Schumer Floor Remarks on the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas, the Crisis in Puerto Rico, and the GOP Tax Plan

October 3, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas, the ongoing need for aid in Puerto Rico and the U.s> virgin islands, and the Republican’s proposed tax cuts. Below are his remarks: 

First about Las Vegas, Mr. President, the nation continues to reel from the awful, awful events of Sunday night in Las Vegas. The most deadly mass shooting in modern American history has gotten even deadlier in the last 24 hours. 59 dead. 527 injured. Some wounded by gunfire. Some injured because they were trampled in the chaos of 22,000 concertgoers fleeing for their lives from the scene.

The police found 23 guns in the hotel room of the monster who committed this atrocity and 19 more at his home, some of them modified to cause even more carnage.

Of course, as always, the beauty of the American people pulled through. The first responders…I saw on TV today a man who had been shot, two young women came, risking their lives as those shots were going, took off his belt and tied a tourniquet around his upper thigh because he was bleeding profusely from his legs, and they saved his life. He said he will never know who they are. But they saved his life. And that story I’m sure will be repeated over and over again. The valor, the bravery of the average American, the greatness of our first responders, is the only counterpoint to the evil, the carnage, the horror that we have all witnessed. 

We cannot banish evil or madness from the earth. But we must do what is within our power to make our country a safer place to live.

We need common-sense reforms. And these reforms have broad public support. 

In the face of tens of thousands of gun deaths every year, too many Republicans in Congress have tried to enact the dream agenda of the NRA and the gun lobby. They’ve pursued a national concealed carry law. 

Can you imagine if that law passed? This horrible, horrible man could conceal carry under the laws of Nevada, and come to Times Square in New York City or Disneyland in Florida, and just shoot away. Most of our police organizations are against this concealed carry bill. How in the light of the carnage, knowing the evil that exists, magnified the power of evil, magnified by guns and automatic weapons; how could we try to pursue it? 

And what about gun silencers? There’s a move actually in this Congress, it’s in the House right now - I’m sure it has support here on the other side of the aisle in the Senate - to make it easier for citizens to acquire silencers. Why? 

Let me tell you something. One of the few ways the police had to go after this shooter was they could look for the sound, try to hear the sound of where the guns came from. 

Thank God our colleagues on the other side of the aisle have pulled back on this bill. It’s not the first time. 

They had to postpone a hearing on the bill when the Republican Congressional baseball team was attacked at an early morning practice. When two mass shootings force you to delay a bill that would make those mass shootings harder to detect and stop, maybe that’s a sign you ought to let go of the bill go, once and for all.

And of course we have this absurd NRA nostrum that if everyone had a gun we would all be safe. Because people who are in an arena, a place where someone was shooting, could shoot them back. Well they sure couldn’t have shot back at someone thirty-two stories up in a hotel. 

This idea that “the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is absurd in this situation. It’s absurd in many situations. 

So, where do we go from here? Well, this place has been gridlocked on the issue of gun control for a while. 

But President Trump, before he ran for office, was for certain sane, rational, limited aspects of gun control. After Sandy Hook he called for the gun laws to be tightened. And so, I know when he ran, the power of the NRA, the money of the NRA, the narrow special interest NRA- lobbyists here are just the swamp he decried, small groups going against the public interest and persuading Congress to do that

But maybe he can have a bit of a reawakening because of the horror of what happened as he goes to Las Vegas tomorrow. 

Today I am calling on the President to come out against the absurd law about silencers. Threaten to veto it if he must and put an end to that bill. 

I am also calling on President Trump to bring together the Leaders of Congress, and let both sides know he is ready and willing to address this issue of gun safety head-on. He should tell members of his party that it’s time to work addressing this epidemic that costs the lives of more than 30,000 Americans a year. 

I’m glad the President is going to Las Vegas, that’s a good idea. But he should take it a step further. Call us together and lead this nation in some rational laws about gun safety that the overwhelming majority of Americans – Democrat, Republican, and Independent – support. 

If we truly want to honor our first responders and protect our fellow Americans, as we all say we do, President Trump should stand up and tell the NRA they are not always right. Abandon some of their more extreme policies – I’d abandon most of them – and come to the table to do the work that so many Americans are desperate for Congress to do.

Now, Mr. President, on another matter – the crisis in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Today, President Trump will be visiting Puerto Rico nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico.

In my view, the lateness of his visit is indicative of his leadership of the federal response to this humanitarian crisis. It’s been slow, it hasn’t been well-coordinated or sure-footed, and it’s been too late in coming.

President Obama visited Sandy two days after the storms hit. President Trump himself was much quicker to visit Texas when Harvey hit. Two weeks is too long. Better than nothing, that’s for sure. But too long. And it sends a signal that maybe he believes Puerto Rico is less important than what happened in Texas or in Florida. 

And, in the lead-up to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, President Trump was tweeting on an almost daily basis, prevailing on Texans and Floridians to stay safe from the storm. That was the right thing to do. 

But when it came to Puerto Rico, there were hardly any tweets or public statements in the lead-up to the storm. And it took several days before he mentioned Puerto Rico in his tweets after Maria hit, and even then, he had mostly blame for the people of Puerto Rico, or pats on the back for his own Administration. He kept decrying fake news, but he couldn’t fool the American people. They saw on TV what was happening. The devastation that stayed for so long. 

And let me give you just a comparison, because the President said ‘well it’s an island, it’s harder to get to.’ It is. But, when Haiti was struck by a massive earthquake in 2010, the United States didn’t wait for things to get worse. We ramped up military and disaster assistance quickly and  –responded with an overwhelming amount of support. Within two days of the earthquake in Haiti, 8,000 U.S. troops were en route. Within two weeks, 22,000 U.S. troops were en route and 300 helicopters assisting relief efforts. The number, even to this moment, for Puerto Rico is much smaller. That shows that the response has not been good enough. Why was the response for Puerto Rico so much less than the response for Haiti? 

So we need a much better response on the ground in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

So I’d say to President Trump: I’m glad you’re going. Glad you’re going. But this is your chance to make up for what has been a plodding start. When you visit Puerto Rico today Mr. President, don’t get into any political fights or blame Puerto Rico for its problems. Figure out what’s wrong, figure out what else has to be done, and marshal the resources of our government and our military to fix it. 

The 3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands are counting on you because you’re their President. These are American citizens. 

Finally, Mr. President, returning to the Republican tax plan. 

Now, over the weekend, we’ve heard some pretty absurd claims from Republican legislators and Cabinet officials about the GOP Tax plan.

The President and his top advisors are selling this as a “middle class miracle” – but every independent analyst is saying the Republican plan focuses on the rich to the exclusion of the middle class.

The GOP Tax plan lowers the top rate from 39.6 to 35 percent, and repeals the estate tax – which affects only the top two-tenths of one percent of the estates in this country. Any couple’s estate over 11 million dollars, that is not, Mr. President, the middle class. And it lowers the rate on pass-through entities, creating a huge loophole that would allow wealthy hedge fund managers, law firms, lobbyists to pay a lot lower rate. According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 1 percent would reap 80 percent of the benefits of the GOP plan.  The top .1 percent -- folks who make more than 5 million dollars a year -- would get a break of a million dollars a year.

How many Americans believe that people who make over 5 million dollars a year should get a one million dollar tax break? That’s what’s in the bill right now. Now they’re saying maybe it will change. Well why did they put out such a shoddy product to begin with? Why didn’t they wait? Put in more details? That’s what is there now. 

And it is sure not a middle-class tax cut by any stretch of the imagination.

Those who put together this plan, the hard-right wing of the Republican Party, really aren’t interested in a middle-class tax cut. They’re interested in tax cuts for the rich, and scraps for everyone else. Nothing makes this clearer than their budget resolution.

And every day this plan comes with a surprise. Here’s the surprise today and it’s amazing. 

The Republican budget resolution,  calls for a $473 billion cut in Medicare. Folks, this tax bill cuts your Medicare. The budget bill that outlines the tax bill we are doing this week, the plan calls for a $473 billion cut in Medicare. And more than $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid.

You’re an older American, you say maybe this tax bill won’t affect me, it sure will. It sure will. Because, amazingly, to pay for these tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, the most powerful of Americans, they cut your Medicare by over $450 billion dollars and cut Medicaid by 1 trillion dollars. 

Haven’t our Republican colleagues learned? When they tried to do a similar thing in healthcare, cut healthcare so they could save money and cut taxes on the very wealthy, They had to abandon it. This is going to meet a similar problem. It’s going to meet the opprobrium of the American people.  

$1.5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans, and the budget tees up, even more, cuts to Medicare. If the GOP tax plan were to pass, a provision (known as statutory PAYGO) would offset the deficit increase automatically with cuts to Medicare and many other programs that support our nation’s economy.

So not only does this bill favor the rich, the very wealthy, but to help finance those tax cuts for the wealthy they are cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars. Close to half a trillion dollars. And they are cutting Medicaid by a trillion dollars 

So, this is just like the Republican’s first healthcare bill, but in reverse. In the first Trumpcare bill, the Republicans proposed cutting way back on healthcare to sneak through tax breaks on the rich. Now they’re proposing a massive tax cuts on the rich to sneak through cuts to healthcare. Wait until America finds out about this bill. It’s going to get the same, cold, horrified reception that the healthcare bill did. And it will not pass. 

The American people won’t be fooled. They’ve seen this movie before. The top 1 percent and corporations would win, and millions of seniors, the disabled and working-class Americans would lose. And lose a lot. 

Not fair. The rich are doing great. They don’t need a tax break. But to compound the injury, to say that we are going to pay for their tax break by cutting Medicare and Medicaid, that is not going to fly. Don’t even try it.