Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the specifics of the bipartisan budget deal. Below are his remarks which can also be viewedHere:
Madam President, first let me thank the Republican Leader for his comments and his work these past several months. We have worked well together for the good of the American people. We had serious disagreements, but instead of just going to our own separate corners, we met in the middle and came together with an agreement that is very good for the American people and recognizes needs that both sides of the aisle proffered.
I am very pleased to announce that we have reached a two-year budget deal to lift the spending caps for defense and urgent domestic priorities far above current spending levels. There are still a few final details to work out, but all the principles of the agreement are in place.
The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want, it doesn’t have everything the Republicans want, but it has a great deal of what the American people want.
After months of legislative logjams, this budget deal is a genuine breakthrough. After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship. And it should break the long cycle of spending crises that have snarled this Congress and hampered our middle class.
This budget deal will benefit our country in so many ways.
Our men and women in uniform represent the very best of America. This budget gives our fighting forces the resources they need to keep our country safe, and I want to join the Republican Leader in saluting Senator McCain. We wish he were here because he has fought so valiantly and so long for a good agreement for the armed forces.
The budget will also benefit so many Americans here at home: folks caught in the grips of opioid addiction, veterans waiting in line to get healthcare, students shouldering crippling debt, middle class families drowning under the cost of child care, rural Americans lacking access to high-speed internet, hardworking pensioners watching their retirement slip away.
Democrats have been fighting for the past year for these Americans and their priorities. We have always said we need to increase defense spending for our armed forces, but we also need to increase the kinds of programs that the middle class so needs and depends on. It is our job as Americans, as Senators, to make sure that middle-class people can live a life of decency and dignity, so that they can keep in their hearts the American belief that their kids will live a better life than they do. In this budget, we have moved for the first time, in a long time, a good deal forward on those issues.
Alongside the increase in defense funding, the budget deal will lift funding for domestic programs by $131 billion. It will fully repeal the domestic sequester caps while securing $57 billion in additional funding, including:
- $6 billion to fund the fight against the opioid and mental health crises
- $5.8 billion for the bipartisan Child Care Development Block Grant program
- $4 billion to rebuild and improve Veterans Hospitals and Clinics
- $2 billion for critical research at the National Institutes of Health
- $20 billion to augment our existing infrastructure programs, including surface transportation, rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband so desperately needed in large parts of rural America, and energy infrastructure
- $4 billion for college affordability, including programs that help police officers, teachers, and firefighters
The budget deal also boosts several health care programs that we care a lot about in this country.
An increase in funding for community health centers, which serve over 26.5 million Americans, is included. My friends Senators Murray, Tester, Sanders and many others have been champions for these community health centers, and I want to thank them for all of the hard work they put in to get this done.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program will be extended an additional four years. Credit is due to our Ranking Member Senator Wyden, for his effort to get this extension. American families with children who benefit from CHIP will now be able to rest easy for the next decade.
Seniors caught in the Medicare Part D donut hole will also benefit from this bill, which erases the coverage gap next year helping millions of seniors afford prescription drugs. We have waited long for this. Rural hospitals that struggle, seniors, children and safety-net healthcare providers will benefit from a package of health tax extenders as well.
On the pension issue, Democrats secured a special select committee that must report a legislative fix to the problem by December 2018. Millions of pensioners – miners, teamsters, carpenters, bakery workers, and so many more – are staring down cuts to their hard-earned pensions. They didn’t do anything to cause those cuts. Their livelihoods are staked to these pensions. We ought to make sure they get every penny they earned. We Democrats would have liked to take up and pass the Butch Lewis Act. Unfortunately, we could not reach an agreement to do that. But now we have a process and, potentially, the means and the motivation to get that done. And there were so many Senators, led by Senator Brown, who are responsible for this. And I want to acknowledge him and Senators Casey, Stabenow, Manchin, Klobuchar, Baldwin, McCaskill, Donnelly, Heitkamp, and Smith who worked so long and hard on pensions.
This budget deal also includes long-awaited disaster relief for Texas, Louisiana, Florida, the western states, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Many of these places are still taking their first steps in the long march to recovery. Much of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands remains damaged and in the dark. This recovery aid could not come a moment too soon. Senator Nelson worked very hard for both Florida and Puerto Rico relief, as did so many others in this chamber.
I’d also like to thank our Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee, Senator Leahy, who worked so diligently with his staff and his Ranking Members on these issues. As well as Senator Murray, who’s been our beacon on health issues, where we’ve made real progress today.
The budget deal is a win for the American people. It will do so much good for our military, for so many middle-class Americans, and finally consign the arbitrary and pointless sequester caps to the ash heap of history.
A final point, Madam President: our work here in Congress on this budget deal, between the Republican Leader and I, between the Senate and House, was completed without a great deal of help from the White House.
While President Trump threatens shutdowns and stalemates, Congressional Leaders have done the hard work of finding compromise and consensus. It has been a painstaking, months-long process. It has required concessions, sometimes painful, by both sides. But at the end of the day, I believe we have reached a budget deal that neither side loves but both sides can be proud of. That’s compromise. That’s governing. That’s what we should be doing more of in this body. And it is my sincere hope that the Republican Leader and I will continue to work together in this way, to get things done for the American people.
And now we must finish the job. Later this week, let’s pass this budget into law alongside an extension of government funding. I hope the House will follow suit and President Trump will sign it. I also hope that Speaker Ryan will do what Senator McConnell has agreed to do: allow a fair and open process to debate a Dreamers bill on the House floor.
This budget deal will be the best thing we’ve done for our economy, our military, and our middle class in a long time.