Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor urging Leader McConnell to end his legislative graveyard. Senator Schumer also said that the appeals court ruling in Mazars v. Trump should be upheld by the Supreme Court. In addition, Senator Schumer demanded that Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reverse course on his efforts to deny comprehensive health coverage to veterans who have suffered from Agent Orange because of their service in the Vietnam War and detailed Senate Democrats’ new report that shows how the Trump administration mismanaged aid to farmers affected by the president’s turbulent trade agenda and favored southern and foreign agribusiness over suffering small farmers. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here.
For the past few weeks (including this morning), the Republican leader has, amazingly, accused Democrats of being uninterested in making progress for the American people because we’re so distracted by the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.
It is a ludicrous charge, not the least because Leader McConnell has shuttered the Senate when it comes to legislative business. The House has passed over two hundred and fifty bills that Leader McConnell has taken no action on here in the Senate.
Leader McConnell proudly called himself the “Grim Reaper” and blocked just about everything that came through the House—long before impeachment was even being talked about. So this idea—that impeachment is blocking us from doing things—belies the record of Senator McConnell.
The House has passed, let me repeat it, two-hundred-and-fifty bills and Leader McConnell has taken no action on them from January forward. There are lots of these bills we could have put on the floor this week. Not a one.
Republicans just block and block and block. They block legislation to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and even to secure our elections from foreign interference. And I heard Leader McConnell, a few minutes ago, say everything’s fine with elections—we don’t need any more legislation. Go talk to the election officials around the states, and the states are the ones who have the say. The bottom line: they think we need to do more. The experts think we need to do more. Only Leader McConnell doesn’t, and again he is blocking that. If Russia interferes in 2020, and I hope they won’t, all eyes will be on the Leader, the Republican Leader who has repeatedly prevented us from moving forward on bipartisan legislation to make our elections safer.
And here’s another example of the legislative graveyard: In a few minutes, the two Senators from Connecticut, Senators Murphy and Blumenthal, will be moving forward on bipartisan background checks, H.R.8. It’s overwhelmingly supported by the American people. Senator Murphy, Senator Blumenthal will ask for unanimous consent. The Republicans will object.
So while the Republican Leader accuses Democrats of being too distracted to make progress, he’s turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard, where we hardly ever vote on legislation, we hardly ever have an open amendment process, hardly ever even debate major issues, despite commitments made by the Republican leader in the past. At one point, and I’m sure my colleagues from Connecticut will point this out, he said, “Yeah, we ought to do something on background checks.” Nothing’s happened. Nothing.
You don’t even have to ask me. My friend, the Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, said something last week that caught my attention. Senator Toomey and I may not agree on much, but here’s what Senator Toomey said: “Our Democratic colleagues have frequently criticized the Republican Leadership and Republican majority for not legislating. Sometimes they have a point.” His words, not mine.
I was down here on the floor yesterday with the Senior Senator from Texas, talking about how the Senate might go about trying to lower the cost of prescription drugs. I disagreed with the Senator’s consent request, it was too narrow—a little riffle shot, we need to do a whole lot more—but we agreed we could work through our issues if the Republican leader would only allow a debate on the floor, where both sides could offer amendments and receive votes. We Democrats very much want to vote on legislation that would maintain the protections that people have when they have pre-existing conditions. We Democrats very much want to have a vote on allowing Medicare to negotiate with the drug companies, dramatically lowering drug prices. Let’s have a debate on all these. Who’s stopping that? Not the Democrats. The Republican Leader.
So the fact of the matter is, the kinds of open debates we wish, the American wish, have not happened in Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard. The man who proudly called himself the “Grim Reaper” goes far too far in accusing Democrats of stifling progress, instead, he should take a hard look in the mirror.
On tax returns. Yesterday, a federal appeals court ruled that Congress can seek eight years of the President’s tax returns. No doubt, the president will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court in an effort to keep hidden what the president has been hiding for as long as he has been in public life: his tax returns. Why the president has engaged in such an astounding breach of transparency is still unknown. President Trump, what are you hiding?
The D.C. Circuit’s decision, an 8-3 ruling, was clearly the correct legal result. It should be upheld.
On farmers and veterans, last but not least. President Trump has long fashioned himself a champion of everyday Americans—workers, farmers, veterans. This week has been a grim reminder that despite the president’s promises, his administration almost every week undermines the very people he claims to champion.
Take our veterans, whose service we commemorated earlier this week on Veterans Day. The Department of Veterans Affairs decided in 2017 to help Vietnam-era veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange by expanding the list of diseases that were eligible for health benefits to include bladder cancer, hypertension, Parkinson’s-like symptoms, and hypothyroidism. There are tens of thousands of veterans whose lives would be changed by this decision. It was the right decision based on research.
But it was recently revealed that OMB Director and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney blocked funding for these new health benefits because of what it would cost. Think about that. Mick Mulvaney, who thought adding $1.5 trillion to our deficit was an acceptable cost for tax cuts for the rich, believes the cost of health benefits for sick veterans is just too high. So wrong, so wrong, it’s shameful that Mulvaney could be in the position he’s in. And the next time the president claims to be a champion for our nation’s veterans, the American people should remember what he’s doing here: denying benefits to our armed forces, exposed to Agent Orange, and are now sick. It’s too expensive to help them, but not too expensive to give tax cuts to the wealthiest of Americans. Shame on the administration, shame on Mr. Mulvaney, and shame on President Trump.
What about our farmers? It’s no secret that America’s farmers have struggled as a result of President Trump’s trade policies and retaliatory tariffs from other countries. The administration even created a new program through USDA to help offset the losses farmers were facing.
Well, now it turns out that the Trump administration has grossly mishandled that program. A report by the Democratic minority on the Agriculture Committee, led by its ranking member Senator Stabenow, revealed that the lion’s share of federal aid has gone to large agricultural conglomerates scattered across the South, not the small family farms in the Midwest that have suffered most.
Ninety-five percent of the largest per-acre payments have gone to southern states, while the lowest payments have disproportionately gone to the farmers who are suffering in the Midwest. The administration lifted the limits on aid to row crops but kept the limits for other crops, meaning that more aid has gone into the pockets of the largest and wealthiest farms in America. The report even showed that tens of millions of dollars have gone to foreign-owned entities, including a beef factory in Brazil.
President Trump has claimed to look after our farmers, he’s claimed to look after our veterans, but has instead turned his back on them. More and more Americans—farmers, veterans, others—are starting to notice.