Schumer Floor Remarks on Lack of Gun Safety Debate in Senate and the Republican Tax Bill

March 5, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for gun safety legislation and the effects of the Republican tax bill. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Thank you, Mr. President. It has been nearly three weeks since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and still, unfortunately, the Majority Leader has not committed to any floor time for a debate on the issue of gun safety.

No time to debate universal background checks, a policy that over 90% of Americans support, including the vast majority of gun owners.

No time to debate protective orders to allow law enforcement to temporarily disarm individuals who have shown credible signs of being a harm to themselves or others – especially after Parkland.

No time to have at least a debate on assault weapons and high capacity magazines on the floor of the Senate.

The kids who survived the horrific shooting are speaking up and speaking out, and demanding that we address this issue head-on. I believe they are moving the conscience of the nation. I met with them; they’re fine young men and women. Instead of just cursing the darkness after what they went through and the losses of friends, colleagues they suffered, they’re trying to light a candle, urging us to debate and do something real. And yet the Majority Leader is moving to a banking bill today with no promise of time to consider a package of commonsense gun safety measures. We need to debate them on the floor. We can’t just try to do one little bill by UC with no debate or put it into some other big bill. This needs a national debate, it’s the issue that’s consuming America. And for the Senate to turn its back and do nothing and try to just slip some minor measure through that doesn’t work.

Now, last week, America watched President Trump whipsaw on gun safety issues in a matter of days. We all felt pretty good, all of America when the president met with a bipartisan group. He seemed to be open to tackling gun safety in a bipartisan way in a nationally televised meeting. But then, the next day, he met with the NRA behind closed doors and seems to have once again backed off.

It’s a show we’ve all seen before, and it’s getting old. Too many times we’ve watched the president say the right things when the cameras are on but refuse to follow through the moment they’re switched off -- oftentimes doing a 180 degree reversal on his position.

On the issue of gun safety, just like on the issue of immigration, we could find a bipartisan consensus. It’s very possible. But it requires the President of the United States to show some leadership, some follow-through, some consistency. Otherwise, Congress will continue to do what it’s done after every mass shooting for the past decade – nothing.

And those brave young students will be here in a few weeks having watched Congress do nothing, again. What a bad mark that would be. Lowering the already low rating of this body.

Now, on another matter, the Republican tax bill.

Over and over, we’ve heard the Republican mantra that their tax bill was aimed at giving working Americans a boost. And yet, every analysis showed that when you look at the actual policy, the lion’s share of the tax cuts is going to corporations and the richest 1%. According to one study, 83% of the benefits from the Republican tax bill go to the top 1% of earners.

Don’t worry, our Republican friends say, that money will trickle down to workers. But trickle-down economics has never worked; it’s failed time and time again. Our Republican colleagues are even afraid to admit that the majority of the tax cuts go to the wealthy. They simply say it’s helping working class people, but their mechanism, trickle down is something they won’t utter in public.

Instead of giving workers major wage increases, hiring new workers or investing in new equipment and research, the most popular use of the savings from the tax bill for corporations, is corporate share buybacks. That is from the big corporations.

Already, corporations have announced more than $200 billion in share buybacks this year. We’ve just started March, and already corporations are on pace to spend over a trillion dollars this year buying back their own stock.

The problem is, share buybacks don’t really help workers. They don’t directly help grow the economy. They’re a quick way for big corporations to take more of their stock off the market, raising the value of the shares. Who benefits? Well of course the corporate executives they own lots of these shares and wealthy shareholders who hold a vast preponderance of the shares.

As one economist told Bloomberg, “You’re not going to get the macro-economic benefit the administration thought it was going to get from its tax cuts. It’s going to go to the areas that don’t stimulate growth.” Namely – buybacks and dividends.

An analysis by Just Capital, which the New York Times called “one of the most detailed accountings to date” of how companies are spending the windfall from tax reform, finds that “just 6% of capital allotted so far is going to [employees], while 58% is going to shareholders in the form of dividends, share buy-backs, or retained earnings.”

6% for workers, nearly 60% to share buybacks and other big, corporate benefits.

Today, the Joint Economic Committee, led by our wonderful ranking member Senator Heinrich, pointed out that if you distributed the savings that went to just one big company – Berkshire Hathaway, which gained $29 billion as a result of the tax bill – you could give a $1,000 bonus to 29 million Americans.

It’s amazing. That’s the equivalent of every employee in Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia combined – from just one company’s worth of savings.

The public’s beginning to realize what’s going on here. They see that they’re putting their children and grandchildren into deep debt not to benefit themselves, the workers, preponderantly to benefit corporate leadership, owners of shares, the vast preponderance of whom are in the top ten percent of American wealth. The corporations are not putting that money where they should. Not putting the vast preponderance of money where they should. Raising the salaries of workers, increasing the productivity of the company by investing in new machinery, in new techniques. Nope. It’s that quick hit, the stock buyback.

It goes to show just how beneficial tax reform could have been if it were aimed at the middle class and those struggling to reach it. Instead, the Republicans made a conscious effort to give corporations and the wealthiest Americans the bulk of the tax cuts and promised that it would trickle down to everyone else.

Unfortunately, past is prologue, and Corporate America is doing what’s best for corporate America while working America is getting left behind.