Schumer Floor Remarks on the Bipartisan Health Care Deal and the BudgetOctober 18, 2017
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the bipartisan health care deal reached yesterday as well as the budget. Below are his remarks:
Well, yesterday, the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the HELP Committee came to a bipartisan agreement on a package to stabilize our healthcare law and lower premiums. It was the product of months of difficult negotiations. And like all good negotiations, both sides gave some, both sides got some. The product is something that neither side is completely happy with, but both sides can move forward with. That’s what a good, fair compromise looks like. It took work, and at a time when bipartisanship is desperately sought after here, this was a—not even just a flicker—but a nice flame of bipartisanship burning brightly.
And then, a few minutes ago, President Trump tweeted: “I am supportive of Lamar as a person and also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ Obamacare”
There are many reasons to feel vehemently upset, strongly upset about this tweet, how wrong it is. First, frankly, the President doesn’t know what he’s talking about in the compromise. It doesn’t bail out insurance companies, it helps people who need health care. It keeps their premiums down. It allows them to go to a doctor or to get a medicine that they need. Senators Alexander and Murray made sure in the provisions they were writing that the money would not go to insurance companies, but rather, would go to millions of Americans who need help, because they couldn’t afford health care on their own.
The President ought to know what he’s talking about when he tweets about bills, because on this one, he had no understanding of what it’s about. This helps people. Millions of people. This keeps the premiums down. This allows Americans, working class, middle class, many of whom in rural areas in red states, it allows them to go to the doctor, to go to the hospital, to get a medicine. Nothing bothers Americans more, than when they can’t get health care they desperately need for themselves or a loved one. So, first, the President ought to know what the bill is about before he tweets. Clearly from this tweet, he doesn’t.
Second, this President keeps zigging and zagging, so it’s impossible to govern. Two Thursdays ago, the President called me in the gym and said, ‘Let’s work on a bipartisan solution on health care.’ It was his initiation. He first talked about ‘Let’s repeal and replace.’ I said that’s off the table. But I then said that Senator Alexander and Senator Murray are working on a compromise, and I outlined the basic compromise that they were coming up with, that each side got something. And the President suggested that he call Senator Alexander, and I call Senator Murray and encourage them. I called Senator Murray, he called Senator Alexander. And he called Senator Alexander, from what Senator Alexander told me, several times to encourage him. And yesterday, he called the Murray-Alexander deal a “very good solution.”
Now, this morning, he said he can’t support it. He can’t support “bailing out insurance companies who have made a fortune with Obamacare.” Wrong on the facts as I mentioned. Doesn’t know what the bill is. We should have a President who actually knows the facts of bills that he talks about.
But second, he’s totally inconsistent. For it one day, against it the next day. You can’t govern, Mr. President, you cannot govern a country, you cannot keep America great if you don’t know what’s in the bills and don’t have a consistent policy about them. But he keeps zigging and zagging, our only hope it maybe tomorrow he’ll be for this again.
Finally, a word in general. We all know that there are extremes in America. The hard right has a lot of power here. If every time the hard right says ‘jump’ and the President says ‘how high?’ his Presidency will be a failure, yet that’s what has happened repeatedly here, repeatedly. The hard right doesn’t represent America on health care. 80% of the people did not like the Trumpcare bill that the hard right supported, 80%. The majority of Americans, by a substantial margin, want to see Obamacare strengthened, not repealed. The hard right doesn’t. They want to get rid of it. But if the President simply is responding to them, it’s not leadership.
He did the same thing on DACA. Leader Pelosi and I met with him. It was clear what we sought: approval of the DREAM Act. He agreed, provided there was border security, explicitly no wall. The next day the right wing attacked him. Laura Ingraham, I think, said, one of those radio commentators said he should be impeached. I think Breitbart News called him ‘Amnesty Don.’ And he totally reversed himself.
That’s not leadership, Mr. President, that’s blatant fear. We all understand political forces, they push us all around. When you’re President, you have an obligation to lead. And this presidency has been so unsuccessful in accomplishing things. He can blame Mitch McConnell, which the President has done, or the Republicans in the Senate. He can blame the Democrats, but really, the reason that we’re not getting anything done, and his presidency has been so bare of accomplishment, is that this President is embracing a hard right extreme position that is very far away from what Americans want. And his Presidency will continue to fail, continue to be a failure, if he continues to do that.
So I would say to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, going back to the agreement, the agreement is fair, and it’s down the middle, as I said, both sides gave. Let’s move forward. Let’s get a large percentage, a large number, of Democrats and Republicans to sponsor this legislation.
Let Leader McConnell have the good sense and the courage to put it on the floor. I would bet my bottom dollar it will pass. Let Speaker Ryan do that same. And we will have shown that we can get something done in a bipartisan way. Lamar Alexander’s not obstructing, Patty Murray’s not obstructing. The President’s obstructing at the moment. We should overcome that obstruction and work together. That’s what the American people want.
So I hope the President rethinks his position. He’s rethought it several times already. I hope he actually reads and learns what’s in the bill. I hope we can get this done. Not for any party’s sake or individual’s sake, but for the American people’s sake. The millions and millions of Americans who can’t afford high premiums, who desperately need health care and medicine, and who are praying for us to do something to help them.
Now, on the budget.
Yesterday, the Republican Majority voted to start debate on a budget resolution which would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion, so much for the deficit hawks, slash Medicare and Medicaid by $1.5 trillion, so much for the many people who don’t want to cut it, who promised not to cut it, including the President, and blows a huge hole in the deficit, as I said, deficit hawks, and finally favors the very wealthy.
My friend here was once head of the Club for Growth. I salute him. He states his positions. He believes tax cuts on the very wealthy and on big corporations will create jobs. We can have that debate, it’s called trickle-down economics, but he’s honest about it. Some of the others, our Secretary of the Treasury, our Advisor to the President, many in this chamber saying, ‘This is a middle class tax cut,’ when 80% of the benefits go to the top 1%, when we remove the estate tax that doesn’t apply to any couple whose estate is less than close to $11 million. It’s a tax cut for the wealthy. Some people believe that’s a good way to exercise policy. The American people don’t, but let’s debate it that way.
But our Republican colleagues, just like on health care, are ashamed of this bill. They can’t debate it on what they really believe. And so they put up these chimeras. They sort of make it up. ‘Oh no, we won’t have a deficit, there’ll be huge growth.’ I think the secretary of the Treasury said it’ll decrease the deficit by a trillion dollars. That was laughable. ‘Oh, it’ll go to the middle class, not the wealthy,’ when almost, when they lower the top rate, raise the bottom rate, get rid of the estate tax, and allow pass-throughs, which will mainly go to wealthy, very wealthy individuals to reduce their tax rate to 15%. That’s in the outline.
So, today, we begin the process of shining light on this awful proposal, of telling the truth. That’s what the amendment process will be today.
Today we’ll vote on a Democratic amendment to strike the $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid. If our colleagues don’t want to cut Medicaid, they should vote for this. If our colleagues are okay with a trillion dollars in cuts to Medicaid, let them vote against the amendment. But believe me, the American people will know exactly how each member of this chamber feels when it comes to cutting Medicaid dramatically.
Democrats will also propose an amendment to strike the cuts to Medicare. Now in the health care bill, in one of the iterations, we debated cutting Medicaid, we haven’t debated cutting Medicare, but now we will. $473 billion of cuts are in the exact budget that our Republican colleagues wish us to vote for, and it will shine a light on what really is in this bill, not what is said.
How many of you on Republican side have mentioned that this bill cuts Medicare and Medicaid, this budget proposal? You going to start mentioning it today? Or are you going to try to hide it? Okay? Because it does.
And by the way, the idea that this doesn’t count, because it’s just in a budget that we can ignore? Is belied by the fact that there is statutory PAYGO. Statutory, not rules. And it says that Medicare is cut 4% if there’s a deficit caused by tax cuts. Okay, are we going to cut Medicare 4%? We don’t want to do that. We hope you don’t, but this budget would require that under the PAYGO rules, and that is law.
So, we’re going to have amendments. Do you want to cut Medicaid or not, yes or no? Do you want to cut Medicare or not, yes or no? Do you want to vote for a $1.5 trillion deficit or not, yes or no? And do you want 80% of the tax cuts to go to the top 1% of the very wealthy, while middle class taxes are raised for many people, yes or no?
Today begins the process of truth. Today begins the process that shines light on all the misrepresentations by Secretary Mnuchin and Gary Cohn and by the President himself, who says he’s going to just cut taxes on the middle class, not on the wealthy.
This process will be going on for a while. There’s going to be a very bright light shining on our Republican colleagues in the House and Senate. It’s going to take them a while to come up with a bill. It’s not easy writing a massive tax bill, and all the while, while they’re writing it and once it comes out, that bright light of truth will produce, in my judgement, the same result we had on health care: the more the American people see, the less they’ll like it.
Right now a recent CBS poll said 58% of the American people believe that the Trump bill is tax cuts for the wealthy, only 19% believe it’s for the middle class. That number’s going to get worse, my colleagues, just as the health care thing got worse. And the American people turned against you, as we Democrats shined a bright light on what it really did.
You cannot govern from the hard right, as wealthy as they are, as much as they threaten you with primaries. It’s not going to work. We still have a foundation of democracy here. There’s still a foundation of honor and truth. And when honor and truth and sunlight hit this bill, it will crumble.
Now I say to some of my colleagues, we want to work with you on a good tax reform bill. One that is revenue neutral, one that doesn’t favor the wealthy. We believe small businesses should get tax breaks, we believe money that is overseas should come back and be used to create jobs. There are lots of things we can do in common ground without blowing a hole in the deficit, without cutting Medicare and Medicaid, without favoring the rich.
Defeat this bill, we will work with you, just as we have on health care. We said if you defeated that bill, we’d try to come up with a bipartisan compromise. And we have. One that the President is flip-flopping on, zig-zagging on, saying yes one day and no the next. But we’ve come up with a compromise. And the same thing could happen on taxes, the same thing.
So today’s a turning point, a beginning turning point in the tax debate. The day that what’s really in this Republican bill will come to light, and the American people, as they learn about it, will not like it.