Schumer Floor Remarks Calling For Immediate Passage Of The Bipartisan Budget Caps Agreement, Urging President Trump To Stay Tough On China, The Need For Action On Election Security, The First-Ever Climate Title In A Transportation Reauthorization Bill, And Republican’s Sabotage Of Our Health Care System

July 31, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling for the immediate passage of the bipartisan budget caps agreement, urging President Trump to stay tough on China during trade negotiations, the need for action on election security, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works’ passing of the first-ever climate title in a transportation reauthorization bill, and the Republican’s sabotage of our health care system. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here. 

So Mr. President, over two weeks ago, the four congressional leaders and the White House reached an agreement to raise the budget caps and extend the debt ceiling. The House has already passed legislation that codifies the agreement into law. The president supports it. He’s even making calls evidently from press reports, asking Republican colleagues to support it. So the last piece of the puzzle here is the Senate.

Speaking for the minority, Democrats have no objection to voting on the budget caps deal as soon as possible. I’d say to my friend the Majority Leader: why don’t we vote on the caps deal this morning and send it to the president’s desk? There is no need to wait until later in the afternoon today, tonight, or tomorrow to get this done. Democrats are ready to pass it right now if the majority leader would call it up for a vote.

Now on China. As trade negotiations with China continue this week, I want to press the president again to stay tough and hold out for the best possible deal. If China is unwilling to make significant reforms to its economic model, President Trump must be prepared to walk away.

I believe the president’s instincts on China are right and I have not been afraid to say so, despite our vast political (and moral) disagreements. But if we’re going to be successful in these negotiations, it will be up to the president—President Trump, no one else—to keep the pressure on the Chinese leaders this week. There are a few things that he can do:

The most significant point of emphasis for the president should be Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant. China has responded to the administration’s justified restrictions on Huawei unlike any other action the president has taken. It is our greatest source of leverage. So President Trump: hold tough on Huawei. Don’t let there be giant loopholes. I am told that under the proposal being talked about, eighty percent of Huawei’s products could still be sold in the U.S. If we have a total boycott of Huawei, then China will beg us—beg us—to come to the table be make big concessions. It’s the best leverage we have, even better than the tariffs. China wants Huawei to dominate the world. They’ll find a way to do it unless we are tough as could be. 

And I’d say to President Trump, I know these multinational corporations are pressuring you to cut a quick deal. The president should not listen to these big corporations who want him to cut a deal quickly. These same corporations, many of them, are the ones who shipped jobs overseas, through the last decades, are the ones who took jobs away from American workers and moved them to China. I understand those corporate executives. You know, they’re supposed to be totally subservient to their shareholders. Their shareholders say, “Whatever you have to do to bring the price up, do it”. 

But that hurts American workers, it hurts Americans security, it hurts the American economy. Especially when it comes to Huawei. So, President Trump, don’t listen to the siren call of those same corporations who’ve created part of the problem with China to now get you to back off. Yes, they’ll have a little pain. They’ve made billions, writ large, from dealing with China, letting China get away with stuff. From taking jobs away from the United States, into much lower paid, lower standard jobs in China. 

Trade negotiations with China are far too important to the future of American business and American workers to sacrifice just because a hand-full of American corporations are worried about its quarterly profits. Their quarterly profits are nothing compared to America maintaining its technological dominance. Its technological superiority that China keeps trying to steal from us, in some ways legitimate and many ways not. 

Another point of emphasis for the president’s team—this was when the president cares less about, but that’s okay— is China’s human rights record. China released a new policy outlining the use of force against Hong Kong’s protests and its military built up forces along the border. We’ve seen this movie before — at Tiananmen — and it was a horror movie. One that resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of unarmed Chinese citizens being mercilessly slaughtered by their own army under the command of the Chinese Communist Party. Under the direction of the Chinese Communist Party. We cannot have a sequel to this atrocity. The administration should push back against China’s militarism and stand up for the autonomy and democratic rights of Hong Kong’s citizens.

I read some of these columns, “Oh, can’t we get along?” We can’t get along because first, China doesn’t play fair and has stolen trillions of dollars and millions of jobs from America—and seeks to continue doing it. Duping our presidents, pushing them around. Making agreements and then breaking them. 

And second, can’t get along with China because look what it does to its citizens. The Uyghurs and Western China. Now the citizens of Hong Kong. What we’ve seen with China is when we’re tough and strong, they’ll back off. When we show any glimmer of weakness, as we’re showing in floating a deal, a lessening of restrictions on Huawei—they take advantage. And let me say this, to all of those in this administration who are urging the president to back off on Huawei, to let them buy some of our products: this bi-partisan group here in this Senate that will work very hard to prevent that from happening legislatively. And most likely vehicle is the NDAA. And I think we’ll get broad support—Democrats, Republicans, House, and Senate. So, don’t even try it. Those in the administration who are trying to back off. 

Now on election security. Looking back on this work period, it’s a shame that the Senate once again made no progress, none, on the issue of election security. Only a week ago, Counsel Mueller called Russian interference one of the greatest threats to democracy he has seen in his career, a threat that he said continues “as we sit here.” 

Despite Mueller’s warning—a warning echoed by prominent Republicans, Trump appointees, like FBI Director Wray, DNI Director Coats, and our entire Senate Intelligence Committee led by Richard Burr, a colleague of ours and of Chairman McConnell’s —Leader McConnell has not brought election security to the floor. In fact, he has blocked Democratic requests for debate on election security, dismissing our ideas as “a partisan wish-list.” That’s political rhetoric to avoid a problem that shouldn’t be partisan at all. 

Using paper ballots? That’s not “partisan”. Making sure that our election machines are safe from hacking? That’s not “partisan”. Giving states the resources to better manage their elections? That’s not “partisan”. That’s American. Our elections are sacrosanct, and these are commonsense, widely-agreed upon reforms that will make our elections safer, particularly in this dangerous new world where powers that have malice toward the United States—Russia, China, Iran, North Korea—can use new technology to reach into our election structure.

This is not 1940 or even 2005. We need to strengthen our election security and it should not be a partisan issue. And when Leader McConnell calls it a partisan issue, he’s just ducking to avoid it for reasons unknown to almost anybody.

Recent Republican opposition to election security has been disappointing. And I’d say to my Republican colleagues: where are you? Why aren’t you telling the Republican Leader that we ought to do something? Every one of our Republicans, when Leader McConnell blocks election security, is complicit in that blocking—because they could join with us. And if they began to join with us, my guess is that Leader McConnell might put some legislation on the floor. We want to debate it. We want to discuss it. Leader McConnell, our Republican colleagues may not exactly agree with our ideas—although many are bipartisan—but we should at least bring things to the floor and discuss them, and get something done.

But unfortunately, we don’t see much action. It was precisely a year ago that Democrats last sought to secure funding for election security, when Senate Republicans voted down our amendments. And unfortunately, it appears that Leader McConnell will not take action before the August work period, but I assure the American people and Leader McConnell that this issue is not—is not—going away. 

Democrats will press for election security when we return and again when the Senate debates appropriations bills. This is about protecting the wellspring of our democracy, the vitality of our democracy, the sacrosanct nature of our democracy. And to call it political demeans everything. Young men, young women, from Bunker Hill on, hundreds of years, have died to protect our elections. You have to protect them in a different way now with technology and cyber threats, but the idea of protecting them burns just as brightly in the American heart. Somehow, Leader McConnell is impervious to all of that.

Climate. I am pleased to share that, yesterday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works did something amazing and groundbreaking—it passed the first-ever climate title in a transportation reauthorization bill. Thanks to Senate Democrats on the committee and particularly Ranking Member Carper’s hard work, the highway bill actually includes $10 billion dedicated to climate-focused programs and policies: to reduce emissions and improve the resiliency of our transportation infrastructure to climate change and natural disasters. It includes funds for states to reduce carbon emissions, support for electric and alternative-fuel vehicles, reductions in emissions from ports and roadways, and investments in climate-resilient infrastructure.

Less than a year ago, I said Democrats would demand that climate change be addressed in any infrastructure bill moving forward. This bill—with its $10 billion in climate investment—is a product of that demand. This will be the first time serious money has been included in a highway package to fight climate change, but it certainly, certainly will not be the last.

The clock is ticking when it comes to climate change: we need to make progress whenever we can and as quickly as we can. If the Republican leader won’t bring legislation on the floor, Democrats are prepared to take the lead and fight for climate progress every opportunity we get. That’s precisely what this $10 billion climate investment in the highway bill represents, and again I want to thank Senator Carper for his leadership, his skill, his persistence in getting it done.

Protecting our country and the world from the threat of climate change is no less than a moral obligation. When we return from recess, Democrats will continue to look for more opportunities to make progress on climate change. 

And finally, on the debate last night when it comes to health care: last night, half of the Democratic presidential field engaged in a healthy debate, a great deal of which focused on the number one issue to American voters: health care. Despite different policy proposals, the debate showed that the Democratic Party is completely united on the idea of universal health care coverage, as well as the need to lower the cost and improve the quality of health care for every American.

But one point that should have been made in the debate, and unfortunately wasn’t, is the fact that Republicans are actively sabotaging our current health care system. The difference between the parties: whether you are one of the more moderate members on health care, or one of the ones who had a broader, more sweeping proposal—those differences almost pale before the differences between every Democrat on that platform and our Republicans. Because the Republicans are seeking to undo health care, to sabotage health care, to have fewer people covered. And as a result of their ideas, thoughts, and lawsuits, costs are going up. There’s a huge gap between the parties on health care, and I’m glad we’re having an active debate on how to move forward, cover more people, cost less. 

While we’re doing that, the administration is doing the opposite—the Trump Administration. It has expanded junk insurance plans, reduced funds to help Americans locate and sign up for the right insurance, and ended cost-sharing payments that help low-income families afford care. Congressional Republicans have tried—and thankfully failed—to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The coup de grace, of course, is the fact that now the Trump Administration, with the support of many Republican attorneys general, and the complicity of every member of the Senate on the Republican side, or just about every member, the administration is supporting a lawsuit that would invalidate the Affordable Care Act entirely, kicking tens of millions off insurance, eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions for over 100 million Americans who have those preexisting conditions. And just about every Republican is going along with that. The difference in the 2020 elections, between Democrats and Republicans on health care, will be apparent and glaring, and will far and away subsume any differences that we may have on policy.