Schumer Floor Remarks On Chad Readler’s Nomination To The Sixth Circuit, The Resolution To Terminate President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, Republicans’ Refusal To Seriously Confront Climate Change, And The Need For President Trump To Take A Hard Line On U.S.-China Trade Negotiations

March 5, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Chad Readler’s nomination to the Sixth Circuit, the resolution to terminate President Trump’s national emergency declaration, Republicans’ refusal to seriously confront climate change, and the need for President Trump to take a hard line on U.S.-China trade negotiations. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Just briefly, I heard my good friend the Republican Leader decry HR.1. He called it the “Democratic Politician Protection Act.” Well, if he thinks making it easier for people to vote, getting big money out of politics, hurts the Republican Party and is good for Democrats, what a sad commentary that is. What a sad commentary on the Republican Party that they don’t want to see people vote, make it easier to vote. That they don’t want big money out of politics. What a sad commentary on the Republican Party to be afraid of HR. 1.

Now, later this afternoon, M. President, the Senate will vote to take up the nomination of Chad Readler to be a judge on the Sixth Circuit. Mr. Readler was the man behind the curtain last year when the Trump administration decided to side with Texas and 19 other states with Republican attorneys general in suing to repeal our health care law. Mr. Readler didn’t merely work on the case, he was the lead lawyer who filed the Justice Department brief declaring the administration would refuse to defend the laws of our country.

His recommendations were so outrageous that many career Justice Department attorneys refused to sign it. Mr. Readler argued that protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions should be eliminated. Let me repeat that: the nominee up for a vote later this afternoon argued that protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions should be eliminated. And then, a day after Mr. Readler filed this awful brief -- hurting average Americans, hurting tens of millions of average Americans -- he was nominated for a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Coincidence? I think not.  You see, in the Trump administration, depriving people of protections for pre-existing conditions is actually something to be rewarded. Shame. Shame on the Trump administration. Shame on anyone who votes for Mr. Readler. Particularly those who claim they want to protect pre-existing conditions. Those who say they want to protect them, and vote for the chief cook and bottle washer who pulled them away, and was give the nomination the next day – shame on them.

During the past campaign, as I said, many of my Republican stood up and said – rightly – that they supported keeping protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. That’s all well and good, but that’s what is so typical of our Republican friends in the Senate. They talk the game that we do. They’re for more healthcare. They’re for protecting Americans with preexisting conditions. But their votes on the floor of the Senate are exactly the opposite. It’s all well and good to say you want to protect them, but those promises and pronouncements will mean next to nothing if they won’t vote to reject a lifetime appointment for the man who played the starring role in the legal effort to take those conditions away. Republicans who vote yes on Mr. Reader I believe will regret that vote in future years.

A vote to confirm Mr. Readler is an endorsement of the Republican lawsuit to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions and repeal health care for millions upon millions of Americans.

Now on another matter. On the national emergency. It seems with each passing day, another Republican comes out to oppose the president’s declaration of a national emergency at the border. Over the weekend, Senator Rand Paul, who often speaks his own mind, became the fourth Republican to officially announce his support for terminating the president’s emergency declaration, apparently guaranteeing enough votes for passage in the Senate.

I hope and expect Senator Paul will not be the last Republican to announce their support because this is an issue that transcends party. The president’s emergency declaration gnaws at the very fabric of our democracy, particularly the separation of powers. The president, this president, is trying to bend the law to his will, to accrue powers that are not his.

There is no evidence that some new emergency exists at the border. The president himself has said that he “didn’t need to do this.” An emergency, by definition, is something that you need to do. Everyone here knows the truth: the president didn’t declare an emergency because there is one, he declared an emergency because he lost in Congress, threw another temper tantrum, and wanted to go around it.

That, my friends, is a gross abuse of our constitutional system. Article I -- not Article II, the Executive Branch article, or III, the Judiciary Branch article, but Article I, The Congress – gives Congress the power of the purse, not the president. Were we to permit an executive – any executive – to declare an emergency every time they lost in Congress, what would be the point of Congress? We’d be trading our democracy for a monarchy, the very thing our framers abhorred and our Constitution guards against. Remember back then, why did the brave colonists rebel? It was because the overreaching power of King George III, and they said we need a government that’s going to protect us from the overreaching power of any individual, particularly one empowered to lead a nation. That’s why they did it. Well it’s relevant today. President Trump has shown more desire to overreach than any president, some people may like that. But it goes against 200 years of wisdom in this country, and I hope people will reject it.

Whatever you think about our policy at the southern border, I suppose Senator Paul is very much for the wall – no president should be allowed to discard the constitution at a whim to do an end-run around a co-equal branch of government.

The vote on the resolution to terminate this emergency, is not a vote about policy, is not a vote about party, it’s a vote about presidential power – and the precedent that it will set which will  reach far beyond the current debate about the border. The debate about the border will be forgotten, but the fact that this Congress, this Senate allows to so overreach, and rearrange singlehandedly the balancing blocks in our democracy, will be regarded by historians as a bleak day. And I’d say to my colleagues that doesn’t just apply to how you vote. It applies to whether we have enough votes to override the president should he veto the resolution when it passes. 

Now, M. President, Leader McConnell has spent a great deal of time here talking about bringing his version of the Green New Deal to the floor. Everybody knows that it’s nothing more than a political stunt. Everybody knows the same Republican Leader decried bringing bills to reopen the government because the president wouldn’t sign them and he said those were stunts. Now he’s doing the same thing. It’s amazing sometimes, how there could be a 180-degree turn so quickly.

So let’s talk about some of the things Leader McConnell could do to actually move the ball forward on climate change, which now more and more people, two-thirds of Americans if you believe the polling, believe is a real threat to our planet that demands the Senate’s attention. Not stunts, not games.

All forty-seven Democrats have introduced a resolution that affirms three simple things: 1. Climate change is real; 2. Climate change is caused by human activity; and 3. Congress must immediately act to address the problem. Leader McConnell could bring that resolution to the floor. He could that he believes climate change is real and deserves our time and attention. Given the rampant denialism from some wings of the Republican Party, including so many in the White House, that would be notable progress. But I don’t think it will happen. And you scratch your head and wonder why, why they would be so afraid to admit climate change is real. One possible answer that many people think is the cause or one of the main causes: Oil money. Oil money. The oil industry has such power around here, and much of that money is dark by the way. That Republicans are afraid to admit the candid truth and say climate change is real.

Our resolution doesn’t talk about how you propose to deal with this very real issue. It doesn’t box people into this proposal or that proposal. We’re simply saying let’s start talking about it. And actually, one good thing about Leader McConnell’s stunt. We are talking about it. And that’s a good thing. And I have news for the Leader, we will keep talking about it, throughout this whole Congress, and we’ll keep trying to use our leverage to make it easier to resist the bad forces of carbon dioxide entering our atmosphere. So, we’re going to keep at this. We’re going to keep at this Leader McConnell, and no stunt that you put on the floor is going to deter us.

We are preparing legislation to defund President Trump’s attempt to create a fake climate panel within the executive branch.

Leader McConnell could bring that legislation to the floor once it’s ready so Congress could tell the president that we do not tolerate the intentional dissemination of disinformation to the American public on any issue, especially climate change.

Democrats have also said that any infrastructure bill must include substantial investments in green jobs; that’s something Leader McConnell could pursue, we all like jobs, members on his side of the aisle believe in wind and solar, well not many but at least some. Let’s move forward on that. We need to upgrade our power grids. We need to make energy more available and cheaper, and greener. Let’s do that.

There are many more things besides. But make no mistake: before and after Leader McConnell’s political stunt on climate change, Democrats will continue to focus on the issue and propose solutions, and try to get some of those solutions enacted into law in the places where we have some leverage even as a minority.

There is enormous energy in the country, particularly among young Americans, to take bold action on climate change. They see the planet on which they live changing before their very eyes, not for the better. And they are absolutely right. It’s our job to channel the energy of those young people, wonderful energy, I’m so glad it’s out there, into bold legislation that addresses the climate crises head on. And that’s exactly what Democrats will do, even if Republicans continue to play these political games in their efforts to keep their heads in the sand and ignore that climate change is real.

Finally, on China. Recent news reports have described an emerging trade deal with China that would see the United States ease up on tariffs in exchange for the Chinese buying more American goods and making some – some – changes to its trade practices.

As the New York Times reports this morning, “the agreement does not appear to require the sweeping changes to China’s economy that prompted Mr. Trump to begin the trade war.”

If the reports about the emerging agreement are accurate, I would say to President Trump is heading down a very precarious road.

The president’s instincts were right when he took a hardline on China. I supported his hardline on China, China’s killing us. In terms of stealing our intellectual property. In terms of not letting American companies compete fairly in their large market while they’re allowed to come here. In terms of not creating a level playing field for companies no matter what country they’re from. The president was right when he said we have to do something about it, and in fact he began on this road, he did a lot more than previous presidents both President Bush and President Obama did less to get China to understand the seriousness of this problem than President Trump did. He knows that. But now, when you’re getting close to a victory, to relent at the eleventh hour, without achieving meaningful, enforceable, and verifiable structural reform to China’s trade policies would be an abject failure of the President’s China policies and people will shrug their shoulders and say what the heck did he begin this for if he won’t complete it.

We need to put an end to forced transfer of American technology and American know-how as a ransom for doing business in China. We need to put an end to Chinese systemic theft of American intellectual property. A big hack from China was just found out last month. And our companies need the same unfettered access to Chinese markets that we allow to Chinese firms in America.

This may be our last shot. For the president to squander his own efforts now will have lasting and untold consequences for generations to come.

The president is too focused on trade imbalances, that’s short term, those come and go. And the reason our trade balance is so bad is the structural things that China does to make it harder for us to export to China, and easier for them to import here, they’re stealing a lot of our know-how. A temporary narrowing of the trade deficit would be cold comfort to the millions of American workers who have suffered – and would continue to suffer - the abuse of China’s policies.

Now when the president was headed to North Korea, I said to him don’t let March, when it comes to North Korea, go in like a lion and out like a lamb. And the president did the right thing on North Korea and I got up here and said he did. He backed out when the North Koreans wouldn’t give him much, and resisted the opportunity, when we know it’s hard for him to resist of a photo op. Well, he should do the same thing in China.

He got a lot of credit for backing out on North Korea, the president will get a lot of credit if he stands up to China and will eventually win because the Chinese economy is hurting. They just reduced their own biased estimates on growth lower. So my plea to President Trump is: stand firm. We will win this fight that you correctly began, but don’t back off for some temporary salve. America’s future depends on it. The income of our workers, the number of good paying jobs we create, all depends on us standing tough with China right now when we have them where we want them and completing a strong deal.

Please Mr. President, don’t back off. Don’t let March, when it comes to China trade and your actions, come in like a lion and out like a lamb.