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Schumer Floor Remarks on the Blue Slip Rule, Legislative Priorities Ahead of the State of the Union, and Republican Attacks on the FBI

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the majority’s disregard for the blue slip rule, Democrats’ legislative priorities ahead of President Trump’s first State of the Union, and recent Republican attacks on the integrity of the FBI. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here

First on the judge vote, today the Senate will vote on cloture on the nomination of David Stras for the 8th Circuit in Minnesota. Senator Franken opposed this nomination and did not return his blue slip, but Senator Grassley scheduled a confirmation hearing and a markup anyway. It is my understanding that the new Senator from Minnesota, Senator Smith, intends to vote against his nomination.

If Judge Stras is confirmed, it will mark the first time since 1982 that a circuit court nominee was confirmed without both home-state Senators returning blue slips in support of a hearing. Democrat and Republican chairs have stuck to the blue slip rule despite the tensions in this body. So this is a major step back, and another way that the majority is slowly, inexorably, gnawing away at the way this body works and making it more and more like the House of Representatives. It’s not a legacy, if I were the Leader or a member of that party, that I would be proud of.

Tomorrow, President Trump will address the nation in his first official State of the Union. We all look forward to hearing what the President has to say.

One thing we can expect is for the President to link any piece of good economic news to the Republican tax bill, as the Majority Leader does most days and did again today. Of course, the reality of the Republican tax bill is much different than the image painted by the Leader’s cherry-picked examples.                                                                                        

One of the real impacts of the tax bill has been massive giveaways to wealthy investors and corporate executives. The very wealthy and most powerful got the overwhelming majority of breaks. Individuals, some got increases, some stayed the same and some will get a little bit. But companies have announced multi-billion dollar stock repurchasing and buyback programs, which benefit wealthy shareholders but not workers. According to research from Morgan Stanley, “83% of analysts indicated that companies would put gains from lower taxes to use for share buybacks, dividends, and mergers and acquisitions.” So we’ll have less competition. So this tax bill has given the big corporations money so they can buy other corporations and reduce competition.                                                                                        

Even though Republicans sold the tax bill as a job creator, there has been a slew of layoffs across the country just after the tax bill passed. Walmart, which made a big to-do of what it was doing for its workers, will shutter 63 Sam’s Club warehouses and lay off 1,000 workers at their headquarters; Macy’s will cut 5,000 jobs; Carrier, a company the president promised to save, is still bleeding jobs. Kimberley-Clark will cut up to 5,500 jobs – and their Chief Financial Officer said that the savings from the Republican tax bill gave them the “flexibility” to make the reductions. So the tax bill is actually leading to a whole lot of layoffs. We don’t hear that from President Trump or our Republican colleagues, but it’s true. 

Another one of the real impacts of the tax bill will be felt on tax day, when the nation’s highest-income earners – the top one percent – will get an average tax cut of roughly $50,000, while more than 9 million middle-class families will face a tax increase, according to the JCT and the Tax Policy Center.                            

True, bipartisan, deficit-neutral tax reform could have delivered more jobs and better pay for the middle class, but President Trump and Congressional Republicans opted for a partisan bill that rewarded their wealthy donors: big corporations and the superrich and increased our deficit that our children and grandchildren will have to pay by $1.5 trillion.

I don’t expect the President or the Republican Leader to mention these facts. I especially don’t expect the President to mention them in his State of the Union, but Democrats will highlight them in the days to come.                                                             

Now, Mr. President, when we passed the last extension of government funding, we gave ourselves a lengthy to-do list. Pass a budget. Provide disaster aid. Negotiate a healthcare package. Protect the dreamers.

We’ve been talking about these issues for months without resolution. Now is the time to start solving them.

We’ve waited too long to fully fund our military. We’ve waited too long to dedicate more money to the opioid crisis, which is stealing 40,000 American lives a year. We’ve waited too long to improve the healthcare our veteran’s receive, so many of them waiting in line to get the treatment they need. We’ve waited too long to address failing pension plans, which are the safety net for so many hardworking teamsters, carpenters, miners and people approaching retirement. We have waited too long to give 800,000 dreamers the peace of mind that they won’t be deported by the only country they’ve ever known.

We need to address these issues soon, no more delay. We hope our moderate Senators will strive to find a narrow bill on DACA and border security that can pass. Expanding this beyond DACA and border security, as the White House framework tries to do, will only delay a solution to a time-sensitive problem.

Now, my guest to tomorrow’s State of the Union will highlight the urgency of a few of the issues I just mentioned. Her name is Stephanie Keegan, from Putnam County, New York. Her son Daniel, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, died from an opioid overdose. At the time, Daniel was suffering from a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, his nerves shattered by war. He waited sixteen months for treatment at the VA, sixteen months after he served us so well – a shocking amount of time for a young man who bravely served his country to wait for his country to serve him. Daniel died two weeks before his first appointment at the VA.

“There are so many things that can be done to change this situation,” Stephanie told me. She’s so right. We can provide better health care to our veterans. We can do more to fight the scourge of opioid addiction. We can fulfil the promise to hundreds of thousands of pensioners who need money. We can make sure Social Security works. We can make sure the kids waiting for college, who have to pay for college, can get there a little easier. And I hope Stephanie’s presence at tomorrow’s speech will inspire an urgency here to tackle these things.

Finally, one more topic, the FBI. I want to return to a topic I addressed at some length last Thursday – the ongoing, scorched-earth campaign by the White House, right-wing media and some Republicans in Congress to destroy the integrity of the FBI and the investigation into interference in the 2016 election. This scorched earth campaign, ongoing, weakens law enforcement, weakens one of our best agencies, the FBI.                     

We recently learned that President Trump at one point last summer directed the firing of Special Counsel Mueller – what would have been a shocking and unambiguous obstruction of justice – only to be pulled back.

Today we learned that the Deputy Director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, will be stepping down immediately. He’s been attacked by the White House relentlessly.

And, as soon as this evening, the House will vote to release the contents of a secret memo prepared by the Republican Majority on the House Intelligence Committee that insinuates the FBI and DOJ’s investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections is politically biased. 

According to the Ranking Member on that committee, Rep. Schiff, this memo is full of innuendo and glaring omissions. It presents evidence without context and jumps to unfounded conclusions. We should all call it what it truly is: a slanderous memo of GOP talking points. This is not an erudite study. This is a bunch of talking points to discredit an agency that’s doing a good job that we’ve all respected over the years. 

And if Republicans vote to release their memo of partisan talking points tonight, they should also vote to release the memo prepared by Ranking Member Schiff and let everyone judge both on the merits. Let both memos go forward. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. It would be absolute hypocrisy for House Republicans to release their memo and not allow Rep. Schiff to release his. 

Everyone should keep in mind who’s promoting this stuff. Who’s promoting these right-wing talking points defaming the FBI? None other than Russian-linked bots. They’re using the “#releasethememo” 100 times more than any other hashtag by Kremlin-linked accounts. Putin and the Kremlin are trying at all times to undermine our democracy through the spread of false information. What does it say about the Republican memo that the Kremlin is pushing it, more than they’re pushing anything else right now?

At this point, every American should wonder whether the House Republicans are working harder for Putin or for the American people. At least those House Republicans that put together this memo. 

Mr. President, this Republican talking points memo is part of a pattern of behavior from this White House,  and their Republican allies in Congress, not everybody, just some, and the media, the hard-right media. They do not welcome the results of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, so they are trying to smear the investigation and the entire FBI before it concludes.

These attacks on the credibility of the FBI—we all know agents, we all know how hard they work, how decent they are—the attacks on the credibility of the FBI are beyond the pale. They have fueled wild speculation and outright paranoia – talk of “coups” and “deep states” and “secret societies.” It brings shame on the folks propagating this nonsense, but more crucially, it diminishes our country. 

When prominent voices in one of our country’s two major political parties are outright attacking the FBI and the DOJ – the pillars of American law enforcement – they are playing right into Mr. Putin’s hands.

They are unfairly and dishonestly clouding a crucial investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections – a matter of the most serious national concern for every American.

It is abhorrent, and it must stop.