Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling for a bipartisan appropriations process, urging Senate Republicans to join Senate Democrats to pass a resolution to protect the identity of whistleblowers and asking Republicans to examine the facts in the House impeachment inquiry. Senator Schumer also called on the Trump administration to submit a comprehensive strategy to counter the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), ahead of President Trump’s meeting with President Erdogan. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Senate Democrats had hoped to work with our Republican colleagues this year on a fully bipartisan appropriations process. It got off to a great start when the four Congressional leaders reached a budget deal over the summer, but it quickly went awry.
Senate Republicans departed from the bipartisan process by unilaterally proposing their own allocations to the various agencies. This was not part of the agreement. This not in the spirit or concept of the agreement. It was always when we agreed that we would work out 302(b) allocations. But instead the Republicans went ahead unilaterally and they proposed moving $12 billion—$12 billion—from critical health programs and military families to pay for the president’s border wall. And that was way out of bounds.
The Republican Leader has accused Democrats, myself included, of breaking our budget deal by not going along with these very partisan bills. He knows, every member of this chamber—Democrat and Republican—knows well, that Democrats are not going to support a unilateral move by the Republicans to take $12 billion away from military families, away from education, opioids, NIH, and put it into the president’s vanity, partisan wall. And so, until Republicans get serious about negotiating a bipartisan way forward, the partisan appropriations bills are all we have and cannot move forward.
Now, in the last few days after conversations that I had with Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, we’re seeing some positive signs that we can get the process back on track. This month, Democrats and Republicans worked through a package of bipartisan appropriations bills on the floor with few issues. And now as we speak, both parties, both sides, Democrat, Republican House and Senate appropriators, have started talking again about restarting the good-faith negotiations on the remaining bills.
We hope this moves forward in a bipartisan way. Each side has to agree. And I will repeat my view: if President Trump stays out of it, we will come to an agreement. If President Trump meddles in, if the Republican Leader feels so in obeisance to President Trump, who doesn’t have any concept of how to get things done around here, then we won’t get it done and we may have a second Trump shutdown with the leader going along. Which will not succeed in getting them what they want.
But I do have hope that, with a little effort and compromise, we in Congress can find a way forward on appropriations by working together.
On the whistleblower. Yesterday, the House Intelligence committee announced the schedule for its first week of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry, including testimony from the current and former top U.S. diplomats in Ukraine. These public hearings are a reminder that the whistleblower’s account has already been corroborated many times over by officials with first-hand knowledge of the situation.
And yet, there remains a searing focus by the president and one member of this chamber on the whistleblower. Even though his or her account has been verified by other sources, the White House and most particularly the junior Senator from Kentucky seem committed to discrediting the whistleblower, disclosing the whistleblower’s identity, and turning the right-wing media machine on this person, and they can be vicious. The junior Senator from Kentucky went so far as to block a simple resolution from my friend the Senator from Hawaii, Mazie Hirono, that would have reaffirmed the Senate’s support for whistleblower protection laws, laws that have been on the books for a very long time. The whole concept started with the Continental Congress even before the Constitution.
We are going down a dangerous road when members of this body are refusing to stand up for our nation’s laws. Particularly those laws that enforce rule of law and make sure our government is doing what the people want.
These attempts to expose the whistleblower are unfortunately not the only example of how a few of my colleagues are taking the defense of this president too far.
It seems that with each coming week, sometimes each coming day, the president’s allies in Congress come up with a new, tortured defense of his actions. House Republicans have gone from attacking the process because it was closed to attacking it because it was opened. They’ve gone from insisting on “no quid pro quo” to saying, “maybe quid pro quo, but who cares?”
Here in the Senate, we heard a new one yesterday from the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who said the Trump policy toward Ukraine was so “incoherent,” his words, that the administration was “incapable of forming a quid pro quo.” That’s a good one. Seriously. He said that. They’re reaching. They’re reaching as far as they can because they know the facts, at least as we’ve heard from the House, we’ll wait until they come over here if they do, but the facts are so damning about what the president did.
There was even a member of this chamber who went so far as to insult the Speaker’s intelligence at a political rally—a childish and nasty smear, far out of bounds.
Nobody is happy about the fact that the House is examining the potential impeachment of a president. It has always been a sad and somber process, but there is no excuse for jumping to conclusions, advocating for lawbreaking, resorting to nasty insults. This is a time when we must check partisanship at the door, examine the facts, study the case, and make our own independent judgments.
That is our duty. I’d remind all of our colleagues that history will one day judge if we have lived up to it or not.
Now, on ISIS. Next week, President Trump will welcome Turkish President Erdogan to the White House. Frankly, it is confounding that President Trump is rolling out the welcome mat to an autocrat whose recent actions have threatened our allies, our partners.
For over five years, American and coalition troops—including our Syrian Kurdish partners—worked shoulder to shoulder in Northern Syria to bring ISIS to the brink of defeat. But after the president’s calamitous decision to green light Erdogan’s military operation and precipitously withdraw American troops, Turkish forces and their proxies have advanced far into northern Syria, and committed atrocities without accountability. It is a shameful betrayal of our Syrian Kurdish partners. It has thrown our efforts to defeat ISIS into chaos. At least a hundred of ISIS detainees have reportedly broken out of prison and disappeared and they could be very dangerous to us, here in our homeland.
While we are glad that terrorists like al-Baghdadi have been taken off the field, a fundamental question remains: What is the administration’s plan to securing the enduring defeat of ISIS? It is unacceptable that over a month into this crisis, the president has chosen to welcome Erdogan to American soil before explaining to Congress his plan to defeat ISIS.
So ahead of Erdogan’s arrival next week, I, and several of my Democratic colleagues, are sending a letter to President Trump demanding that he submit to Congress a comprehensive plan to secure the enduring defeat of ISIS. There are questions that need to be answered immediately: how many ISIS members have been accounted for in the wake of our withdrawal? How are we going to stabilize the former ISIS territory? What training will we give to forces on the ground to continue fighting ISIS?
These questions need answers at once—they are far more urgent than welcoming an autocrat who just bullied the president into giving him everything that this autocrat wanted.