to Leader McConnell’s proposal to pass a clean continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown, and it passed the Senate unanimously. Every single Democrat, every single Republican was for it. All indications were that President Trump would sign it. But then, hounded by the far right, particularly radio and TV commentators, President Trump threw a temper tantrum at the 11th hour and demanded more than $5 billion for an ineffective border wall – knowing full well that it lacked the votes in the Senate.

After publicly rooting for a government shutdown for months, President Trump finally got his wish. Now, nine cabinet departments, dozens of other agencies are shut down, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are doing their jobs without pay. Food safety inspectors are running out of resources. The federal courts are running out of money. National Parks are suffering. In a few short months, the IRS won’t be able to issue tax refunds. So vital to so many families.

So, yesterday, the president invited the congressional leaders to the White House. Speaker-Designate Pelosi and I sought to have a sensible discussion about how to re-open the government.

We proposed two bills that separated the wall fight from the government shutdown. Let me repeat that. The two bills we proposed separate the wall fight from the government shutdown, you don’t have to have one, even if you can’t resolve the other. First, a six-bill minibus to provide appropriations for every cabinet department except for Homeland Security. And second, a thirty-day continuing resolution for Homeland Security. The six bills are not Democratic bills as I heard some of the right wing commentators say. The six bills are the same bills that Republicans, including Leader McConnell, supported in the Senate Appropriations committee. The CR passed unanimously through the Senate last year. And four of the six bills came to the floor and passed the Senate ninety-two to six. The vast majority of Democrats and Republicans were for them. So, these are not Democratic bills, they were crafted, in a bipartisan way by a Republican controlled Senate appropriations committee and a Republican controlled Senate.

If these bills passed, they would allow us to continue discussions on border security without leaving large portions of the government shut down.

Now, we obviously disagree about the best way to secure the border. We believe the wall is wrong on many counts. The wall is ineffective – most experts agree with that. The wall is expensive.

The wall was promised by President Trump, he says it’s a campaign pledge he must keep. That was not his campaign pledge. His campaign pledge was to build the wall and have Mexico pay for it, not American taxpayers. So it’s not a campaign pledge.

The president has no plan to deal with eminent domain. There are hundreds of land owners on the Southern border who will go to court and fight every attempt by the federal government to expropriate their land. That will take years.

And, by the way, the Trump Administration has not even spent the border security funding allocated by Congress last year. So the wall is wrong. It’s ineffective, it’s expensive, Mexico doesn’t pay for it, has no plan to deal with eminent domain, and they haven’t even spent the border security funding allocated last year.

And one more point, the symbolism of the wall is bad for the country, for our economy, for our security, and for our ability to get along in the world. So many Americans do not want the wall to be a symbol of America, much preferring the Statue of Liberty to be that symbol. So Democrats certainly support strong, effective border security –drones, technology, roads, what the experts say actually works -- not a wall. We totally disagree on that.

But even with that disagreement, Mr. President, I repeat, there is no reason to keep unrelated parts of the government shut down because of those disagreements. If Leader McConnell tonight would put the bill that’s passing the House on the floor, it would pass. After all, it’s drafted by Republicans, especially those on the Appropriations Committee. So they’re not opposed to it.

On multiple occasions yesterday at our meeting, I asked the president to give me one good reason why he should keep large portions of the government shut down while we have a separate debate about the border. He couldn’t name one. He kept coming back and talking about the border. I said, “No, Mr. President, these six bills have nothing to do with the border. Why can’t we pass them? Why must we hold millions of Americans who depend on the services of these agencies that are closed?” Hundreds of thousands of workers get paid by these agencies. Why must we hold them hostage? Why must a temper tantrum determine how we vote and what happens in this government?

Everyone can shut down the government on anything – any leader, any President – it’s not the way to do things. And so the President couldn’t name a single reason that made any sense about why he should keep the other agencies closed – not Homeland Security, but the others.  And that is the best indication of why there’s a shutdown. President Trump is holding the government hostage over his wall. President Trump is holding the government hostage over his wall, using the well-being of millions of Americans as hostage in a futile attempt to get what he wants: a concrete border wall.

So where do we go from here?

Well, we have a new Congress. Several new Senators were just sworn in. The House of Representatives, of course, will change control and Democrats will seat a healthy majority. The new House majority is poised tonight to pass the two bills we offered the president. Senate Republicans, Leader McConnell ought to take it up here on the floor of the Senate.

Let me be clear about a few points: The six-bill minibus is completely silent on the issue of border security. It would solely fund the eight cabinet departments not named “Homeland Security” at levels agreed to by both parties, and signed off on by the overwhelming majority of Republicans on both the Appropriations Committee and in the Senate.

There is absolutely nothing in those six bills that my Republican friends oppose. Let me repeat that: there is nothing in those six bills that Senate Republicans oppose. All but six voted for the four of them that came to the floor and every single Republican on the appropriations, including leader McConnell, voted for them in the appropriations committee. 

So when Leader McConnell calls this some Democratic proposals he’s absolutely wrong. Leader McConnell, you voted for it. Leader McConnell, you supported it on both the floor and in the appropriations Committee. It is not a Democratic proposal. In fact, the House Democrats went out of their way to pass a proposal that Republicans supported. And, Sens. Graham, Sen. Moran, Sen. Lankford, Sen. Murkowski voted for those bills as chairs of their appropriations sub committees – they put them together.

So, even if there are disagreements about border security, why not pass the six, noncontroversial, bipartisan bills? That is the question I will ask every single one of my Republican colleagues. That is the question the American people are asking every one of my Republican colleagues. And above all, they’re asking that of President Trump. What is the rationale for keeping eight cabinet departments shuttered for an unrelated dispute over the wall? There is none. We can continue to debate the best way to secure our border. We have disagreements on those. But let us re-open these cabinet departments and ensure hundreds of thousands of federal workers receive their paychecks, and even more importantly these departments get back to work for the American people.

As I mentioned, the House will also pass a thirty-day continuing resolution for the Department of Homeland Security. Again, there is nothing in that bill that Senate Republicans don’t support – the Senate passed it unanimously before Christmas break. The only thing that’s changed between now and then is that we will have a House Speaker who will pass that bill as well.