Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s National Emergency Declaration, The U.S.-North Korea Summit, The President Delaying Deadline To Increase Tariffs On Chinese Goods, GOP Legislation To Limit Women’s Reproductive Health Rights, And Reauthorizing The 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund

February 26, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s national emergency declaration, the U.S.-North Korea Summit,  the president delaying the imposition of higher tariffs on China, an upcoming Senate vote to shut down reproductive health care providers, and reauthorizing the Victim Compensation Fund for 9/11 victims and their families. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

M. President, before Congress went out of session two weeks ago, President Trump announced that he was declaring a national emergency to redirect funds to the construction of a border wall. It was a lawless act; a gross abuse of power; and an attempt by the president to distract from the fact that he broke his core promise that Mexico pay for the wall.

Let me give a few reasons why the president’s emergency is so wrong.

First, there is no evidence of an emergency at the border. Illegal border crossings have been declining for twenty years. Just this morning, a group of fifty-eight former senior national security figures – including Chuck Hagel, and Madeleine Albright – released a statement saying: “Under no plausible assessment of the evidence is there a national emergency today that entitles the president to tap into funds appropriated for other purposes to build a wall at the southern border.”

I ask unanimous consent that their full statement be read into in the record at this point.

Even the president himself, halfway through his meandering speech proclaiming the emergency, said “I didn’t need to do this…but I’d rather do it [build the wall] much faster.” If there was ever a statement that says this is not an emergency, that’s it! He said he didn’t need to do this. So my colleagues, my dear colleagues, if we’re going to let the president, any president, on a whim, declare emergency simply because he or she can’t get their way in the congress, you fundamentally change the building blocks that the founders put in place.

Second, the president’s emergency declaration could cannibalize funding from worthy projects all across the country. We don’t even know yet which projects he’s planning to take the funds from. I’d ask my colleagues to think about that: what important initiatives in your state are on President Trump’s chopping block? What military project will the president cancel to fund a border wall that Congress rejected?

And third, and I made this point a little bit at the beginning, but it bears repeating, far and away most importantly, the president’s emergency declaration is a fundamental distortion of our constitutional order. The constitution gives Congress the power of the purse, not the president.

And congressional intent on the border wall is clear. The president’s wall has been before Congress several times and not once has it garnered enough votes to merit consideration. In some cases it missed Republican votes… the president says “well it was just the Democrats that blocked it… that’s not true… there were republican votes when the wall was voting no as well. 

As Justice Jackson famously observed… a great New Yorker Justice Jackson by the way from Jamestown, New York. The president’s legal authority in the realm of emergencies is at its very weakest when it goes against the expressed will of the Congress.

In case the will of Congress wasn’t already clear, soon it will be made so. The obvious remedy to President Trump’s outrageous and lawless declaration is for Congress to vote to terminate the state of emergency.  The House will vote on such a resolution tomorrow, and the Senate will soon follow suit.

I know my friends on the other side of the aisle fashion themselves supporters of the military, defenders of property rights, stewards of the constitution – as do Democrats.

This vote on the resolution to terminate the state of emergency will test our fidelity to those principles.

Congress should come together to reject, in a bipartisan fashion, we’ve come together before in bipartisan ways, if there was one that cries out for bipartisan rejection than overreach of power, this is it. And we should reject this naked power grab, this defacement of our constitutional balance of powers, for what it seems is largely political purposes

Now on North Korea. The president today is on his way to Thailand for a second summit with Chairman Kim of North Korea. It is in all of our interest for the president to achieve a diplomatic resolution with North Korea that achieves a stable peace and the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Failing that, the United States must continue to pressure a regime that commits gross humanitarian abuses and remains one of the most repressive governments on the globe.

We cannot, cannot tolerate the president making concessions without, in exchange, receiving verifiable, enduring, and concrete commitments from North Korea to denuclearize.

President Trump’s first summit with Chairman Kim granted his regime the international legitimacy and acceptance that Chairman Kim has long craved while undermining our policy of maximum pressure and sanctions, seemingly so that the president could make a photo-op and make a speech. Unsurprisingly, the results of that meeting were disappointing. The president claimed – bizarrely, wildly – that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat” right after the meeting. While the US intelligence community has continually testified before Congress that North Korea has not been denuclearizing and appears unlikely to give up its nuclear weapons. So how could the president say it’s no longer a nuclear threat, when the same threat existed before when he threatened North Korea, and after when he seemed to make nice to Chairman Kim? Meanwhile, the president suspended joint military readiness drills with the South Koreans, drills we’ve been conducting for 60 years for the safety of East Asia.

No one wants to see a repeat of the same movie. No one wants another summit that is more about optics and photo-ops than progress. We are all rooting for diplomacy to succeed, but the president can’t be too naïve or too eager to reach a deal that gives him that photo-op again, but doesn’t achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Now in a similar vein on China: President Trump announced he would be delaying the imposition of higher tariffs on March 1st in the hopes of coming to a larger trade agreement with China. This is all well and good if the Trump administration ultimately achieves a strong deal that makes progress on China’s rapacious trade policies. But we are not there yet, and my message to President Trump is: don’t back down.

The president has shown the right instincts on China many times and I give him credit for that. I’ve praised him publically for that. But at other times, I believe his eagerness for the appearance of accomplishment gets the best of him.

Recent history has taught us that when President Trump makes unilateral concessions to China, as he did when he interfered in the sanctions against ZTE, China does very little for us in return.

President Trump must not make the same mistake again, whether by interfering in the U.S. criminal charges brought against Huawei or otherwise decreasing our leverage, until and unless China makes meaningful, enforceable and verifiable commitments to end its theft of American intellectual property and other trade abuses.

Hopefully, that’s where these negotiations are headed, if the president does a good job I’ll be the first to praise it. If he backs off, or takes some temporary measure in decreasing the balance of trade, but doesn’t change China’s structural rapaciousness against the United States and our intellectual property and our industrial know-how,  he’ll be criticized by me and many others on both sides of the aisle.

A word on today’s vote on women’s reproductive rights. The bill the Senate will vote on shortly is carefully crafted to target, intimidate, and shut down reproductive health care providers. Doctors across the country are lining up against the bill because it would impose requirements on what types of care doctors must provide in certain circumstances, even if that care is ineffective, contradictory to medical evidence, and against the family’s wishes.

My Republican colleagues have said some incendiary things about this opposing bill. Let me be very clear: many of these claims are false. It has always been illegal to harm a newborn infant, this vote has nothing, nothing to do with that, read the language. We’re talking about situations when expectant parents tragically learn that their pregnancy is no longer viable and there is a fatal, fatal diagnosis. What happens in those circumstances should be decided between a woman, her family, her minister, priest, rabbi, imam, and her doctor. It makes no sense for Washington politicians who know nothing about these individual circumstances to say they know better than doctors, patients, and family. The bill is solely meant to intimidate doctors and restrict patient access to care – and has nothing, nothing, nothing to do with protecting children.

Now, last Friday, the administration announced it was imposing a gag rule on U.S. reproductive health care providers and trying to restrict access to health care clinics that provide reproductive care. So this vote does not occur in a vacuum; it is part of a pattern taken by President Trump and Congressional Republicans to limit, deny, or circumscribe a woman’s right to health care.

I urge the American people, do your own research, read the bill! See what it says, most of you will agree with it. Pay attention to the facts, and not the false rhetoric. This bill is Washington politics at its worst, and I will vote “no.”

And finally, I would turn the attention of my colleagues to a harrowing fact: we are fast approaching the point where more people will have died from exposure to toxic chemicals on 9/11 than were killed on 9/11 itself.

These are the first responders, firefighters, police, FBI agents who rushed to the towers that fateful day – ran into the fire and smoke and twisted steel, risking their lives, and later we learned risking their health, to get people out. These are the union members and construction workers who worked the pile, breathing in a toxic blend of ash and dust, in the days and weeks and months that followed.

These are the people, innocents, who live downtown when the United States was attacked in the most dastardly attack on American soil. Right now we have a problem. Because of the alarming number of 9/11-related illnesses, the Victims Compensation Fund is running out money earlier than expected. The Justice Department recently announced that it might have to cut compensation awards between 50 to 70%.

So today I was proud to join Sen. Gillibrand and Gardner, as well as a group of our colleagues in the House, to introduce legislation to fix the shortfall funding and put the Victim’s Compensation Fund on sure footing for the foreseeable future. I urge all of my colleagues – all of them – Democrat and Republican alike – to sign-on and help us pass this bill. And give some hope to the thousands who were brave on 9/11, and who are suffering now.

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