Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the immigration debate and President Trump’s infrastructure plan and budget proposal. Below are his remarks which can also be viewedHere:
Mr. President, last night, the Senate took up a neutral bill on immigration to begin debate on legislation to protect the Dreamers and provide additional border security. It is a debate upon which the lives of the Dreamers depend. They were brought to this country as kids, through no fault of their own. For many of them, America is the only country they even remember. They learn in our schools; they work at our companies, they serve in our military. They are stitched into the very fabric of our nation.
This week we have the opportunity to offer these Dreamers protection and the chance to finally become Americans, and this is supported in every state throughout the nation. 80% of Americans – a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans – all support allowing the Dreamers to stay here and become American citizens. And we have an opportunity to improve border security as well, something that also has broad support, and both Democrats and Republicans in large number have supported both – helping the Dreamers become Americans, and protecting our borders. That should be the focus of all of our energies – finding a bipartisan compromise that would achieve those things and pass the Senate.
Now we can put together a plan here in the Senate, bipartisan, and sell it to the nation. I know that there are other forces swirling around. That was true of the budget deal, but we put together an agreement. Leader McConnell and I. The Senate voted for it in large numbers, and then the House passed it with support from both parties, significant support from both parties, and the president signed it.
We can do the same thing on immigration. The Senate can take the lead once again in a bipartisan way that can get 60 votes, and move the nation forward. We all know Americans in every state – your state Mr. President, my state, and every state – say why can’t you work together and get something done? Well, this is a very difficult issue. We are all aware of that. But we can get something done. We are on the verge. It’s still hard, we’re not there yet, but we can get something done. Let’s work towards that.
On another matter entirely, yesterday the White House released its long-awaited infrastructure plan. After promising a trillion dollar infrastructure plan to build “gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land,” President Trump’s plan turned out to be less than half a loaf.
Instead of a trillion dollars or more of investment, the Trump infrastructure plan includes only $200 billion in federal investment, relying on state and local governments and private entities to pony up the rest of the cash. And there is a great irony that on the same day that the administration put out their $200 billion infrastructure plan, the administration’s budget slashed well over $200 billion in existing infrastructure investments that we tend to make every year; that we do make every year. What the Trump infrastructure plan gives with one hand, the Trump budget more than takes away. That doesn’t show much of a commitment to do infrastructure. That shows sort of a schizophrenic administration, and even on the side where they try to give, the Trump infrastructure plan has a lot of flaws.
Already cash-strapped state and local governments would likely have to raise taxes on their constituents to fund new investment. Meanwhile, private entities will seek projects with the quickest return on investment. If you have a big, large resort, a lot of wealthy people going there, yeah, a private company might build a road. But if you’re a bridge in Shreveport or in Rochester, a middle-sized city, or anywhere else in the country, no private investor is going to invest in that. There won’t be any money for it. Large parts of the country will be left out. And who will be left out most? Rural America, which lacks the population or traffic to attract investment. They would get shut out. They have some set aside for rural America, it is not close to enough. Not close to enough.
Worse, the Trump infrastructure plan would also mean a slew of tolls – Trump tolls – from one end of America to the other. Large developers are going to want to make a quick buck on any new investment, and who is going to pay for it? Your average, middle-class, working-class American, who drives and pays the tolls. These companies - let’s face it, everyone knows it - they’re not going to lend the money to build a road and not get anything in return. When the federal government puts money into roads, they don’t ask for a return other than jobs created building the roads and jobs created because new companies, new housing, new other things will locate alongside the road. It does pay for itself through what the economists would call external costs, externalities. But the companies that invest, the big financiers that invest, they want an immediate return, and that means tolls. Tolls, tolls, and more tolls.
More tolls may not sound like a big deal to the bankers and financiers who put together President Trump’s plan, but it sure means a lot to working Americans who commute on those roads every day. And I’d remind people that the federal government has invested in roads and infrastructure for centuries, not decades. Henry Clay, a Whig, the predecessor party of the Republicans, first proposed it in the 1820s and 30s. Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican president, expanded our federal highway system dramatically, with huge positive effect in large parts of America. Ronald Reagan never cut infrastructure. He cut a lot of other things, but not infrastructure. He knew it was important. So why are we making this 180-degree hairpin turn right now? It doesn’t make sense.
And there are other problems with the Trump plan. What about Buy America? Everyone says they are for Buy America. The Trump infrastructure plan unwinds Buy America provisions. If we’re going to rebuild American infrastructure, we should do it with American steel, American concrete, and American labor.
This is the kind of plan you’d expect from a president who surrounds himself with industry insiders – financiers, people from Wall Street - who look at infrastructure as an investment to be made by corporations. But infrastructure has always been something the government invests in because the benefits aren’t immediately apparent to businesses. A road might not generate short-term profits unless it’s dotted with tolls, but a factory might locate nearby and bring new jobs to the area. The private sector might not build high-speed Internet all the way out to the house at the end of the road if there isn’t a profit, but that family is just as deserving as every other family in America to be a part of the Internet, which is a necessity these days just as electricity was in the 30s when Franklin Roosevelt proposed connecting all rural homes to the electric grid. The private sector then, the private sector now, shouldn’t get to pick and choose. It will leave large parts of America out. That’s why the Trump infrastructure plan falls short.
For almost our entire history, the consensus in Congress and the White House was that the federal government should lead the way on infrastructure. As I’ve mentioned, Republicans like Henry Clay – a Whig, the predecessor party - and Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, used to believe that. Democrats still believe it. And I hope that our mutual desire to fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure without shifting the burden onto taxpayers and local governments motivates us to put the president’s proposal to the side, as we did with budget, and come together ourselves.
One final topic, the president’s budget. Yesterday, the Trump administration delivered a budget proposal to Congress that would drastically slash funding for education, environmental protection, transportation, Medicare, and Medicaid. Yes folks, despite the president’s promise he would never cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, he’s cut two out of the three in this budget that he proposes. Even with all those cuts, the Trump Budget would actually increase the deficit. Even in the realm of budgetary magic, the Trump budget pulls a trick
is so absurd that it would make Houdini blush. Cut Medicare, cut Medicaid, and yet increase the deficit. How the heck does that happen? Only in the world of President Trump and his budgeteers.
Just weeks after jamming through a partisan tax bill that would greatly benefit big corporations and the wealthy while adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, the Trump administration is now proposing a massive curtailment of the programs that help almost everyone else in America – and still, increase the deficit. A bad magic trick. Very bad.
After an entire campaign’s worth of promises to protect Medicare and Medicaid, President Trump proposes to cut deeply into both of them. After calling education the civil rights issue of our time in his first address to Congress, President Trump proposes a 10% cut in education funding. Ask your school boards throughout America how they feel about that. Alongside his long-delayed infrastructure plan, President Trump proposes to cut transportation funding by nearly one fifth – a decrease so large it would result in a net CUT in infrastructure funding, even if you add in the president’s new infrastructure bill.
On the heels of a massive corporate tax cut, this budget is the very inverse of economic populism. It cuts back from nearly every program that helps the middle class and those struggling to reach it.
The Trump budget is the encapsulation of an administration that promises populism but delivers plutocracy -- where the rich and powerful get tax cuts, but everyone else just gets cut out.