Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s interview, the need to protect Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, our healthcare system, and the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Madame President, I watched the president on TV this morning, and like most Americans – so many Americans – I was aghast. The president seems to live in an alternative reality. He says things that are patently false, and he thinks that just by saying them, they become true. The amount of hundred-and-eighty-degree turns, direct contradictions to what he has said before, name-calling and blaming.
You watch the president this morning and the way he acted, it’s so unbecoming of a president, unbecoming of a democracy. We believe in truth. People may have different values systems, but to just make up things as they go along, to — without blinking an eye — contradict things that he said that are exactly the opposite of what he said a few hours, a few weeks, a few months ago is not who any president, of any party, of any ideology should be. What the president said this morning was embarrassing to America, to democracy, and to any American who prizes truth.
One of the things the president said this morning was that he’s decided not to be involved in the Russia probe, but “may change [his] mind.” That is why it was so good this morning, Madame President, that the Judiciary Committee is marking up legislation— bipartisan legislation— that would protect Special Counsel Mueller from political interference. From the very beginning, Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation has been about following the facts, and how a hostile foreign power interfered with our free and fair elections — the wellspring of our democracy. That investigation must be allowed to proceed, safe from the heavy hand of the president. The president can’t make this go away by name calling. He can’t dispute facts. He can’t dispute the fact that Russia interfering in our election is very dangerous, and must be investigated no matter where it leads. It's so abundantly clear from the president’s remarks this morning, and from so many other things he has said that he has little regard for the rule of law. He seems to have this view that the purpose of the Justice Department is to protect his interests and persecute his enemies. That is not a democracy, Mr. President.
The purpose of the Justice Department is rule of law, and that no man or woman is above the law, not to simply go after his friends. He’s angry when the Justice Department does something he doesn’t like, even though they are following the law. That, again, is not the hallmark of our democracy, and so I am so proud of our Judiciary Committee, and Chairman Grassley, for rising to the occasion, proposing, and hopefully passing, legislation that says we will protect rule of law, we will protect our democracy by not allowing the president to fire the special counsel at will, simply because he doesn’t like the results they come up with. Again, the Judiciary Committee this morning makes us proud. It rises to the occasion. It rises to the occasion to tell the president that he can’t tamper with the very wellsprings of our democracy and will pay a bipartisan price if he does. I want to particularly praise Chairman Grassley. We’ve worked together on many things, we’ve had our differences on many things, but this morning he is rising to the occasion, and history regards such moments very favorably. I hope we will get a large vote this morning — a large vote.
Now, while we are talking about bipartisanship, there is another bit of good news. There are two shoots of bipartisanship springing up today: the Judiciary Committee’s action on preventing the president from firing Mueller, and an agreement between Senator Leahy, Senator Shelby, Leader McConnell, and myself to try to begin moving appropriations bills the way we used to, in a bipartisan way. We had a good meeting yesterday where we laid out the parameters for how to do this. We talked about not letting extraneous amendments disrupt the process. We talked about doing our job the way it used to be done, doing all the appropriations bills this year, doing them in a bipartisan way with the chair and the ranking member of the sub-committees working together to craft a bill that both sides can be happy with, even though both sides won’t be happy with everything in it. I hope that moves forward. I want to pledge to the members of this body, and to the American people, that I am committed to making that process move forward in a fair, bipartisan way and try to restore some of the semblance of bipartisanship that we used to have in this place, back to actual action and reality, not just verbiage.
Another issue, Madame President, the VA secretary. We also just got word that the president’s nomination to be the next secretary of the VA has withdrawn his nomination. The allegations swirling around the nomination of Dr. Jackson were troubling, raised lots of questions, but the real blame here falls on the administration for once again being sloppy and carless in the vetting process. Dr. Jackson didn’t go through a careful vet, where some of these things might have been discovered beforehand, and he wouldn’t have had to go through the process he went through. The Veterans Affairs Committee did the right thing, and they didn’t seek to go after Dr. Jackson, people came to them. When people come to them — particularly military folks — with serious and troubling allegations, they have an obligation to investigate it, and I want to salute Chairman Isakson and Ranking Member Tester for pursuing those allegations. Dr. Jackson went through a maelstrom, and he should tell his patient, I guess, the president, that he, the president, is what caused this problem by not properly vetting, by making these decisions on the fly, by making sure they don’t count. Our obligation above all is not to any one individual, but to the millions of veterans in America. They deserve a department that treats them well, they deserve the best healthcare, and we need someone to run the VA who is up to the job. I hope the president learns his lesson. I hope the next nominee is thoroughly vetted before he or she is sent to the Congress. Most of all I hope that so our veterans get the leader they deserve.
Finally, on another matter, healthcare. Next week, health insurance companies will begin to announce their initial proposed rates for 2019 in each state across the country. And when they do, every American should remember that President Trump and Congressional Republicans have spent the past year and half trying to sabotage our healthcare system in a way that could increase costs and decrease access to quality health care.
It's true that last summer, the Senate Republican effort to repeal our current healthcare system and gut Medicaid — an effort that would have left tens of millions uninsured and raised costs on millions more — ended, thankfully for the American people, in failure.
Despite that legislative failure, President Trump, his administration, and Congressional Republicans have committed several other acts of sabotage, raising premiums and hurting healthcare, all, it seems to me, for a political vendetta.
For a long time, the president refused to guarantee that the administration will honor the cost-sharing program, which reduces premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for low-income Americans. He eventually cancelled payments for that program, causing major uncertainty and confusion in the markets.
Then, Republicans repealed the healthcare coverage requirement as a part of their tax bill and put nothing in its place. The CBO projects that repealing the coverage requirement could cause rates to increase by as much as 10% and result in millions more people without insurance, so if you can’t get insurance, Mr. or Mrs. American, or if your premiums are going up you’ll know who caused it: the president, and Congressional Republicans by sabotaging a law that the majority of Americans want to see stay on the books.
And making things worse, earlier this week, the comment period ended for a proposed Trump administration rule that is perhaps that most radical sabotage of our healthcare system yet — a rule that would expand the availability of junk insurance plans. These junk insurance plans would force higher premiums on people with pre-existing conditions, impose an “age tax” on older Americans, and once again could subject Americans to the devastating effects of medical bankruptcy, which too many people go through now. Many plans might not cover essential services like prescription drugs, maternity care, and mental health services.
Each of these actions taken by President Trump and Republicans in Congress will raise costs and reduce access. We are truly living under “Trumpcare” today, with no effort by the president or Congressional Republicans to make it better.
And, unfortunately, starting next week, the American people could see the devastating consequences of a year and half of healthcare sabotage reflected in the 2019 rates.
Finally, Madame President, I’d like to add a word about an event taking place today in Montgomery, Alabama. Today, in Montgomery, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, victims of lynching, and African Americans who have been victimized by white supremacy, will open up its doors.
I read about the new memorial in the newspaper. It was touching, it was moving. So many innocent people lynched for no reason: walking behind a white woman, other kinds of things like that. Having read and watched the accounts about the memorial, it will be a harrowing experience. Much like the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., it forces visitors to confront the human toll of racism, America’s original sin, and it allows each county to get a replica of the list and the block— sort of like a tombstone of who was lynched. So maybe those counties can look into their souls too, and do better, as we all can, of trying to eliminate racism. America’s original sin is racism, and the vast and terrible numbers of African-Americans who were brutally murdered simply for being black. This museum forces us — as Martin Luther King, Jr. did — to look into the mirror, see what the country has done wrong, and move to correct it. I truly salute all the folks who put this wonderful, wonderful museum together.
In order to move forward as a nation we must be willing to look back on our past and grapple with it. Not only that, we must learn hard lessons and strive, always, to correct its failures.
And so as the memorial welcomes its first visitors, I hope we all take a moment today to think about the injustices suffered by so many African-Americans, not just in the South, or in the past, but today, and everywhere in America, where Dr. King’s dream remains unrealized, and the cause of justice, unfinished.