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Schumer Floor Remarks On The Resolution To Terminate President Trump’s Emergency Declaration, The Trump Administration’s Budget Proposal, Controversial Judicial Nominees, And Trade Negotiations With China

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the resolution to terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration, the Trump administration’s budget proposal, controversial judicial nominees Paul Matey to the Third Circuit and Neomi Rao to the DC Circuit, and urged the president to take a hard line on U.S.-China trade negotiations.  Below are his remarks, which can be viewed here.

Mr. President, by the end of this week, the Senate will vote on a resolution to terminate the president’s emergency declaration. I have laid out the number of reasons why the Senate must vote to terminate.

The president has not demonstrated that an emergency exists. During the announcement of the declaration, the president said that he “didn’t need to do this.” A few weeks later, 58 former national security officials, including former secretaries of state and defense, said there was “no factual basis” for an emergency declaration.

For the sake of the facts, the Senate must vote to terminate.

We also have no idea which military construction projects might be on the chopping block. Republican Senators who vote against this declaration do so at their own peril: they may be voting to deprive necessary funds for military installations in their states.

For the sake of the brave men and women of our armed forces, the Senate must vote “no” to terminate.

And of course, the constitutional questions loom largest. The president failed to convince Congress, the American people, and perhaps most glaringly, Mexico, to pay for his border wall. Now, he’s attempting to use emergency powers to subvert the will of Congress. If allowed to stand, this emergency declaration would be a defacement of our constitutional order and one of the largest power grabs for the executive branch in the more than 200 years this nation has been in existence. My colleagues must contemplate the possibility that if President Trump were to succeed with this phony emergency declaration, future presidents would have a precedent to claim emergencies whenever Congress failed to endorse their policies. In effect, Congress would no longer be a co-equal branch of government. It would change the balance of power rather dramatically in ways the founding fathers never contemplated. In fact, it would horrify many of the founding fathers who were so worried about an overweening executive in the personage of King George.

I know many of my Republican friends are afraid to cross the president. We know he can be vindictive. I know that several support the idea of building a wall but want to oppose the emergency declaration. I’d say to my colleagues, respectfully: you’ve been able to express your support for a border wall numerous times, in the past Congress and in this one. Another amendment vote will accomplish nothing new; it will only poison Congress’ ability to pass this resolution.

So this is not about the policy at our southern border. This is about one thing and one thing alone: presidential overreach. Later this week, the Senate ought to vote on a clean resolution to terminate the emergency. The bottom line is very simple: if we were upholding the Constitution, it would be 100-0 against the emergency. If there were no politics, no fear, no worry about crossing a president, the vote would be 100-0. If people read the Federalist Papers and the Constitution, and what the founding fathers intended, the vote would be 100-0. I hope it’s as close to that as is possible.

On the budget. Earlier today, the Trump administration released its annual budget request. In recent years, these budget requests have become statements of principles and priorities rather than working documents. Purely as a statement of principle, the latest budget proposal from the Trump administration is not only extremely disturbing, it’s totally against what the president talks about when he talks to his supporters.

The budget request we received today would be a gut-punch to the middle class, a handout to powerful special interests and the wealthiest few. It would dismantle America’s healthcare system as we know it. And it would dramatically widen the gap in income and wealth between our nation’s richest citizens and the rest.

Now listen to this. President Trump talks about he wants to get better healthcare for Americans. Certainly out Republican colleagues do. But by cutting health care coverage and increasing health care costs for millions of Americans, this budget belies those promises. President Trump’s budget would repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, taking away health insurance from 32 million Americans, eliminating protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. How many Republicans are for that?

How about this one? It includes $1.5 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, $845 billion in cuts to Medicare, $506 billion in cuts to tax credits that help lower-income Americans afford insurance. Not only is this cruel, it is hypocritical. It’s against everything that our Republican friends talk about. It’s against what President Trump says. He says he’s going to preserve Medicare and Medicaid, and then he slashes it. It still befuddles me how he can get away with this even in these times.

Now second, the budget slashes major domestic programs, including investments in infrastructure, housing, education, and the environment – nearly a third of the EPA budget and more than one-fifth of the Department of Transportation’s budget. My Republican friends, when your commissioners and governors come to you and say they need more highway funds, are you going to support a budget that cuts them by 20%?

And on top of all this, it gives more tax breaks for the wealthiest few. It would permanently extend the Trump tax cuts, costing $1.9 trillion over ten years, with 70% of the benefits going to the top one-fifth of America.

The staggering costs of those tax cuts are the reason for all of these proposed cuts to healthcare and infrastructure. The Trump budget proposes the blind theft of the middle-class to line America’s deepest pockets.

It’s really a disgraceful budget. My guess is that Mr. Mulvaney, formerly at OMB, put it together. He was one of five most right-wing people in the Congress. He wanted to slash everything. And President Trump just rubber stamped it so he can tip his hat to those on the very far right. But the vast majority of the president’s supporters – they’re a dwindling number and they’re less than a third of American – they don’t support this. They don’t support this at all.

How many people who count themselves as supporters of President Trump support cutting Medicare by close to $1 trillion? How many of those who consider themselves supporters of President Trump support cutting Medicaid by $1 trillion? How many of President Trump’s closest supporters think we should eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions when people have them? How many of President Trump’s supporters want to cut infrastructure by one-fifth? Or cut the clean water in and clean air budget by a third? Hardly any. So this budget is sort of an Alice-in-Wonderland document.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Trump budget if it didn’t include the fantasy of another $8.6 billion in funding for the border wall. The fiction that Mexico would pay for the wall has been long debunked, although that’s what President Trump ran on. But it’s still amazing that the Trump Administration proposes, year after year after year, that the American taxpayer pay billions of dollars for a border wall that President Trump said would be completely free!

It’s difficult, Mr. President, to overstate the callousness of President Trump’s budget. The cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and the middle-class are devastating. But maybe not surprising. And this budget will be on the backs of every Republican. They support President Trump. The Republican Party’s systematic efforts to rip away Americans’ health care, its continued embrace tax cuts for the rich, and its refusal to accept the science, facts, and urgent need to address climate change, have made cruel and unthinkable budget proposals like this one par for the course with our fellow Republicans. It’s sad. It’s a shame. And it basically is total hypocrisy because not one single Republican will campaign on these proposals.

This week, the Senate will vote on three controversial nominees, including two court judges: Paul Matey for the Third Circuit and Neomi Rao for the DC Circuit, the second most powerful court in the country.

Mr. Matey’s nomination, In keeping with Leader McConnell, just ripping apart whatever bipartisanship we have left, has advanced without a blue slip from either home-state Senator – Senators Booker or Menendez. In case it wasn’t clear just how little Republican care about this once vaunted tradition, Mr. Matey even skipped the courtesy of even meeting with Sen. Menendez.

Mr. Matey has never made an oral argument before a federal court of appeals. Never. He barely has any litigation experience. He’s spent most of his career as a political aide to Gov. Christie. And yet, he’s nominated for a lifetime appointment to a Circuit Court of appeals – not even a district court, where his qualifications would still be questionable, but to a circuit court.

Ms. Neomi Rao, despite her experience, might even be worse. As the Trump Administration’s “regulatory czar,” she has been in charge of rolling back consumer protections, environmental protections, and healthcare protections. So as a nominee for the DC Circuit, which hears cases on federal regulation, Ms. Rao is hopelessly compromised, and yet she refused to commit to recusing herself from regulatory matters on which she has worked when pressed by Sen. Feinstein during the Judiciary hearing.

And that’s to say nothing of Ms. Rao’s alarming views. In past writings, Ms. Rao has expressed skepticism about climate change. She called sexual and racial oppression “myths,” and argued that independent federal agencies are unconstitutional. Perhaps worst of all, she has implied that sexual assault victims are to blame for the despicable crimes committed against them.

Honestly, where do my Republican colleagues find these people? The majority party always nominates judges that have a particular bent, we know that. But the Trump administration’s nominees, by and large, are not mainstream conservatives, they’re right-wing ideologues. Many of whom lack the experience, candor, and moderation we’d expect in a public servant, let alone a lifetime judge. A few of these judge’s sole qualification is not there judicial experience, is not their knowledge or erudition, but they’re active members of the Federalist Society.

I know this is what my friend the Majority Leader cares about: a hard-right bench. He’s running a conveyor belt of political partisans, many with extremely thin legal resumes, onto the courts. He gets a talking point for his base, but the quality of these nominees degrades the federal bench and cheapens the cause of justice in America.

I will vote no on both Mr. Matey and Ms. Rao, and I strongly urge my colleagues to do so.

And finally, on China. The ongoing trade negotiations with China is something I have been following closely. Over the past few weeks, there has been a drumbeat of reporting that the Trump administration is poised to accept a weak trade agreement with China.

Last week the New York Times reported that China’s draft new foreign investment law, meant to pacify the United States, would not include a complete end to forced technology transfers. The most recent published draft made no mention of preventing national government regulators from demanding technology transfers. This morning, the Times reported that China has agreed to few – if any – major restrictions on how it manages its currency.

For years, China manipulated its currency to suit its purposes, typically devaluing the renminbi to prop up its manufacturers. I was the first, with Senator Graham of South Carolina back in the early 2000s, to point out China’s currency manipulation and it has continued unabated. In recent days, the renminbi has been allowed to rise. But curiously, it fell 10% against the dollar after Donald Trump’s announcement of tariffs. According to the Times, that move alone, negated at least temporarily, the impact of President Trump’s latest round of tariffs.

The Chinese have done what they can to gain advantage over us. To steal our jobs, steal our wealth. They have not played fairly. And now President Trump, with his tariffs has them where we would want them. They need to come to an agreement. But they’re hanging tough, and the president’s inclinations seem to be to back off so he can get any deal and so the stock market will go up temporarily. But make no mistake about it, in the long run this will hurt America dramatically. Dramatically. The best paying jobs will be created in China, not here. The ability of the best American companies to compete worldwide will be dramatically curtailed. 

It is abundantly clear that China is playing us. They want to give up as little as possible while getting out from under the sting of tariffs.

So I say to President Trump who I have praised on his China policies thus far. A lot tougher, a lot better than President Obama or President Bush. I say to President Trump: do not get played. If you don’t achieve what you set out to achieve, namely the permanent reform of China’s most abusive trade practices, then walk away. Just as you walked away from North Korea when Chairman Kim would not make real commitments. President Trump, you must walk away from China if President Xi refuses meaningful and enduring economic reforms.

To do otherwise would be to squander maybe the last, best chance of putting American workers and businesses on a level playing field with our number one economic competitor.