Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For President Trump To Reunite Separated Families, Staying Tough On ZTE, And The Unpopularity Of The GOP Tax Bill

June 21, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for President Trump to reunify families that have been separated at the border, staying tough on China, and the failure of the GOP tax bill to deliver for the American people.  Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madam President, first as the Senate continues to process appropriations bills here on the floor, I want to thank Chairman Shelby and our Ranking Member Leahy for their hard work on the appropriations process. The Republican Leader and I have both committed to work through appropriations in a bipartisan way, through regular order, something this Senate has not achieved in some time. Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Leahy are leading the way. We want to continue along this road in a bipartisan, cooperative way, where what we can bring to the floor, basically, has approval from both sides of the aisle.  

Now, on immigration. Let me address the humanitarian crisis at our southern border. For a little over a month, President Trump’s family separation policy has resulted in more than 2,300 children being separated from their families. Young children, toddlers, babies, are being held, alone – I’ve seen the pictures of these tiny, little girls with forlorn looks on their faces; it breaks your heart – and they’re being placed into what are being called “tender age facilities” – that’s an Orwellian term if there ever was one. Other minors have been flown, scattershot, to different parts of the country to live in foster homes, hundreds of miles away from their parents. A five-year-old sent hundreds of miles away from his and her parents? What kind of country are we?

Now, yesterday, the president signed an executive order which made it 100% clear what Democrats have been saying – that the president can fix this problem on his own – and that’s correct. It vindicated everything we’ve been saying, and undid everything he’s been saying when he said only Congress can fix this problem, and of course, he made it partisan. It’s a relief that the president has reversed himself and recognized the cruelty of his policy of separating children from parents. I’d like to believe that he found it in the goodness of his heart. We certainly know that there was tons of pressure on him to do this, and he didn’t do it when he first looked at the problem. After weeks of acting like his administration bore no responsibility for the policy, contravening all fact and all reality, I hope this represents a turning point with the president. I hope this means the president will stop blaming others for problems he creates and start fixing them himself. I hope it means the president realizes just because he’s said something doesn’t make it so, and so often more than any other president many times over is just outright false, made up. It just pops into his head, and he says it.

But this executive order raises several questions, and that means the president must continue to act to deal with these problems, which again he can do on his own.

First, the way the executive order was drafted means that it will not go into effect until a court rules on its legality. What is the president’s policy on family separation in the meantime? Will he continue to insist that these heartbreaking separations continue?

Second, the executive order allows for indefinite detention of families apprehended at the border. The United States government cannot be in the business of indefinitely detaining minors.

Third, the executive order is silent on the more than 2,300 families that have already been separated. Will the president and his administration work to reunite those families?  We believe he must do that immediately. What exactly is the president’s plan to accomplish this? Leader Pelosi and I are sending a letter to the president this morning demanding that he use all the necessary resources to reunite the separated families.

Now, at his rally in Minnesota last night – the kind of red meat thing the president likes, he thinks because he can gather 10,000 people together in a state of five, six million that he’s a hero with everyone; that’s the way he thinks – but at the rally last night the president acted as if he had taken care of the border crisis, as if all the problems were in the rear view mirror. He said “I signed an executive order keeping families together, because I think that’s probably a very important thing to be doing.” The only thing is, we in Congress, and the American people, have a whole bunch of questions listed above – and I’ll repeat them –  that the president hasn’t answered.

How many kids are in these facilities now? What is their condition? Why hasn’t the media been allowed to come in and see and verify that the conditions are humane?  The Department of Defense has been asked whether it can house 20,000 unaccompanied children between now and the end of the year.  How will that work?  Is it even feasible?  And how is the administration keeping track of the families who have already been separated and what are their plans and timetable for reuniting them?

President Trump hasn’t taken care of the problem, not by any stretch of the imagination. But he’s certainly admitted that his administration does have the power to take action. He, in a sense by what he did yesterday, increased the burden on himself to solve these other problems. I urge him to continue to use his power to address these serious, unresolved issues.

Legislation in Congress remains unlikely, and far more difficult to achieve than the simple, corrective actions that the president can take immediately and administratively. Let us not forget, immigration has been the graveyard of legislation for years in this Congress. Saying Congress can act, and getting Congress to act are two different things, particularly when on the House side we have a group of congress members of the Freedom Caucus – way out of the mainstream by any polling standard, any real standard on immigration – insist poison pills be added to anything we do on immigration, and Speaker Ryan, thus far, has shown no, no ability or desire to resist them. So Congress getting it done is not going to solve the problem, unfortunately, because immigration is such a contentious and divisive issue. The president has to do it himself, and let us hope he does.

On our trade relationship with China. For too long, China has taken advantage of America’s unwillingness to strongly confront its rapacious trade policies. For too long, China has dumped artificially cheap products into our markets, stolen the intellectual property of startup and blue-chip American companies, and denied our companies – when they have a good product that China wants to copy – access to its markets, so they can steal the know-how of how to do it, and then compete with us. China, alone, by its rapacious, unfair trade policies, has accounted for the loss of millions of American jobs and the decline in pay for millions of American jobs.

So I am heartened that President Trump, after making a debacle of a deal on ZTE, has taken a tougher approach to China in recent days. His instincts to be tough on China are right on the money. As I have said before, on China, my views are closer to President Trump’s than to President Obama’s or President Bush’s, both of whom – their administrations anyway – let China get away with economic murder.

Now, President Trump needs to stay strong. If he backs off at the first sign of trouble, after the first company calls to complain, after President Xi calls to complain, then China will know we’re weak and unserious. I am worried that China already thinks that, because of what the president has done on ZTE. China is waiting to see if it can ride this out. We need to show China that America means business because the stakes are too high.

Business relocations to China have cost too many American jobs. The theft of our intellectual property has been called “the greatest transfer of wealth in history” by a former four-star general and Commander of US Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander. The lifeblood of the American economy is on the line.  So, I urge President Trump to stay strong on China. At the first sign of complaint if we turn, China will know they can push us over, and the number of jobs we will lose, the amount of wealth we will lose will far exceed the kinds of damage that these tariffs might to.

But please don’t mistake my support on this issue as a license for the president to be reckless or as an endorsement of what the president is doing to our allies. The tariffs leveled against Canada and European allies are misguided and poorly timed. We should be rallying our allies to work with us against China, which is what they want to do, but instead we are poking them. China is our number one economic enemy. We have to – and I use the word “enemy” advisedly – we have to, we have to, we have to have the whole world on our side, and these other actions are poorly timed at best.

Tax. Six months ago, in the dead of night, the Republican majority jammed through a partisan tax bill that lavished tax cuts on big corporations and the wealthiest few. The old theory of “trickle down”, which the Republican Party embraced. My friend from Pennsylvania is one of the few to say that that’s what he actually believes, which I appreciate even though I strongly disagree. It is an appropriate time to look back on how the tax bill is fairing.

While the Republican Leader, on a daily basis, celebrates vague statistics about business confidence, here are some hard, cold facts.

Since the beginning of 2018, corporations have announced plans to repurchase more than $475 billion in stock buybacks – a record pace. And in the past week, the Washington Post reported that “wages aren’t just flat, they are falling” for the largest group of American workers.

According to a recent analysis by Just Capital, only 7% of the capital allocated by companies from the tax bill’s savings has gone to employees, 57% have gone to shareholders, just what we Democrats predicted. When the vast majority of the tax cuts go to the very wealthy and the largest and most powerful corporations, the average worker sees very little gain. Trickle-down. Certainly a smaller proportion of the gain than the cut. The kind of plan we would advocate, which would help the middle class – predominately – not the wealthy, would have been far better for average workers.

Remember what President Trump promised the American people? He said the Republican tax bill would give a $4,000 raise for the average American family. In reality, American families are not seeing close to that figure. A recent Washington Post headline sums it up best: “The Republican tax bill’s promises of higher wages and more jobs haven’t materialized.”

The truth is, the tax law has failed to deliver for American workers and American families. The American people are realizing it, the polling shows it’s becoming more unpopular. It started out very unpopular, with all those little publicity bonuses that many of them arranged. In January, it became about 50/50, but now it’s declining again. American families know that they are getting the short end of the stick in this tax bill. Corporations are reaping record profits as a result of the tax bill and they refuse to pass much of those savings onto their workers. And whatever benefits American families are getting from the tax bill – if they’re getting benefits at all – are starting to get wiped out by skyrocketing health care costs, the result of Republican sabotage, some of which was in the tax bill itself. There are millions of American families now whose tax break has far been exceeded by the increase in premiums they’re paying for health care.

All in all, that’s why that today, just six months since it passed, the Republicans’ signature legislative accomplishment is so deeply unpopular with the American people, and Republican pundits are saying, ‘We better go over to the area of immigration, this tax bill thing isn’t working for us.’

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