Schumer Remarks on September Agenda, Tax Reform, North Korea, and DACA

September 5, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the September agenda, the need to work with Democrats on tax reform, North Korea, and the termination of DACA . Below are his remarks:

First I welcome you and every other Senator back from the district work period. As we all know, much has happened since we last were here.

North Korea has tested several ballistic missiles and reportedly tested a nuclear weapon, alarming well-meaning nations around the world. In Charlottesville, neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched in the streets, reminding us that we are not done fighting the darkest elements of American society: racism, bigotry, hate. Right now, large parts of the fourth largest city in our country remain underwater.

I extend my most heartfelt sympathies to the people of Houston – and across parts of Texas and Louisiana -- who are just beginning a long road to recovery from Hurricane Harvey. Having lived through Hurricane Sandy in my home state of New York, I remember the agonies of families who lost their homes, lost their businesses, and particularly in the first month had a sense of helplessness about what had happened to them.

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Houston. And we thank all the first responders, the rescue organizations, the police and fire departments who were on the scene, as well as those everyday American heroes – Americans always rise to the occasion – who lent a hand; like those folks who drove to Houston with boats hitched to their cars to help rescue stranded families. In rough times, Americans pull together.

And Congress will do its part to provide relief and aid to the people of Houston this month.

Now Mr. President, needless to say, we have a busy work period ahead of us.                                                                                  

In addition to a recovery package for Houston, we have to pass appropriations to keep the government open, raise the debt ceiling, protect the DREAMers, provide certainty on the cost-sharing programs that keep healthcare premiums down, and much, much more.

The to-do list is lengthy. Nearly all the items I mentioned will require votes from Senators from both sides of the aisle. The best way to tackle and ultimately pass legislation on those issues is for us to work in a bipartisan way this month.

Now on tax: Unfortunately, we’re off to a very bad start, because President Trump has scheduled a meeting on tax reform today with only Republican legislative leaders.                                        

Just as they did with healthcare, Republicans seem to be excluding Democrats from the legislative process from the very beginning.

The Majority Leader announced, prior to the break, that he would likely pursue changes to the tax code on reconciliation – meaning the Republicans would only need the votes of their own party.

Now, they’re meeting about the issue without even inviting Democrats to join in this preliminary discussion.

Very simply, if Republicans hope to avoid the same pitfalls that ultimately brought down their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, they ought to abandon the misguided idea that one party can enact major changes to the tax code. An effort like this requires two parties, and the results for the American people will be better if we all work together.

The American people understand clearly that if Democrats were included in the debate, tax reform would be much more likely to help the middle class. If Republicans are the only ones in the room on tax reform, the vast majority of benefits are likely to go to those at the very, very top. That is what the Republican Party has stood for for years.

Now, Mr. President, on another matter, North Korea.

Over the past six weeks, North Korea has repeatedly tested the resolve of the United States with the launch of several ballistic missiles.

The rogue regime has threatened to launch a missile in close proximity to Guam, a U.S. territory, and it has, in fact, fired a missile over the territory of our ally Japan.

The United States must respond to these increasingly bellicose actions with firmness and levelheadedness.

And the President of the United States has to lead the way. The President of the United States should be firm, and level, and above all else, credible. The President’s words matter – especially, especially on issues of national security. But thus far, President Trump has responded to North Korea with bluff and bluster, hyperbole and exaggerated language: “Fire and fury like the world has never seen.” That’s the kind of language you typically hear from the North Korean regime, not from the President of the United States.                                                                                                                 

The harsh fact of the matter is that because President Trump bluffs and blusters, he’ll be much less effective in dealing with North Korea in the long run. Foreign leaders, especially our allies, don’t know whether they can trust his words when there’s so much hyperbole involved, and it undermines his ability to lead in a geopolitical crisis.

I’d urge the President to speak with caution, to speak with prudence, and to always speak credibly as well as strongly.

It is paramount that North Korea understands the position of the United States, and that when the President of the United States makes a statement, it believes we are prepared to act accordingly.

Finally, Mr. President, on the DACA program. Today, the Administration announced it would terminate the program after a period of six months.

Most Americans know how heartless this DACA decision is; ripping apart families and telling people who worked so hard to become Americans for years that they now have to leave the country. These are folks who were brought here as children, through no fault of their own. They may have known no other country but ours and have voluntarily registered themselves with the government in order to live, work and give back to our great country.                                             

And make no mistake, they contribute greatly to our country. These hardworking people and their contributions are vital to our economy, vital to our communities and schools and institutions like the military – and they are vital, too, to tens of thousands of businesses, small and large, who will be hurt if the administration’s order stands.

Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients are employed, paying taxes and paying into Social Security. A study by the Center for American Progress earlier this year found that ending DACA would drain $433 billion from our national GDP over 10 years. Even the libertarian Cato Institute estimated that ending DACA would cost employers nearly $2 billion over two years.

The human and economic toll of rescinding DACA will be far reaching.

It’s telling that Attorney General Sessions, not President Trump, made the announcement today that the Administration would be ending DACA. And he did it without taking a single question. It shows that President Trump is not proud of what the Administration has done today, otherwise he would have come forward himself. It shows that he is probably ashamed of his decision.

And it was with unbelievable hypocrisy that both Attorney General Sessions and the White House Press Secretary said today that the decision was about upholding the rule of law.

If this White House had such reverence for the rule of law, the President would not have fired Jim Comey, or attacked the federal judiciary for ruling against the travel ban, or pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio for no reason other than he was a political ally.

Mr. President, Congress now has an ability and obligation to act. Democrats will do everything we can to prevent President Trump's terribly wrong order from becoming reality.