Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 10:47 a.m.] regarding the need to obtain all of Judge Kavanaugh’s records and short-term health care plans. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Now for several weeks, our Republican colleagues have been stonewalling our efforts to gain access to Judge Kavanaugh’s full record on behalf of the Senate and more importantly on behalf of the American people. In doing so, they’ve discarded a tradition of bipartisan cooperation when it comes to requesting a nominee’s record.
Whether you’ve been for a nominee or not, we used to agree that the Senate should be able to review their full record, for the sake of transparency and openness, for a vote, advise and consent, on one of the most important jobs in the country and in the world, a lifetime job of tremendous power, not an abstract power, but the decisions the Supreme Court makes affect the daily lives of Americans. So, this is just incredible. For Justice Kagan, Democrats joined with the Republican minority to request all of her records. For Justice Sotomayor, Democrats did the same. We could have come up with some fake reasons why you couldn’t get the records. We didn’t. We believed in transparency and openness.
Republicans are doing a 180-degree reversal now that they’re in charge, which leaves a very bad taste in our mouths and in the American people’s mouths. They are saying what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander; transparency is fine when Democrats are in charge and nominating nominees, but no transparency when Republicans are in charge. So, Republicans are breaking from that bipartisan precedent and they’re requesting only a subset of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from his time in the White House. Chairman Grassley has asked for documents pertaining to Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s office, but none from his three years as staff secretary, arguably a more important and more revealing job.
And now adding insult to injury -- and this is utterly amazing -- we’ve just learned that even when it comes to the documents concerning Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s office, the Senate is not likely to get the full picture. Even on that limited group of documents.
Chairman Grassley has written to the National Archives and the Bush Library to request the documents when Judge Kavanaugh was White House Counsel, and both are working on producing them. But unlike at the National Archives, the Bush Library -- and we know President Bush, I have a great deal of respect for him, I think he’s a good man, even though I disagreed with him a whole lot, but he’s a close friend of Kavanaugh who worked with him, he’s a loyal guy -- has hired a legal team led by a Republican lawyer with close ties to President Bush and President Trump to pre-screen the documents from Judge Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s office. They are doing the screening. This lawyer who worked for Bannon, who worked for Priebus and so many other Republicans, pejoratively you may say he’s sort of a hack lawyer, he may be a fine lawyer, but he always works for Republicans, he’s a very partisan man, and he is screening the documents the public can see.
The legal team may cite executive privilege – that is President Bush’s prerogative – to deny the Senate some or all of the documents. And we believe they may be claiming the discretion to determine if a document is properly considered a presidential record at all – that’s something only the National Archives can do and they are non-partisan. They don’t have any political pull on them.
The bottom line is: the Republican lawyers overseeing the production of documents from the Bush Library may seek to deny the Senate access to documents the National Archives would otherwise grant. Is that incredible? So another layer: it’s not even all the counsel’s documents because there’s a lawyer, a tried and true doctrinaire Republican lawyer, tight with so many of the people in this administration, who’s determining which documents we get to see and which documents we don’t.
So knowing of that, I recently wrote a letter to President Bush asking a simple question: will he, President Bush, make public Judge Kavanaugh’s full record or not? I wanted to be sure that there would be little or no daylight between what the Senate received from the Bush Library and from what we received from the National Archives.
Unfortunately, I did not get a simple answer. I got a reply from the lawyer hired by the Bush Library, draped in legalese and obfuscations, confirming that a team of private sector lawyers are screening documents, the limited number of documents from when Judge Kavanaugh was White House Counsel. He also made clear that “copies of records that the team of lawyers has reviewed and…approved for disclosure” would be made “available to the Committee.” That’s in this letter right here, right here, sent by the lawyers.
Ironically, this offer was presented as a courtesy. Of course, it’s plain as day. It means that Chairman Grassley could accept the pre-screened documents from the Bush legal team and decline to wait for documents being process by the National Archives, meaning the Senate and the public will see only what partisan lawyers want us to see. Some courtesy.
Mr. President, this is not a fishing expedition. This is not an attempt to run out the clock. We are talking about a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. The person who fills this vacancy on the Supreme Court will have the power to affect the lives of every single American, now and for decades.
Democrats simply want Judge Kavanaugh’s record to be made available to the Senate, and to the public to judge for themselves whether President Trump’s nominee is the right choice for our country. The American people deserve that right. But not only are Republicans blocking access to Kavanaugh’s record when he was a senior member of the Bush administration, the documents they are requesting are being pre-screened by lawyers on their side.
It all leads you to wonder over and over again: what are the Republicans trying to hide in Judge Kavanaugh’s record? To go to such lengths, to tie themselves in knots and pretzels, to deny simple documents that people can read makes people ask: what are they hiding? What are they afraid of? Why can’t we have open documents as we had for Justice Kagan and Justice Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominees? To go to such lengths to deny the Senate impartial access to this material is telling.
Now, on health care. Today, the Trump administration has finalized a plan for a type of health insurance that will essentially repeal protections on pre-existing conditions and allow insurance companies to cover fewer benefits, not more.
These so-called “short-term” plans are the very definition of a bait and switch. Under the guise of lower premiums, these plans lure Americans in, but they hardly cover anything. The insurance company will tell you ‘oh this plan will cover you for this and that,’ and then when you read the fine print it doesn’t, even though you’re paying a nice sized premium. So, there are no protections if you develop a pre-existing condition. God forbid you find out your son or daughter has cancer, you need help, you’re desperate for help, you want the health of your child above anything else, the insurance company can just kick you off. That’s not what America should be. These plans that the administration is supporting, allowing, pushing, don’t have any protections for pre-existing conditions. Many don’t cover basic services like maternity care, mental health coverage, prescription drugs. How do you like that? You sign up for a plan, no prescription drugs. When you get sick, you discover that you are on the hook for much more than you expected, maybe much more than you can afford.
There are stories of people having medical bills close to $1 million after their insurer used a loophole in their junk plan to deny them coverage. We already know that many of the leading issuers of these junk plans spend less than half of the premiums they receive on health care, they pocket the money for profit and for salary and the poor person that’s covered hardly gets anything. There ought to be protections for that. We don’t live in the 1890s, we live in a modern day America where we believe in the private system, the private capitalist system, but we have some protections. That’s what we’ve learned through the centuries: that people need them. But this administration, aided by some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, not all, just want to roll back that clock for the benefit of the big powerful industries hurting the average, middle-class American.
The Trump administration plan is also going to increase premiums for middle-class families also and older Americans, so many who have pre-existing conditions, they’ll have no choice but to remain in comprehensive insurance, and their premiums will go way up. If you’re over 50, before you get Medicare you’d better be wary of these, too. Even if you don’t want to buy the plan it’s going to cost you a lot more, your existing one. Insurers across the country have already cited the prospect of this rule as a major reason for the premium increases that are coming up in 2019 – and who knows how much higher premiums will go now that the rule is final?
So, let me be clear: these new short-term plans are nothing short of junk insurance. They are junk insurance and the president is pushing them and our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, many of them, not all, are giving junk plans the good housekeeping seal of approval at the obeisance of big powerful industry interests. These plans will cost Americans more, both those who sign up for these plans and many who do not. We Democrats will do everything in our power to stop these junk plans.
Instead of pushing new rules that weaken vital protections for people with pre-existing conditions and raising the cost of health care for families, President Trump and Republicans in Congress should work together in a bipartisan fashion, as some have tried to do including the senator from Maine who’s standing behind me, work in a bipartisan fashion to lower costs and help the most vulnerable Americans.