Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 10:24 a.m.] regarding Republicans’ refusal to request Judge Kavanaugh’s full record, the Trump administration considering additional tax cuts for the wealthy, North Korea’s expanding nuclear program, and the need to regulate 3D printed guns. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:
Madam President, the Senate has a duty and responsibly to methodically review a Supreme Court nominee’s record. That’s why, in years past, the Senate has sent bipartisan – bipartisan – letters to the National Archives and presidential libraries requesting the necessary information on a nominee. Democrats and Republicans agreed that, however you would ultimately vote, transparency and openness were principles we all shared.
It appears that that bipartisan tradition has been tossed aside. It was fine for our Republican friends when they were in the minority and President Obama nominated to the Supreme Court. But the double-standard is glaring, enormous, and detrimental to America. Now, the Republican majority has cast aside Democratic wishes for openness and transparency and has made a partisan request for only a small subset of Judge Kavanaugh’s records. It is such a break from precedent that you have to wonder: what are the Republicans hiding about Judge Kavanaugh’s record? What are they so afraid of that they tie themselves in knots, in a pretzel, to contradict everything they stood for when they were in the minority.
Today, every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee has joined Ranking Member Feinstein in making a formal request of the National Archives to provide the exact same universe of documents provided during the confirmation of Justice Kagan. When I say the “same request,” I mean the exact same request. The Judiciary Committee has updated the letter to refer to Judge Kavanaugh, but in every other way, it is identical to the request that Democrats and Republicans made for Justice Kagan – that Republicans insisted on when she was nominated by President Obama.
By the way, it was Senate Republicans who insisted on this standard during previous confirmation. Democrats, even though our nominee might be exposed, agreed, because we believed in openness and we’re not hypocritical and say ‘it’s only good when we’re in charge and not when you’re in charge.’ We believe it works both ways.
Ranking Member Feinstein has been clear that we don’t need or want every single scrap of paper from Judge Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary, but to review none of the nominee’s records from his most senior role in White House documents is an act of what might be called willful opacity. That’s why we’re not following the very sensitive bipartisan precedent now. Judge Kavanaugh himself has said that his time as Staff Secretary was “especially useful” to him as a judge and that his time in the White House made him “a better interpreter of statutes.”
I hope that the National Archives will understand the dilemma we are in – the unusual circumstance we are in. And, ultimately, I hope my Republican colleagues will understand. And that both the Archives, either on its own, or with Republicans acquiescence, will make the right decision in the interest of transparency, consistency, and fairness. To do otherwise is to forsake the Senate’s constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on this surpassingly important nomination.
Now, on another subject: taxes. President Trump and Congressional Republicans promised working America the moon and the stars with their tax bill. President Trump said it would create a “middle-class miracle” and that everyone would get a $4,000 raise. Remember that? President Trump promised the American people that this tax cut to the wealthy would trickle down or torrent down and everyone would get a $4,000 raise. If we asked Americans from one end of the country to the other to raise their hands to see how many of them got a $4000 raise, maybe the top 1% would, maybe the top 2% would, but not most Americans.
Wages are virtually stagnant. The promises President Trump made have not materialized, and when you measure wages against the costs of everyday living – in other words, buying power, how much a raise you get versus how much things cost you – the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, year-over-year, hourly earnings have dropped by 0.1%. In other words, the American consumer, the average, middle-class person, even with this tax cut, has less buying power today than they had last year. President Trump and Republicans promised a $4,000 raise, but average hourly earnings -- buying power, the ability to live a decent life -- for far too many Americans have gone down. Talk about a sleight of hand. Talk about an exaggerated, if not, dishonest promise. There it is.
While average working Americans continue to struggle to keep their head above water, corporations and the wealthy are having a bonanza thanks to the Republican tax bill. As the president himself tweeted this morning, the tax law made the Koch brothers “richer.” It made almost every multi-millionaire richer at a time when they’re doing great. Now, we don’t begrudge that people are wealthy and that they’re doing well. But the middle class needed this tax break far more than the rich, even though the rich had political power over our Republicans friends. And when the rich – the wealthiest – lobbyists, big, powerful corporations say ‘jump,’ our Republican friends say ‘how high?’ – ignoring the middle-class. So, in the Trump economy, big, wealthy corporations are cashing in, the top 1% are doing great, and American workers are falling behind.
Listen to this, Madam President. Already this year, corporations have dedicated over $600 billion (it’s now approaching $700 billion) to corporate share buybacks and debt repurchasing programs – goosing their stock price but doing little to help workers. And that’s a record pace. These buybacks help the CEOs, help the wealthy shareholders but do nothing for the workers or the middle-class.
Now, there’s also a new troubling pattern being brought to light, of corporate executives selling off stock shortly after the stock price has been inflated. So they do the buyback, then they sell the stock and cash in. Here’s the pattern: the Republican tax bill gave American corporations a mammoth tax cut. American corporations use some of those newfound profits to buy back and inflate the value of their own stock. Executives of those companies turn around and sell the stock at a higher price to pad their pockets.
SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson studied nearly 400 examples of stock buybacks since the beginning of 2017 and found that after half of them – half – at least one executive sold shares in the next month.
That’s American taxpayer money, President Trump. That’s the money you’re taking from the American people and giving it to the wealthiest of the American people. The Republican tax bill is robbing the American treasury to pad the pockets of wealthy executives and the richest Americans.
Now, if that wasn’t bad enough, listen to what they want to do now. It was reported in yesterday’s newspaper. The administration is considering doing an end-around Congress to give another $100 billion tax cut mainly to the wealthy by cutting taxes on capital gains. The economy is already running hot on the artificial sweetener of tax cuts and deficit spending. Another $100 billion in tax cuts for the rich isn’t just more gasoline on the fire; it’s an incendiary device.
At a time when the deficit is out of control, at a time when wages are flat, at a time when the wealthiest are doing better than ever, to give the top one percent another advantage is an outrage. It shows the Republicans’ true colors: tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, empty promises for everyone else.
North Korea. Last night, we received news that North Korea has been continuing work at a missile facility north of its capital. Previous satellite images have shown work ongoing at two other missile sites in the country.
Clearly, North Korea is not suspending, let alone winding down, its nuclear missile programs. And yet, shortly after President Trump met with Chairman Kim in Singapore, President Trump said North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat” to the United States. The juxtaposition of President Trump’s rhetoric and the facts on the ground are jarring. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. President Trump exclaims out of nowhere that the nuclear threat is over, and North Korea is building more missiles that reportedly can reach all of the United States instead of just the West Coast.
North Korea’s nuclear program remains a grave threat to the region and the United States. President Trump can’t wish it away. He can’t place fantasy next to reality. North Korea will not give up its nuclear program simply because President Trump wants them to. Now, we are all rooting for diplomacy to succeed. But if President Trump is going to make progress towards the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korean, he needs to grapple with the reality of the situation – not be in a dream world where he thinks his rhetoric is reality, when it doesn’t match the reality on the ground, the dangerous reality on the ground.
Finally, 3D guns. In a short time – just a minute or two from now – I’ll be joining my colleagues to talk about an issue we’ve been worried about for quite a while – “ghost guns.” Over the past several years, 3D printing technology has advanced to a point where anyone with an internet connection is now able to “print” guns at home.
A court order has barred companies from posting plans to print guns, but a few weeks ago, inexplicably, the Trump administration settled with gun activists to allow them to post detailed instructions, plans, files, and 3D-drawings of weapons on the internet, and this starts tomorrow.
So, starting tomorrow, all you need is a little money and you can download a blueprint from the internet to make a gun at home. No background check. No criminal history check. No certification that the person isn’t adjudicated mentally ill, or has the intent to harm. Even terrorists could avail themselves of this technology to print an unlimited amount of home weapons. According to the NY Post, more than 1,000 people have downloaded plans to make AR-style, 3D printed guns, and the ban hasn’t even been lifted yet.
The idea of these print-on-command “ghost guns” is as scary as they sound. We should be doing everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen. And these guns can go through metal detectors, stadiums, airports. No metal. They’re made of plastic only.
Now, out of the blue this morning, President Trump tweeted that he was looking into the matter, months after his own administration caused this problem by settling with the gun activists and allowing it to happen. From 2010 to 2017, you couldn’t do this. There was an international agreement. The Trump administration, because the gun activists were pushing, said ‘go ahead and do it.’ And now, a day before this happens, President Trump is saying that he would look into the matter although he said he’d consult the NRA, hardly the great advocates of gun safety in America. I wish President Trump looked into this matter months ago or even last week and urged the Justice Department and the State Department not to reach this settlement in the first place.
It's another example – so many – of the president showing up on the scene a day late and a dollar short to address a problem his own administration has created. The president’s tweet this morning gets to the basic incompetence of this administration. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. And it has real and important consequences for the safety of the American people.
So I look forward to joining my colleagues to talk a bit more about this issue, and what Congress can do about it.