Schumer Floor Remarks on President Trump’s Health Care Sabotage, the Republican Tax Plan, the Nomination of Rep. Marino, and the Wildfires out West

October 16, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s decision to end CSR payments, the Republican tax plan, the nomination of Rep. Marino, and the wildfires out west. Below are his remarks:

Now, Madam President, first on the issue of healthcare.

Last week, President Trump committed two acts of pointless sabotage of our nation’s healthcare system. He signed an executive order that would give insurers more latitude to sell temporary, junk plans that are not only incredibly risky to the consumer but undermine the rest of the healthcare market by drawing healthy Americans out of the pool. Even worse, President Trump decided to stop the cost-sharing program that reduces premiums, deductibles, and co-pays for 7 million Americans a year.

There is literally no upside to the President’s decision to end the cost-sharing program.

Because of the president’s actions: premiums will go up between 20 and 25 percent, according to CBO. Just today in Pennsylvania, we saw premiums rise by 30% as a direct result of the President’s action.

Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs will go up thousands of dollars;

Deficits will rise, by $194 billion, because the government will have to pay more in subsidies to make up for the lack of cost-sharing.

And marketplaces will be less stable because more people will go uninsured.           

The Republican governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, may have said it best: “It’s going to hurt people. It’s going to hurt kids. It’s going to hurt families. It’s going to hurt individuals. It’s going to hurt people with mental health issues. It’s going to hurt veterans. It’s going to hurt everybody.” That’s from Republican Governor Brian Sandoval.

Another point the President should hear: nearly 70% of the Americans who benefit from these cost-sharing payments live in states that Donald Trump won in the election.

So, make no mistake about it: the President is deliberately undermining our healthcare system with these two actions. When premiums go up because of this action, the blame will fall on his shoulders.

Now there’s a way out. The way out of all of this is for Congress to aggressively pursue a bipartisan healthcare bill that would take cost-sharing out of the President’s hands by locking in the payments. For many months, Democrats have been pushing to stabilize the markets and working towards a bipartisan agreement that would keep premiums down for millions of Americans.

Senators Alexander and Murray have been negotiating a package that would include cost-sharing, as well as some provisions that Republicans want. These negotiations began long before the President’s decision to end cost-sharing last week.

Now, I am encouraged by the progress of the negotiations, and I'm hopeful that we are nearing an agreement that makes clear that we have no intention of supporting the President's reckless efforts at sabotage. If President Trump is now supportive of an agreement that stabilizes and improves the existing system under the Affordable Care Act, we certainly welcome that change of heart. We’ve been asking for this for a long time. We hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, realizing the damage that the President has done, will join us in strengthening, not sabotaging, the healthcare system.

Now, a word on the Republican tax plan.

This week, the Republican Majority will likely move to pass a budget resolution that includes reconciliation instructions to increase the deficit by 1.5 trillion dollars and, amazingly, also includes a total of 1.5 trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Cuts taxes on the wealthy, paid for by cutting Medicare and Medicaid…how many Americans want that? Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, conservative.

The GOP budget makes it clear as day that Republicans will try to pay for a massive tax cut for the wealthy by cutting Medicare and Medicaid.

It’s the same formula they used for Trumpcare -- cutting healthcare to pay for tax cuts for the rich. The American people rose up against that plan, and it failed. This plan should fail for the same exact reason.

And now the White House is out with a new report today saying that a giant tax cut for big corporations will increase wages for middle-class Americans.

President Trump complains about fake news. Well, this is fake math – and it’s as bad as any of the so-called fake news the President has complained about. This is a deliberate manipulation of numbers and facts that’s quite frankly is appalling.

History shows that tax cuts like these benefit the wealthy and the powerful to the exclusion of the middle class. History shows that corporations will use tax cuts for CEO bonuses, stock buybacks and dividends rather than increasing worker pay or creating new jobs.

In fact, none other than Goldman Sachs concluded that shareholders – NOT WORKERS – ‘typically get most of the benefits of tax cuts.’ This is not a liberal think tank or Chuck Schumer talking, this is Goldman Sachs, who represents shareholders, a lot of them – the former employer of the two authors of this plan, Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin. They’re from Goldman Sachs, they ought to heed what their former employer says. Even Goldman Sachs is saying that the Trump tax cuts won’t create massive growth or new jobs or higher wages; in fact, another recent report by Goldman Sachs predicts only the most minor growth effects from this tax cut, not more than 0.1 or 0.2%.

As the president likes to point out, the stock market is at record highs, and companies are raking in unprecedented profits, yet wages have remained relatively flat. So the companies are already flush with money, record profits. They’re not creating jobs. They’re enriching their shareholders and enhancing their CEO salaries with stock buybacks. It’s proof positive that companies already have the cash reserves, but use it to boost wages.

To assert the opposite -- that giving corporations and the wealthy a tax cut leads to higher middle-class wages -- belies the facts and the history, and is a blatant attempt to fool Americans into thinking the GOP plan would benefit them, when in reality, it’s a sop to the rich.

No wonder our Republican friends can’t talk about what the plan does. Cut taxes on the wealthy and powerful. They have to hide it and say ‘this is job growth.’ Those are fake numbers. And I’d like my friends on this side of the aisle to admit that they believe in trickle-down economics, because that is what their plan is all about.

So rather than helping the biggest corporations avoid paying their fair share, tax reform ought to reward those companies that create jobs and raise wages here at home.

Similarly, tax reform ought to directly benefit the middle class, but the Republican tax plan slashes a key middle-class deduction in the form of the state and local deductibility.

Now let’s talk about Vice President Pence. He is visiting Buffalo, New York, a city I love in my home state. Since Vice President Pence is traveling to Buffalo tomorrow, I thought I’d share some numbers about how the elimination of the state and local deduction affects Western New York.

In Rep. Collins’ district, which stretches east of Buffalo towards Rochester, 29% of the residents claim the state and local deduction. They get an average deduction of $12,125

In Rep. Higgins’ district in the heart of Buffalo, 27% of the residents claim state and local with an average deduction of $12,083.

And in Rep. Reed’s district, south and east of Buffalo, 22% of the residents claim state and local deduction with an average deduction of $11,716.

Their constituents get clobbered, as do just about all New Yorkers and so many in the rest of the country when you eliminate state and local deducibility. And it affects the middle class and the upper class. The state and local deduction elimination is a dagger to the heart, not just of Buffalo, but of Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and all of upstate New York. Will Vice President Pence have the courage to answer questions about this deduction elimination? Will he tell middle-class New Yorkers that they are going to get a huge tax increase under this bill?

When the Vice President arrives in Buffalo tomorrow, I hope he’s prepared to explain why he wants to hike taxes on thousands of middle-class families in the Buffalo area, in the Rochester area, in the Syracuse area, and in the Albany area, by eliminating the state and local deduction. It hurts the middle class, and it hammers the New York economy. Businesses, if they don’t have this state and local deduction, are not likely to relocate in Buffalo, or Rochester or Syracuse or Albany. And it hurts homeowners. Make no mistake about it, if we get rid of the state and local deduction, values of homes will go down. That’s why the realtors are so opposed to this elimination.

And that’s not just true in New York, or California, or Connecticut, or New Jersey. It’s true across the whole country and my dear friend, the Chairman of the Finance Committee from the state of Utah, because of the great charity of his people - so many tithe - 35% of the taxpayers will get a huge, huge increase in their taxes with the elimination of state and local deductibility. So many of them don’t itemize, don’t use the standard deduction, because they are so charitable. But they’re penalized for that charity.

So, eliminating the state and local deduction, while slashing taxes for the wealthy and huge corporations, will hurt middle-class taxpayers. Now there are some efforts to compromise the state and local deductibility, they don’t work. Some have proposed ‘ok, let taxpayers take a choice between getting rid of the mortgage deduction and getting rid of the state and local deduction.’ That’s like saying, ‘should I chop off your left hand, or should I chop off your right hand, Mr. middle-class taxpayer?’ Others have said, ‘let’s limit it to people say below 100,000.’ That still leaves lots of people at risk, particularly in high price areas like Long Island, and doesn’t reduce the deficit by much. It’s estimated that a large percentage of the deficit will still go up. So, it makes no sense to eliminate state and local deductibility.

Vice President Pence ought to go to Western New York, but instead of just visiting a small business – and we want to lower small business taxes – he should go to a middle-class family in Amherst, or in Orchard Park, or in Tonawanda, and tell them he is there to tell them he is going to raise their taxes.

Finally, Madam President, I’d like to address President Trump’s nominee to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Representative Marino.                                                

An article in yesterday’s Washington Post described Representative Marino’s advocacy for a law that may have prevented the DEA – the Drug Enforcement Agency - from going after the worst practices of drug distributors.

It’s a profoundly troubling revelation about the man who was tapped to lead the primary agency in our government that focuses on stopping the opioid crisis.

The opioid crisis was in part fueled by wholesale drug distributors sending millions of unnecessary pills into communities. As my friend Sen. Manchin has pointed out, one company shipped 20 million doses of opioids to pharmacies in his state of West Virginia over a five year period. That included 11 million doses sent to Mingo County, West Virginia: population 25,000. 11 million pills in a county of 25,000 people over a five year period. No wonder there is a crisis.

What the Washington Post revealed yesterday was that Representative Marino worked to pass a bill in 2016 that made it “virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments.”

Confirming Representative Marino as our nation’s drug czar is like putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse. The American people deserve someone totally committed to fighting the opioid crisis, not someone who has labored on behalf of the drug industry.

So tonight, I’m calling on President Trump to withdraw the nomination of Representative Marino for the ONDCP. We can do better. Senator Manchin has made such a call, he’s right. President Trump ought to withdraw Representative Marino’s nomination.

If the President presses forward with Rep. Marino, it will be another long betrayal in a long line of betrayals on issues near and dear to rural America. The President’s healthcare proposals would have been daggers into the heart of rural America, decimating Medicaid and rural hospitals. The president’s tax plan lavishes the wealthy and the big corporation but does little for the working man or woman in rural America. The President promised several months ago to label the opioid crisis a national emergency and yet he still hasn’t done it. He said this afternoon he’ll finally do it next week. We’ll see.

By now, the idea that the President is sticking up for the forgotten man and forgotten woman in the forgotten parts of America (rural America) should be dismissed. President Trump seems to have forgotten the forgotten parts of America, and his lack of action – we don’t need talk, we need action - on the opioid crisis and his nomination of Rep. Marino is just another example.

And before I yield the floor, I know I’ve been busy and my colleague from Utah is waiting, I’d ask unanimous consent that my additional comments on the wildfires out west be inserted into the record at this point.

[The following remarks were submitted into the Congressional record]

Madam President, over the weekend, several parts of California were swept by some of the most devastating wildfires the region has seen. At least 40 people have died, thousands of homes and businesses have been utterly destroyed, and at one point over 100,000 people were evacuated. As Gov. Jerry Brown said, “This is truly one of the greatest, if not the greatest, tragedies that California has ever faced.”

Our thoughts are with everyone affected by these wildfires. We are enduringly grateful for the firefighters and all our first responders. And our response here in the Senate must be to send aid where aid is needed.

For our country, this has been a devastating few months of fires and floods. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma buffeted Texas, Louisiana, and Florida. Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are contending with a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale in the wake of Hurricane Maria. Our job is to speedily send aid; and I’m hopeful that we can pass another supplemental aid package this week as well as another more comprehensive package later in the year.