Schumer Floor Remarks on the Bipartisan Healthcare Deal, the Budget, and the GOP Tax Plan

October 26, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor urging a vote on the Murray-Alexander healthcare deal, against the passage of the budget, and regarding the need for bipartisanship on tax reform. Below are his remarks:

Yesterday afternoon, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office came out with a score for the bipartisan Alexander-Murray bill.

The CBO report confirms that the Alexander-Murray bill is a great deal for the American people. It does precisely what it was intended to do: stabilizes the marketplaces, helps prevent premiums from skyrocketing and reduces the deficit – by CBO’s estimate - by nearly $4 billion.

As Senators Alexander and Murray noted, the report shows that their bill “will benefit taxpayers and low-income Americans, not insurance companies.”

Even the Wall Street Journal Editorial board, no liberal cabal, said today “The bipartisan compromise proposal crafted by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) now officially falls into the category of ‘so obvious it should pass immediately.’” That’s not Chuck Schumer talking. It is the beacon of the hard-right, the Wall Street Journal Editorial page. And they say again Alexander-Murray falls into the category ‘so obvious it should pass immediately.’

So my fellow Republicans, what are you waiting for? Everyone on your side wants the bill. Jump on it, support it. Let’s get this done and let’s help stabilize our markets whatever our views are on healthcare.

These reports should be all the evidence that President Trump needs to come off the sidelines and endorse this bill. It doesn’t bail out insurance companies, that’s what he said he was worried about. It doesn’t cost the government money, in fact, it reduces deficit by nearly $4 billion.

There is no good reason for President Trump to continue to obscure his position. Leader McConnell has said he will put it on the Floor if the President says he will sign it. By delaying, the President is harming the healthcare markets, causing significant uncertainty, and does nothing but hurt Americans who are trying to afford health care.

So President Trump, if you don’t pursue this bill, the consequences will fall on your back. Make no mistake about it. 

Now, on taxes.

Later today, the House will likely vote on whether or not to pass the budget resolution that recently passed the Senate.

My colleagues in the House should be aware that this budget will explode the deficit by $1.5 trillion. That’s under the best of circumstances, that’s under circumstances where they find $4 trillion to pay for it, which is probably unlikely. It will slash Medicare and Medicaid by $1.5 trillion, and set up the same awful, partisan process that caused the Republican effort on repeal and replace to fail. Because when you try to do it with one party, it is fraught with peril. If you do it in a bipartisan way, a few people on either side will try to pull the bill off course, but they won’t succeed because they won’t have the votes.

I’d remind my friends in the House who purport to be deficit hawks: you are voting for a budget that will increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion. Many of these House members, particularly on the conservative wing of the caucus, particularly those in the Freedom Caucus, have spent their entire careers on the barricades railing against the evils of deficits. What a stunning hypocrisy it would be to abandon those principles today and vote for this budget simply because it gives tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans and most powerful, largest of our corporations.

I’d also remind my Republican friends in the House -- particularly those in New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Washington, Minnesota – that voting for the budget today is tantamount to voting for the elimination of the state and local tax deduction, which would sock it to middle-class taxpayers in their states and districts.

Most of our Republican friends from those states – they are blue states – but they are red districts, suburban, well-off, they get clobbered if you take away the state and local deduction. Those are the constituents hurt the most, not the rich and not the poor, the middle-class and upper middle-class. And not only will it raise their taxes dramatically, most people would lose deductions between $10,000 and $20,000, that ain’t chicken feed. But it would lower home values.

As a recent study by the National Association of Realtors and PriceWaterhouse Coopers, the esteemed accounting firm, showed that eliminating state and local would erode property values – the rock of the middle class -- by 10%. To the middle-class folks in New York and around the country, I believe your home is a piece of the rock.

You struggle each month, pay the mortgage, pay the taxes, pay the upkeep, but you’re hoping by the time you reach later middle age that you will own that home. And that gives your kids a place, or that gives your kids a nest egg when you pass on. But this bill, by eliminating state and local, reduces across America, on average, home values by 10%. So it’s a double whammy to the middle class: raises taxes and lowers home values. Why would we do that?

You don’t have to take it from me. Your colleague Republican Rep. Peter King, rock-ribbed Republican who has a lot of courage, this morning I saw him on TV talking about Hillary Clinton, but here is what he said about repealing the state and local deduction. He said “it will devastate my district forever.” That’s a solid middle-class and upper middle-class Republican district on Long Island.

Here is what else Peter King said. “How anybody from New York and New Jersey can vote for this budget without knowing what is in the tax bill is beyond me.” He was referring to the state and local.

I salute Representative King for telling it like it is and having the courage to stand up and say it to his own party’s leadership ‘I will not forsake my constituents for a tax bill where I don’t even know what the details will be.’ The remaining members of the New York, New Jersey, California and other delegations have a decision to make: will they protect the middle class and tens of thousands of homeowners in their districts or go along with the hard-right agenda that will cost their constituents hard-earned money for groceries, home repairs, and other needs?

And do that all so the very wealthy can get a huge tax break. All so our biggest corporations that are flush with money can have even more money. Wrong. I hear on the other side ‘we are talking about a tax bill for the middle-class.’ To eliminate state and local deducibility hurts the majority of middle-class people in this country. That’s what will happen if you keep that in there. 

Now, some will say in the House, I’ve already heard one of my colleagues from New York – he’s a Republican – say ‘that’s Schumer he’s a Democrat, he’s beating up on Republicans.’ But I went through this in 1986 the last time we had tax reform. It was Democrats who were pushing the bill. Senator Bradley, a legend in this Chamber, Leader Gephardt, one of the Democratic Leaders in the House. Despite their entreaties, I told them not only would I not vote for any reform bill that had state and local deductibility in it, but I would lead the charge and round up others.

And I did. I got a lot of flak from my fellow Democrats, but it was the right thing to do for my middle-class constituency in southern Brooklyn. So when I ask my Republican colleagues to buck their leadership, to help their middle-class constituents, it’s something I did with Democratic leadership the last time tax reform was on the floor. 

Now, some are already rationalizing their vote to approve the budget by resting their hopes on the vague possibility of a compromise on SALT. The harsh fact of the matter is there is no good compromise to be had on state and local. If you want to make taxpayers choose between the mortgage deduction and state and local, that’s like asking taxpayers to decide whether they want to cut off their right arm or left.

Some are talking about a cap. Where are you going to cap it? More than 50% of the total value of the deduction goes to taxpayers with incomes under $200,000.  Cap it too low, and almost all of those middle-class taxpayers continue to get whacked. Cap it too high, and it doesn’t raise enough money to offset all the cuts my Republican friends want to give big corporations and the top 1%.

Republicans in the House shouldn’t stake the votes on the prospect of a good compromise on state and local – there isn’t one to be had. The bottom line is that any Republican plan that limits SALT is the equivalent of robbing middle-class families of a tax benefit and handing it over to the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.  There is no compelling reason to do that.  People aren’t clamoring for it.  We don’t need to take $1 trillion from working families and give it to millionaire CEOs.  Period. 

If that weren’t enough of a reason to vote no Mr. President, the Republican leadership is still debating capping pre-tax contributions to 401k plans. You hear that retirees and potential retirees? In their craven thirst to give the wealthiest people in America a tax break, they are going to say ‘you can’t save money for retirement tax free.’ What a gut punch to the middle class that would be. Despite the President’s claims to the contrary, Representative Brady and Senator Portman have both said that a 401k cap is still on the table.

So you know what this bill has become, again, in its desperation to help the wealthiest? It’s like a quiz show. Which way do we hurt the middle-class to pay for it. Door 1: state and local deductibility. Door 2: cap retirement. Who knows what they will pick in door 3? It could be the mortgage deduction. Asking middle-class people to choose which poison to take so they can help the wealthiest makes no sense.

So, I would urge my colleagues in the House, and those here in the Senate, stop doing this partisan bill that was dictated by the hard-right, very wealthy individuals, very rich corporations. Work with us. We want to create a bipartisan bill that helps the middle class, we are for tax reform, and we can get something done. Please, stop this train in its tracks early on before it’s too late and you will regret it.

There are a large number of Democrats, including the Minority Leader, who want to sit down with Republicans and come up with a deficit-neutral, middle-class, small-business-oriented, bipartisan tax relief bill – not a plan to benefit the richest 1% or the largest and most powerful corporations who are already flush with cash.

We want to work with our Republican colleagues on a real bipartisan plan. Defeat this budget and we will.