Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding Speaker Ryan’s decision not to seek re-election and the need to pass legislation that would protect Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:
Thank you, Mr. President. Before I get into the substance of my remarks, I’d remind our dear friend, our Majority Leader that the vast majority of the benefits of this tax break – this tax cut -- went to the wealthiest Americans. The vast majority went to large corporations, and what are they doing with the money? Using most of it for buybacks.
What is a buyback? They buyback their own stock, the CEO’s salary, already a rich guy, making more money. The shareholders, one third of whom are out of the country, most of whom are in the top 10% of America make more money. The middle class, and rural America particularly, is left behind in this bill.
We could’ve done a tax bill where the benefits went to the middle class, not just some ten, twenty percent, but all. So this bill is a bit of a fake. Small benefits for the middle class, along with harm to their healthcare. The things put in this bill are going to raise many peoples’ premiums far more than their small tax break.
So, let’s be honest about this. This bill was done for the rich, and the wealthy, and the powerful. And there were some benefits to the middle class, but it could’ve been so much, so much better. But, our Republican colleagues listen to the wealthy special interests, the large contributors, and that’s how this bill came about. By the way, because it creates a deficit of $1.5 trillion, and I’d remind our Leader that rural America really cares about deficits. There’s a lot of Republicans, particularly the more conservative ones that now say, “Let’s cut Medicare and Social Security.” How’s an elderly person in rural America going to feel about that? So, I would simply say this bill – this bill was not the right remedy for America.
Now, Speaker Ryan. I know Speaker Ryan quite well. Speaker Ryan’s a good man. He’s always true to his word. Even though we didn’t agree on most issues, in the areas where we could work together I found him smart, thoughtful, and straightforward. I found him to have a great deal of integrity. We didn’t agree, but he had deep beliefs, and he was not like some on his side of the aisle who say, “It’s my way or no way.” He was willing to meet you to try to get something done. So, I thoroughly enjoyed working with Speaker Ryan. I admired him as a human being, as a religious man, somebody who cared a lot about his family.
I understand his frustrations, I do. When you have so many intransigent people in your caucus, who say “It’s my way or no way,” and your job, even though you have deep beliefs, is to get something done, it’s hard. It’s hard.
Now, with his newfound political freedom, I hope that the Speaker uses his remaining time in Congress to break free from these hard-right factions that have plagued him so, and that have kept Congress from getting real things done. If he’s willing to reach across the aisle, he’ll find Democrats willing and eager to work with him. I’d say to Speaker Ryan, let’s work together. You’re more of a free man now. Follow your instincts, which means your beliefs won’t be the same as ours, but you’ll want to try to come to some kind of an agreement. That we can meet somewhere in the middle.
The job may be made harder because Congressman Scalise and McCarthy are now competing for Ryan’s job, and the hard-right’s favor – they’re too vital in that caucus. But I believe Speaker Ryan is up to the job, can overcome that problem, and work in his last few months here for the betterment of our country.
Now, on the issues of yesterday and last night. For months, Mr. President, I’ve heard my Republican colleagues argue that there’s no need to pass legislation to protect Special Counsel Mueller and the Russian probe from President Trump because they have been assured by anonymous White House officials that it wouldn’t happen.
President Trump, in his own words Monday night, made it plain as day that he may be considering firing the Special Counsel and/or the Deputy Attorney General, which would be equally egregious.
The White House spokeswoman, from the podium, said that President Trump believes he has the authority to fire the Special Counsel all by himself. And a report in the New York Times said that President Trump considered firing Mueller as recently as December, in addition to a year ago in June.
Only an hour ago, the president tweeted that the “Fake Corrupt Russia Investigation,” his words, was quote “headed up by all the Democratic loyalists or people who worked for Obama.” Mr. President, will you start telling the truth? Robert Mueller is a Republican. Deputy Attorney Rosenstein is a Republican, who you appointed. Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI, is a Republican, who you appointed. I don’t know how long the president can believe that people will swallow just the bold mistruths that he spews out day, after day, after day. But what he said, that the people that quote “the investigation was being headed up by all Democratic loyalists or people who worked for Obama” is patently false, and the president should retract it.
It is all too obvious, however, these kinds of remarks make it all too obvious that President Trump, who cares little for truth, may be considering the firing of the Special Counsel or the Deputy Attorney General.
So I’d like to direct my remarks to my Republican colleagues. I say to my Republican colleagues, you can no longer rely on anonymous sources as a reason for delay or inaction on legislation to protect Mr. Mueller and avoid a constitutional crisis. The evidence is staring us all in the face. We cannot ignore the elephant in the room any longer. Because the consequences of the president taking action against Mueller, Rosenstein, or issuing political pardons is just too dire. As Democrats have said, as many Republicans have said – such action would precipitate a constitutional crisis in this country.
The president doesn’t seem to realize, but I know that my Republican colleagues do: No person is above the law in this country, not even the president. He’s not a king, he’s the president. If the president were to interfere in any way with the chain of command in the Russia investigation, or clean house at the Justice Department in order to install lackeys who will carry out his orders, we would be no better than a banana republic – the kind of thing we see happening in other parts of the globe would be happening here. In those places, leaders use the levers of power to subvert or avoid accountability in all ways. President Trump seems to wish he could do just that.
I want to be crystal clear on that point. If the president were to take action against Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, it would be every bit as grave of a mistake as removing Special Counsel Mueller.
America as we know it – as we love it, would diminish. I know Republicans and Democrats agree on that. So why would we not take the bull by the horns? Why wouldn’t we take immediate action to potentially prevent that a constitutional crisis from coming to pass? Why don’t we head it off at the pass, and move bipartisan legislation that has been introduced this morning through the Judiciary Committee, which I’m told Senator Grassley is seriously considering, and onto the floor of the Senate where I hope Leader McConnell would place it. A bipartisan group this morning -- Senators Graham and Tillis, Booker, and Coons have introduced legislation that would protect the Special Counsel.
Why not pass this legislation now, and avoid a constitutional crisis? Why not avoid an injury, instead of sustaining it and trying to stitch it up? That’s what we should be doing. Let’s head the constitutional crisis off at the pass by passing the bipartisan legislation introduced by Graham, Tillis, Booker, and Coons, and take the threat of a crisis off the table right now.
So, I urge Chairman Grassley to schedule a hearing and markup on this bill and report it out of his committee. We must be sure not to water it down with amendments or accept changes that would render it useless.
I urge Leader McConnell to then take that bill to the floor – to take that bill and put it on the floor where we can debate it and pass it.
Surely something this serious deserves the time and attention of US Senators. And I dare say that if legislation – bipartisan legislation like this came to the floor, it would pass by a large majority, members of both parties, and the pressure on the House to do just the same would be large. The rule of law must not be a partisan issue, should not be a partisan issue, we cannot let it become a partisan issue. The Congress must speak clearly, loudly with one voice by passing legislation to ensure that any effort by the president to remove Special Counsel Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein would be rendered unsuccessful.