Schumer Floor Remarks on the Lack of Bipartisanship Concerning the Continuing Resolution

January 18, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the lack of bipartisanship concerning the CR.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:


Before I move to the bulk of my remarks, allow me to respond to the Majority Leader’s comments on CHIP. And first, let me say, I’m a good friend of Leader McConnell, we get along quite nicely. I know what a difficult job he has. But sometime he says things that are just way over the top and I have to respond to his remarks on CHIP. Of course Democrats support CHIP, Sen. McConnell, you know that darn well. If we were in charge of this chamber, we would never – never – have let it expire. But your Majority did. Your Majority let health insurance for 9 million children expire, even though there were bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress that would have extended it. Now, it’s placed on a CR that is bad idea for so many reasons that I’ll get to shortly, and Republicans pretend that Democrats are against CHIP. It’s outrageous. We’re leaders of our parties and we say certain things, but it seems the lack of straightforwardness, the lack of relying on any facts that is endemic at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue is seeping over to the Majority Leader’s desk. And I regret that because what he said this morning about CHIP was outrageous.


To suggest that Democrats are standing in the way of CHIP is drawing, Leader McConnell from a deep well of bad faith.


Now, let’s get to the issue at hand, government funding expires at midnight tomorrow, and still the House Republican Majority is moving forward with a continuing resolution that is likely to be unacceptable to the Senate, and may well be unacceptable to House Republicans.


The CR prepared by the Speaker is not an honest attempt to govern. As typical of this Republican Majority, it was done with zero negotiations with Democrats. They could get away with that strategy on the tax bill, when they forced it through reconciliation. They can’t here. When are our Republican leaders going to learn that the best way to govern, the best way to accomplish things is by talking to us, not dropping ultimatums on us that bear none of our input? That’s what happened with the FISA bill, it nearly went down. That had divisions on both sides of the aisle. That’s what’s happening here and it doesn’t look good for the CR coming over from the House for that very reason.


Furthermore, the CR leaves out so many priorities that the American people want and demand. Opioids. Veterans. Pensions. It doesn’t resolve the fate of the Dreamers. It doesn’t include an increase in military funding that members from both sides of the aisle would support. It’s just another kick of the can down the road because the Republicans in both the Senate and the House and the White House can’t get their act together.


Even President Trump tweeted this morning that he opposed including CHIP on this bill. Does that mean he’s against the CR? Who knows. It’s a mess.


We can’t keep careening from short-term CR to short-term CR. If this bill passes, there’ll be no incentive to negotiate and we’ll be right back here in a month with the same problems at our feet. Eventually, we need to make progress on the biggest issues before us. Don’t ask me, ask Secretary Mattis. When you talk to him he knows how bad it is to continue CRs on the defense side. Why would our Republican colleagues go along with that?


So, this CR doesn’t get the job done. House Republicans don’t even know if they can pass it. Some Senate Republicans like my friends from South Carolina and South Dakota have said they don’t want to vote for it.


We’re going to have to go in a different direction. Ideally, we’d all roll up our sleeves and try to reach an agreement on all of the issues we need to solve.


We can resolve the issue of the caps, for defense and non-defense spending. We can resolve disaster relief. We can resolve the health care issues.


We can resolve immigration issues. We can do all of this in a rather short time because work has already been done on each of them for a while.


We could easily sit down find a cosmic agreement that would get the majority of support on both sides, in both houses and keep the government open. Despite all the rhetoric around here, I genuinely believe that.


The one thing standing in our way is the unrelenting flow of chaos from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.


It has reduced the Republicans to shambles. We barely know who to negotiate with. The President, on national television, tells Congress to bring him something and he’ll sign it. The Majority Leader says he needs the President’s imprimatur before we cut any deal. They’re both pointing at each other, and nothing gets done.


Of course, the principal reason the Republicans are in such disarray is that the President and his team have been agents of chaos in these negotiations since Day One. 


After all, President Trump was the one who said last year that “we need a good shutdown to fix mess.” The President said we need a government shutdown. Mr. President, 95% of all Americans, I would guess, do not agree with you. I would guess in their hearts, 95% of all Senators and Congressmen, Democrat and Republican, don’t agree with you, President Trump, when you say we need a good shutdown.


Now, don’t just ask me, here’s Politico. They’re a rather down the middle publication, no one thinks they’re left wing or right wing, no one thinks they’re Fox or MSNBC. Here’s the headline: “Negotiators on Hill find Trump an unreliable partner: Lawmakers find it difficult or impossible to negotiate when the President can’t seem to stick to a position for more than a few hours.”


The first paragraph of this article, let me read it: “Donald Trump ran for president as a bipartisan deal-maker. But if there's one thing he's proved after a year in office; he’s better at killing bipartisan deals than clinching them.”


No truer words were ever written. That’s not fake news, Mr. President.


Exhibit A: Yesterday, regarding the discussions on DACA, the Majority Leader said that “I’m looking for something that President Trump is going to support. And he has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign.” He said, Mitch McConnell did, that he still has to “figure out what [the President] is for.” How can you negotiate when the President who has to sign legislation is like a sphynx on this issue or at least like, saying one thing one day and another the next?


The President rescinded DACA four or five months ago. Had he not rescinded DACA, we wouldn’t be here today. Remember, the vast majority of the American people, even a narrow majority of Trump supporters’ support keeping the kids here, not sending them home. The President rescinded DACA four or five months ago and told Congress to fix it, and yet the Majority Leader of his party seems to have no firm idea what policy the President would support to get that done. At this late hour, that’s astonishing.


Exhibit B: the President’s chief of staff has insisted that Sen. Cotton and Rep. Goodlatte be in the room for negotiations on DACA. I have a great respect for each of them as individuals or respect every senator gives to every senator and congress member, although I so objected to what Senator Cotton did to Senator Durbin the other day. But, having said that, there is no deal those two could forge that would earn the support of a majority in either the House or the Senate. If Sen. Cotton and Rep. Goodlatte, who have opposed DACA all along and basically been strongly anti-immigration have veto power over an agreement, everyone knows that there won’t be an agreement. Gen. Kelly must know that.


And, just this morning, exhibit B-Prime, President Trump rebuked Gen. Kelly, his own Chief of Staff, on Twitter, for saying that the wall he’s fighting for is different than the one he campaigned on.


So exhibit B on the incompetence of the Republicans on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. Mixed messages. Conflicting signals. Chaos.


And exhibit C: today, President Trump with government shutdown one day away is off campaigning in Pennsylvania instead of staying in Washington to help close a deal.


We are one day away from a government shutdown, and there is no one home at the White House.


The president should be here negotiating. There is no better evidence that the President doesn’t give a hoot if the government shuts down than the fact that he’s away campaigning today, one day before the shutdown looms.


We’ve spent the last few months negotiating in good faith with our Republican counterparts, trying desperately to find a deal that we could all live with. But it’s been nearly impossible to reach a final agreement with this President. He has oscillated between completely opposing positions in a matter of days, sometimes hours. He’s signaled an openness to a deal only to have his staff pull him back. He’s given only vague indications of what he wants, even at this late hour. Leader McConnell was right, he doesn’t know what the President stands for. Now, Leader McConnell ought to have the strength and courage to start negotiating on his own for the good of the country but that hasn’t happened yet either. 


The White House has done nothing but sow chaos and confusion, division and disarray. And it may just lead us to a government shutdown that nobody wants; that all of us here have been striving to avoid.


The fact remains that there is a bipartisan deal on the table, led by Sens. Graham and Durbin. Seven Republicans and seven Democrats are on the bill right now. I hope and suspect more will join. It includes significant concessions from Democrats on almost every item the President requested, including his full budget request on border security, changes to family reunification (what he calls chain migration), and an end to the diversity lottery system.


There is no other alternative on the table. I repeat, there is no other alternative on the table.


If my Republican friends want to protect the Dreamers, like over 70% of America says we should, this is the deal. The White House is not going to help us. We know that. We have to do it ourselves.


And once we do, we can solve all of our other problems: on defense and domestic spending, on healthcare including CHIP and community health centers, extenders, on disaster relief and more.


Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. On both sides of the aisle, regardless of the dithering, the indecision, and the contradictory statements of the White House.