Schumer Floor Remarks on Unresolved Legislative Issues to Address Before January 19th and the Russia Investigation

January 11, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the unresolved legislative issues to address before the January 19th deadline and the Russia investigation. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, we are inching ever closer to the government spending deadline of January 19th, when we will also have to address a host of other unresolved issues.

We must lift the spending caps, equally for defense and other domestic priorities like opioids, veterans, pensions.

We must pass an aid package to give relief to disaster-stricken areas of our country.

We must pass a health care package that extends CHIP, Children’s Health Insurance and community health centers. Just this week the CBO projected that CHIP would actually save the government money if it’s extended for ten years. We could ensure kids continue to get quality health insurance for longer and save the government money if we extend CHIP for ten years. That’s a no-brainer.

And of course, we must settle the fate of the Dreamers. 

A deal to pass DACA protections alongside a package of border security measures is finally within reach. As the immigration meeting at the White House showed, almost everyone in this body is interested in passing DACA protections into law. Democrats are interested in effective, practical border security measures. We want what secures the border the most, not what sounds the best, not what was a political slogan in a campaign, but what actually protects our border as drugs flow in other things come across. We are working as hard as we can to find an agreement that both sides can live with.

The only folks who didn’t get the memo were some House Republicans, who continue to push hardline immigration bills that are outside the scope of the negotiations. I’m referring to Rep. Goodlatte’s proposal, which is entirely counterproductive and completely unacceptable. If Speaker Ryan is going to listen to the hard right in the House and coalesce behind Rep. Goodlatte’s proposal on DACA, then we’ll have no deal. Let the American people hear that. If Speaker Ryan is unable to resist Rep. Goodlatte’s proposal—he’s never been for DREAM to begin with, we will have no deal.

If Speaker Ryan bends to the hard right faction of his caucus, which is way far away from what most Americans think, the hard right doesn’t like dreamers, 70 percent of Americans do.  And if they ask for immigration measures outside the scope of our negotiations, then so will we. Deal with chain migration outside of the scope of dreamers, let’s deal with the 11 million who need a path to citizenship. A tough but fair path. We can play that game too. We can go beyond the confines of this deal, which has been dreamers and border security. And then the whole thing won’t happen. There’s people on my side who aren’t going to want to make any compromises, I know that. There are people on both sides who won’t want to make any compromises. As responsible leaders we have to come to an agreement and we can’t make everybody happy. That’s why we have a House and a Senate. That’s why we have legislatures.

But the whole reason we narrowed the scope of our negotiations is so that we could accomplish something for the dreamers, rather than re-litigating comprehensive immigration reform in such a compressed time frame. Now this body passed a very fine bill in my opinion, it was really tough on the border, it was tough on benefits, it was tough on a path to citizenship. For the first time for instance, green card holders had to learn English. That was in our bill. It passed this body, led by Senator McCain and myself and the gang of eight, 68-32. The House didn’t dare take it up for the same reason they seem to have trouble today. The hard right said no immigration reform. And we’re stuck and that hurts everybody. I’m sure my good friend is hearing from farmers in his state, as I hear from farmers in mine and business people. We have to tighten up our borders. We have to make sure that we have a rational system of immigration. We can‘t assure that every person wants to come here, comes here. We all agree with that, but that’s for comprehensive immigration reform because we also believe that the 11 million here should be given a difficult, but fair path to citizenship. We can’t start litigating all of that and some people say including my friends on the other side of the aisle, “oh I have to have this provision outside DACA and border security.” They’re hurting the cause of getting something done.

If we can reach an agreement by the end of this week or over the weekend, we can pass it into law as part of a global deal on the budget by next Friday. I believe that is still the best way to resolve the issue and I’m hopeful, hopeful, hopeful, that we can get this done.

Any later than that, and we won’t have enough time to do it by the 19th and let me assure my colleagues, except the majority leader in good faith, the Speaker in good faith, oh their intention is to put a bill on the floor in February or March. We’ve heard that before and it never happens. So we feel as we feel passionately that we should get this done, both tightening the border and help the dreamers, that we’ve got to do it as part of a must-pass bill and that must pass bill is this global spending deal.                       

Now, a word on the Russia investigation. Over the past weeks, several events have shaken my confidence that our Republicans colleagues are committed to an independent investigation in Congress and at the FBI.

A right-wing smear campaign is being waged to discredit the investigation and the investigator. Absurd attacks have been launched at Special Counsel Mueller, one of the finest men that I think we have ever come across in this body. I remember when he was FBI director, everyone loved him. He’s a man of the utmost integrity. A Republican Congressman went so far as to suggest his investigation was a “coup” when that member spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Here in the Senate, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee -- I have great respect for him, one of the only two “Charles E.’s” in the Senate -- referred Christopher Steele to the FBI and recommended criminal charges, even though Mr. Steele was a whistleblower, something that our Chairman and judiciary has always protected. He came to the FBI with concerns that Donald Trump was subject to blackmail. Any American would worry about that. The Chairman took that action unilaterally – without consulting with or providing notice to the minority - yet has still expressed outrage that the Ranking Member of his committee released the transcript of his committee’s interview with the chairman of Fusion GPS even though that was what was in contention. There is a fundamental double standard here. You can’t complain, Mr. Chairman of Judiciary, about our side doing things unilaterally if you do them unilaterally. We want to work in a bipartisan way. 

So I applaud my friend the Senator from California for releasing that transcript. It contained information that was crucial for the American people to read and understand in order to judge for themselves the allegations my friends across the aisle have made. You make a serious allegation from someone but say no one can see the information, that’s not fair. That’s not how we work here in America.

Now, in the Foreign Relations Committee, my friend Sen. Cardin was compelled to release a minority report about Russia’s interference in foreign elections because the Majority would not join him. Think about that. Sen. Cardin’s report showed something we already know to be true, no one disputes that, well maybe a few – that Russia maliciously and persistently interferes in elections around the globe and will not cease without unified and strong countermeasures.

Senator Cardin’s report is another compelling reason that the Senate act on election security legislation.  Before we left for the holidays, Senators Lankford, Klobuchar, Harris, and Collins introduced the Secure Election Act.  It’s a good piece of legislation that would help shore up election security.  Midterm elections are just around the corner and – as Senator Cardin’s report tell us – Russia will no doubt endeavor to sow confusion and chaos into our democracy again. That’s what they do, that’s what Putin likes to do—we’ve got to stop it. And making information public about it is very important. This should be a unifying, nonpartisan issue.

So why would the Republican majority on the Foreign Relations committee refuse to join that report?

It is because, in my judgment at least, for partisan reasons, some Republicans in Congress and some parts of the media, the conservative parts of the media, want to undermine the Russia investigation. They have hidden behind secrecy and innuendo to cast aspersions on the investigation and erect roadblocks in its path. Their goal, it seems, is to discredit the investigation so that ultimately they can discredit any findings that are detrimental to their party or their president.

President Trump makes this strategy manifest, clear as day, almost every day on his twitter feed. Yesterday he tweeted that the Russia investigation was the “single greatest witch hunt in American history” that’s sort of a little self-centered. How about Salem, Mr. President, those people were burnt at the stake? And that “Republicans should finally take control.”

That last line should send shivers down all of our spines, that Republicans should “finally take control.” From the very beginning, this investigation has been about an issue most sensitive to the national interest – interference in our elections, the wellspring and pride of our wonderful and great and grand democracy. If ever there was an issue that transcends party, this is it.

And yet, here is the President of the United States, imploring his political party to “take control” of the investigation. You never thought you’d hear a president say something like this and frankly you never thought you’d hear such silence from the other side of the aisle when he does. But, that’s where we’re at.

Republican lawmakers ought to shout down that kind of appeal. We all must commit to the essential truth of the matter, which is that the investigation into Russian interference in our election must remain as bipartisan, and as nonpartisan, as possible. The interests of the nation are at stake. All of us, all of us, must choose country over party.