Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the specifics of the two-year budget deal. Below are his remarks which can also be viewedHere:
Mr. President, yesterday, after months of painstaking negotiations, the Republican leader and I reached a two-year budget deal.
Not only will it end the series of successive fiscal crises that have gridlocked this body, it will also deliver a large investment in our military and our middle class, give a significant boost to our nation’s health care, and provide long-overdue relief to disaster-stricken parts of our country.
As I said yesterday, it doesn’t include everything that Democrats want nor everything that Republicans want, but it is a good deal for the American people. It is a strong signal that we can break the gridlock that has overwhelmed this body and work together for the good of the country.
Let me run through just a few of the benefits it would provide.
Our military has suffered from the uncertainty of endless short-term spending bills. This budget deal puts that to an end. It gives the military a significant boost in support and allows the Pentagon to make long-term decisions about its budget. It’s the right thing to do and I want to credit two people: first, first, my dear friend, Senator McCain. He talked to me repeatedly even when he was ill about the need for funding defense. He also talked about the need for doing immigration and tried to make them go hand in hand, but Senator McCain has been our leader in this chamber on both sides of the aisle in terms of making sure defense is funded, and I know he is proud today of what we're doing for the military.
I'd also like to thank Secretary Mattis. He visited me repeatedly. He’s a cabinet secretary who seems to be doing his job rather than focusing on an ideological path which divides people and he worked hard for this and deserves a great deal of credit.
We Democrats always argue that we wanted to fund our military and middle-class programs. We needed good help on both. A mother whose child died from opioid addiction, a veteran who is waiting in line to get help, college students with great debt on their shoulders, pensioners whose pensions might be greatly diminished: they all need help, too, to say that our military needs help to the exclusion of all of these other military causes is not fair to them and not good for America.
I have always argued that we can do both. This budget shows that we can. We can do both -- fund the military and help fund the middle class. For those naysayers who said it couldn’t be done? It sure can. This budget, I’m proud of what it does for the middle class.
For nearly a decade, our middle class has suffered from a needless and self-imposed austerity in Congress, limiting investment in jobs and education, infrastructure, scientific research, and more.
This budget deal puts that to an end as well. So for those who said we can't do both, we can. I'm proud of this budget because it does. Let me go into a few specifics.
It includes billions of dollars in support for: child care, helping middle-class families shoulder the heavy burden of a child – they need to be able to take care of their kids in a way that they can have confidence in when both parents work, so often that happens, or in single parent families, so often that happens.
What about college affordability? The debt burden on the shoulders of those who just got out of college or graduate school is huge. We are focusing on providing help here and in this budget we focus on police officers, teachers, and firefighters.
What about infrastructure? Our infrastructure is crumbling throughout America. Much of it was built 50 or even 100 years ago. Roads and bridges, water and wastewater
– we need to help those and then we need to build new infrastructure.
How about rural broadband to rural areas and inner cities which are not getting it? Broadband is a necessity today. Kids can’t learn, often you can’t hold a job unless you can get broadband at home. Well in large parts of America, particularly rural, you can’t get it. We provide help and rural America is very happy that we are doing this.
We provide billions to rebuild and improve veterans hospitals and clinics so that when our brave soldiers come home bearing the scars of war, their country serves them just as well as they served us.
Opioids, I mentioned that earlier.
Six billion dollars to guard against the opioid and mental health crises. The opioid crisis is so widespread – the President has set up a whole bunch of commissions and given a whole bunch of speeches but hasn’t funded it. We in this body have. We Democrats have led the charge. We have so many members, like Senators Shaheen and Manchin, so many senators like Senators Heitkamp and Baldwin, so many Senators like McCaskill and Donnelly, like Senator Hassan have been talking about the opioid crisis for a long time and their hard work has no produced the dollars what will give the treatment that so many who are addicted need and the infrastructure to prevent these bad drugs, particularly Fentanyl, from coming into this country.
Mr. President, my guest to the State of the Union was a woman named Stephanie Keegan from Putnam County. She was the brave mother of a veteran who got hooked on opioids in the depths of PTSD, who waited 16 months for his first appointment at the VA but died from an overdose two weeks before he could get treatment. Stephanie Keegan has been fighting for this. She is a brave, strong woman who is lighting a candle. She was my guest at the State of the Union. She is a happy woman this morning because all of her hard work after her son’s passing is coming to fruition.
Of course, there’s much more in this proposal. So much we can all be proud of as Americans. That we are not neglecting people who have been neglected for so long.
Support for community health centers, they serve over 25 million Americans. A full decade of funding for CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance program. An effort to lower prescription drug costs for millions of American seniors caught in the Medicare Part D donut hole. Disaster relief,
and recovery funding for not just Texas, Louisiana, and Florida, as important as they may be, and are, but for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the western states. A special select committee – we don’t do this often - that’s empowered under a deadline to deliver a legislative fix to the pension issue by the end of the year. This issue, which plagues so many working Americans, middle class Americans, in many states. People who paid into their pensions day after day, week after week, month after month and are now finding those pensions vanishing? We should provide relief for them, just as we should provide relief for others. This commission is a strong, bright light that focuses on this issue and creates a path to solution.
I want to solute so many of my colleagues who have worked hard on so many of these pieces. Sens. Murray and Wyden and Tester on health care. Sens. Brown, Casey, Stabenow, Manchin, Heitkamp, Donnelly, Klobuchar, Baldwin and Smith on the pension’s piece. Sen. Nelson on the disaster package. Sens. Leahy – ranking member of appropriations – has done a great job on the whole thing. A lot of credit is due to each of them and so many more of our members because the final product is something that will benefit so many Americans over the next decade.
Sen. McCaskill was also very much involved in the pension issue as well as many others.
I hope this budget agreement will pass the Senate in large numbers from both sides of the aisle. It will be easy to say, I didn’t like this or I didn’t like that, but this is the time to come together. This is the time to stand up for our soldiers, for our middle class, and for those aspiring to the middle class. I hope we will get a large bipartisan vote.
To that point, I have pointed words for some deficit hawks in the House, in the Freedom Caucus on the hard-right who are starting to squawk about this budget deal. They say it raises the deficit. They just voted and cheered a bill that would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit in the form of tax breaks for mammoth corporations. They were willing to increase the deficit on the defense side of the budget, but all of a sudden when it comes to our schools and roads and scientific research, it is all, “oh, we can’t do it because of the deficit!”
Mr. President, it is blatantly hypocritical to ignore the deficit when it favors corporate America but raise the alarm when it comes to helping our veterans, our students, folks addicted to opioids. That’s selective enforcement. That doesn’t fly. There is a lot of sophistry going on, “oh, we when we reduce taxes then we won’t have a deficit. Because it will keep the economy going.”
Does anyone doubt that education keeps the economy growing? That scientific research keeps the economy going? That building infrastructure keeps the economy growing? There is a lot of hokum flying around here. “Only when you cut taxes for big corporations we grow the economy…”
What is good for the goose is good for the gander. I think Americans are tired of the hypocrisy on the hard-right. Which greets a $1.5 trillion dollar hole in the deficit by cutting taxes and primarily taxes on the wealthy with cheers and then says that you cannot spend money on somebody who needs relief from the student debt loan they have or needs help for healthcare or food stamps. It is utter, sheer hypocrisy.
Let this budget go forward, through both chambers and onto the President’s desk, where President Trump seems willing and ready to sign it. President Trump was not involved in this process. He was not constructive when he spoke and tweeted. He asked for a shutdown. I think in this body, and I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are learning this, that often times we can get a lot more done working with one another and let the White House just sit on the sidelines. Because you don’t know what their positions are, like I once said, negotiating with the President is like negotiating with Jell-O. Often times their positions are so far over to one side of the political spectrum, sort of Koch brother type positions that they would never pass. This is a good model.
One more word on immigration. Based on my continued conversations with the Republican Leader, once we pass this budget agreement, we are ready to proceed to a neutral bill – shell bill - on immigration next week. The Leader has guaranteed, the Republican Leader, an amendment process fair to all sides where we will alternate amendments. That means some people on the very conservative side will get amendments, some on the very liberal side. But so will there be an opportunity for a bipartisan compromise focusing on the Dreamers and border security that has a real chance of getting 60 votes. We should all be working hard to get that done in this chamber and I would say to my friends in America who care about the Dreamers: please let your senators know, particularly to those senators who have not committed to helping the Dreamers, how important this is. Next week will be one of the most vital weeks that we can deal with the Dreamer issue in a fair and compassionate way. It has been swept under the rug for too long, and because the agreement that the Leader and I came to a few weeks ago, that he has confirmed keeping his commitment, we will be able to deal with it.
Mr. President, the House should be able to deal with it as well. What Leader McConnell and I have agreed to is what Speaker Ryan should agree to. To just put President Trump’s bill on the floor means no immigration bill and no help for the Dreamers, we all know that.
It will lose Republican votes as well as Democrat votes, it won’t pass in the House.
So I say to Speaker Ryan -- allow a fair and open process to debate a Dreamers bill on the House just as we are allowing in the Senate.
Leader Pelosi shouldn’t have to stand and speak for eight hours – I respect her for doing it just to secure a vote on an issue as compelling and as pressing as the Dreamers. What Leader Pelosi is asking for is the same as what we got here in the Senate, no more, no less. A vote and an open process. That’s undeniably fair.
So I hope Speaker Ryan will relent and promise a vote. There is an appetite on both sides and in both chambers to get this done.
In the Senate, I know that everyone on the Democratic side and many on the Republican side are working hard to find a bill that protects the Dreamers and provides border security that can pass next week.
We know it’s a difficult task. We know immigration is one of the more volatile issues in America, but we have to do it for the good of this country. The budget was a difficult process and we came to an agreement. Let’s do the same on immigration, a bipartisan agreement where each side gives some and we can all be proud we got it done.
Let the same effort and spirit of compromise that forged this budget deal carry forward to the issue of the Dreamers. And let’s get it done next week.