Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For A Fair, Bipartisan Appropriations Process And For A Debate On The House-Passed, Bipartisan Background Checks Bill, And Today’s White House Meeting Between President Trump And Republicans

September 10, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling for a fair, cooperative, and bipartisan appropriations process, the need for a debate on the House-passed, bipartisan background checks bill, and the opportunity Republicans have today at their meeting at the White House to urge the president to support universal background checks. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

We have until the end of the month for members of both parties to work together and fund the federal government, one of our most basic responsibilities as legislators. At the end of July, both parties came together to produce a budget deal that set the blueprint for negotiations this fall. The same spirit of bipartisanship is required now to move forward through the appropriations process, and it starts with good-faith discussions about how we allocate funding to the twelve subcommittees. To be successful, that process must be fair, cooperative, and bipartisan.

Under a partisan process, we know what happens – we all lived through it just nine months ago. The president demanded funding for a border wall and then shut down the government when Congress didn’t give in to him. Now, just nine months later, I have read reports that Republicans are considering going down that same path again, potentially risking another government shutdown over the same exact issue.

Everyone on both sides of the aisle—I believe there’s good will here—both sides want to avoid a shutdown. Certainly the Republicans learned their lesson that it wasn’t very good for them last time. Both sides want to avoid a shutdown. And both sides would prefer to have a real budget, not a CR. The way to get that done is for both parties to work together and keep the appropriations process bipartisan. Not for the Republicans to tell the Democrats ‘these are the 302(b)s and this is the order in which we’ll do the bills. That’s not bipartisan and that’s not what the bipartisan agreement called for.

Finally on guns. Over the August recess, Leader McConnell promised that we would hold a debate on gun violence when we returned to Washington.

Now that we are back, Democrats will insist on holding Leader McConnell to his promise. A debate on gun safety should be our first order of business. And the place to start a debate is a vote on the House-passed, bipartisan background checks bill. It’s the foundation on which most other gun safety laws depend. We can’t make a real dent in preventing gun violence without first patching the glaring loopholes that in our laws that allow criminals, spousal abusers, and the adjudicated mentally-ill to buy firearms without a background check.

Some are talking about the so-called ERPO, or red flag, but the red flag doesn’t work if there’s not background check. Mr. Jones is red-flagged. Then he goes online, or goes to a gun show and buys a gun without a background check. So the red flag doesn’t work, unless we tighten the loopholes—close the loopholes—on the background check law.

Later today, Republican leaders will meet with President Trump to talk about the congressional agenda this fall. Gun violence, according to the reports I’ve read, is expected to be a topic of the conversation. I strongly urge my Republican colleagues to prevail on the president to support universal background checks.

Leader McConnell has said he will bring a bill to the floor if it has the president’s support. That means there is a truly historic opportunity for President Trump to lead his party towards sensible gun safety laws that in the past, Republicans, in obeisance to the NRA, have refused to support for decades. Public support, public pressure, is mounting from one end of the country to the other. Ninety-three percent of Americans support background checks. The majority of Republicans, vast majority, the majority of gun owners, vast majority, support it.

The president can provide Republicans important political cover. They shouldn’t need it, because so many Americans are for this, but they do, because of the power—sometimes exercised rather ruthlessly—by the NRA. And so the president can do it.  

This is a moment of truth for the president, for Leader McConnell, and for all of my Republican colleagues. The American people are fed up. Too many people are being killed across the country every day. Just yesterday, I was waiting at the airport. A man came over to me, grabbed my arm, and said to me that his nephew was a victim of gun violence, and he pleaded with me for action. It’s affecting more and more people, their families, their friends, their communities. I imagine every one of my colleagues has met someone like man, I don’t know his name, over the past month.

The mayor of Dayton, Ohio, Nan Whaley, joined with Democrats yesterday at a press conference—another incredibly compelling voice pushing for some progress on this issue. We’ve invited her to speak to our caucus lunch today, and I expect my Republican colleagues have mayors in their states that, just like her, are exhausted by the daily gun violence in their cities.

Republicans have a chance today to convince the president to do the right thing and come out in support of a policy that is not a fig leaf, that is not milquetoast and will do nothing, but one that will actually save lives. I strongly urge our Republican colleagues, Leader McConnell, to use this afternoon’s meeting at the White House to discuss supporting the bipartisan background checks bill.