Schumer Floor Remarks on Net Neutrality, FISA Reauthorization, and the Bipartisan Immigration Compromise Presented to President Trump

January 16, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding net neutrality, FISA reauthorization, and the bipartisan immigration bill presented to President Trump. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

First, on the topic of net neutrality.

Since the Trump Administration’s FCC voted to end net neutrality in December, Democrats have been working to round up enough Senators to overrule the FCC’s decision, which places control of the internet in the hands of the biggest corporations.

Today we reached an important milestone – 50 Senators will support Sen. Markey’s resolution of disapproval: all forty-nine Democrats have signed on to cosponsor and my friend from Maine, Senator Collins, has also said she will support.

With our full caucus supporting this measure, it’s clear that Democrats want to keep the internet from becoming a Wild West where ISPs are free to offer premium service to the wealthiest customers while average consumers are left with far inferior options.

When we force a vote on this bill, Republicans in Congress will – for the first time -- have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: are they on the side of big internet service providers and corporations, or are they on the side of consumers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and small business owners?

I applaud Senator Collins for supporting this effort and hope sincerely that more of her colleagues will do the same. Given how quickly this measure earned the support of 50 Senators, I believe we have a real chance of success in restoring net neutrality, and keeping the internet free and open for all Americans.

Now, another pressing issue before us this week is FISA and the 702 program.

The Majority Leader is pressing forward on a six-year bill to reauthorize the 702 FISA Court program. This is a significant bill, but right now, the Majority Leader is pushing for its passage without debate or amendments. That’s the wrong approach.

Many of my colleagues would like to offer amendments to this legislation, and frankly, they deserve that right.

And personally, I believe that while this bill makes some improvements to the 702 FISA program, it should go somewhat further. We could do a better job balancing the crucial national security imperatives of the program with legitimate concerns about privacy and protecting the rights of American citizens.

The bill on the calendar is better than the status quo, and it’s certainly better than no bill at all, but that is not the choice before us. The Majority Leader can open the bill up for limited debate and a few amendments – not to delay – but so that we can have some amendments and try to improve it.

For that reason I’ll be voting no on the upcoming cloture motion. If cloture is not invoked, we could quickly move to an amendment process where Senators from both parties could offer ideas to improve the bill.

That’s what we ought to do, especially on a bill on the most sensitive area of the government where security and liberty meet, and that will stand for six years. Six years. That is too quick for too much, and we ought to have some amendments and some discussion.

The fate of the Dreamers has been the subject of months of intense bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.

Last week, a bipartisan group of Senators went to the White House with a deal that represents the best path forward. Senators Graham and Durbin, alongside Senators Gardner and Menendez and Flake and Bennet, worked out a compromise that fits squarely inside the four corners that President Trump himself outlined as the parameters of a deal in a televised meeting last Tuesday.

In exchange for passing DACA protections, the Gang of Six deal includes President Trump’s full budget request for border security, including funding to build barriers along the southern border. It deals with family reunification within the scope of the negotiations – foreclosing the possibility of Dreamers sponsoring their parents for citizenship. The deal would also curb the diversity lottery system, another item that President Trump requested. The full details of the proposal will be announced tomorrow, but those are the broad strokes as I understand them.

The concessions in the bill are tough pills to swallow for Democrats. It is not the bill we would’ve written if we were in charge. But that is not the situation we find ourselves in. To make this body work, to avoid a shutdown, we must compromise. So Democrats tried in good faith to meet the President and our Republican colleagues halfway – to find a deal that neither side loved but both sides could live with.

And that’s what a bipartisan group of Senators achieved.  The deal they produced is right down the middle. It addresses the precise issues the President identified as part of a deal.

And yet, at the pivotal White House meeting last Thursday, President Trump turned his back on this bipartisan solution and proceeded to use foul and vulgar language to demean African and Caribbean countries.

His well-reported comments were certainly unbefitting the presidency of the United States. They were beneath the dignity of the office. They went against the very idea of America – which holds up as an unassailable truth that all men are created equal, no matter their station or country of origin.

But just as distressing, President Trump’s comments reveal an intransigence about coming to a deal for the Dreamers. It seems President Trump has only two ways of negotiating. Either he commits to a deal one day and then betrays his word the next -- which is what happened last year after Leader Pelosi and I met the President on DACA -- or he dismisses even the possibility of compromise and says that a bipartisan deal is that he gets everything he wants.

Mister President, hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. Funding for our men and women in uniform hangs in the balance. President Trump needs to step up. He can’t just bluster. He can’t just play the game of brinksmanship. He can’t just be obstinate and say ‘my way or the highway.’ He needs to be willing to take YES for an answer.

A very fair, bipartisan deal remains on the table. It’s the only game in town, and we’re making steady progress on building additional support in both houses of Congress. If it was put on the floor of the House or the Senate, I predict it would get a majority vote in either one. There is a deal to be had this week.

The only person blocking it is President Trump.

So I have a challenge for President Trump. Everyone is talking about how bigoted your comments were last week. Well, actions speak louder than words. If you want to begin that long road back to prove you’re not prejudiced or bigoted, support the bipartisan compromise that three Republicans and three Democrats have put before you. One that was aimed at meeting the concerns you voiced. Give the Dreamers safety here in America and bolster border security at the same time.

This may be the last train leaving the station. President Trump needs to get on board.