Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Senator Thad Cochran, reaching an agreement on the omnibus spending bill, and the president’s trade sanctions on China. Below are his remarks.
Mr. President, I have a few items to address this morning, but first I’d like to recognize our dear friend from Mississippi, the senior senator, who will be delivering his farewell speech today.
Senator Thad Cochran has served in this body for decades with a sense of dignity, decorum, and respect for his colleagues that was always appreciated but never confused for lack of fierceness or conviction. When his issues were on the line, Senator Cochran fought for Mississippi as hard as any senator. After all, he was first bitten by the political bug in his run for head cheerleader at Ole Miss (a distinction he shares with Trent Lott). So if you want to be a senator from Mississippi, join the cheerleading squad of Ole Miss. Of course, we New Yorkers have Eli Manning, we like him too. Senator Cochran has never stopped being a cheerleader for Mississippi.
Now, Chairman Cochran and I certainly have our differences. The Chairman once said, “I don’t call lots of news conferences. I just don’t see that as a necessary part of my responsibilities.” Well, agree to disagree on that one.
But there are many things we have in common, and there’s a particular part of his legacy that I admire.
After Hurricane Katrina buffeted his state, he convinced recalcitrant lawmakers to deliver aid to the Gulf Coast far exceeding the administration’s request. And he did it by working members on his side of the aisle and across the aisle behind the scenes. That’s how he earned the nickname the “quiet persuader.” It’s a skill I greatly respect after going through something similar when Hurricane Sandy hit my state. At the time, Chairman Cochran was the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee. He and his staff were extraordinarily helpful throughout the process. Ultimately, Senator Cochran voted for the Sandy relief bill when many of his colleagues opposed it. I’ll never forget that.
Under his stewardship of the Appropriations Committee, we’ve just completed the text of an omnibus spending bill, which I’ll address in a moment. But once the bill passes, it will be a fitting legacy that Senator Cochran will retire with another bipartisan accomplishment under his belt.
I wish him and his family the best. And I thank him for his distinguished service to his state, his country, and to the United States Senate. He will be missed, here in the Senate.
Now, Mr. President, I am pleased to say that the four congressional leaders have reached an agreement on an omnibus spending bill. That’s now public. It didn’t happen until last night, took a long time.
It took weeks of painstaking negotiations, more than a few of which leaked past the midnight hour. Before I go further, let me thank Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan and their staffs, Leader Pelosi and her team, Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Leahy and the Appropriations Committee staff, and many others, for all the hard work that went into this bill.
It certainly doesn’t have everything Democrats want, and it does contain several things Democrats are not thrilled about. The same is true for our Republican friends. That is true of all good compromises. If each of us stood on our hind legs and said, ‘if I only get everything I want, I’m voting no,’ we’d be totally paralyzed and that happens far too often in this body. But somehow on this appropriations bill, this omnibus, that didn’t happen. There is remarkable spirit of give and take in the room.
Overall, we Democrats are very happy with what we were able to accomplish on a number of priorities to the middle class and America, including infrastructure, education, opioids, mental health, and child care. For nearly a decade, the middle class in this country has suffered from a needless and self-imposed austerity, limiting investment in all of the things that create good-paying jobs and improve the condition of working Americans. Improve the lives of Americans.
This spending bill, this spending agreement brings that era of austerity to an unceremonious end and represents one of the most significant investments in the middle class in decades. So many in the middle class are frustrated, they don’t know why. Well, one of the reasons is quietly but unfortunately quite decisively, this congress cut back on the very ladders that helps the middle class climb. In education, in infrastructure, in healthcare. Was cut, and cut, and cut. And the help that the federal government has given to the middle class, since the progressive era of the early 1900s was taken away. Quietly but decisively. It’s back. It’s going to help middle-class people stay in the middle class, it’s going to help those aspiring to the middle class climb that ladder and get there. It’s really a good thing and I’m excited about it.
As the Republican Leader mentioned, it robustly funds our military, giving our men and women in uniform the resources they need.
The bill also improves our ability to respond to wildfires, makes a critical down payment on election security, provides a reliable pathway for the essential infrastructure projects in our country, and makes incremental but important progress on the issue of gun violence – a debate this Congress must resume soon. So again, that era of austerity, which so hurt middle-class Americans is coming to an unceremonious end because this bill represents one of the most significant investments in the middle class in decades.
For these reasons, I am confident that this agreement will pass both houses of Congress hopefully, with comfortable margins. Hopefully, in a bipartisan way. Again, I thank the Republican Leader for his part in reaching this agreement, and I look forward to passing this legislation as soon as possible.
And now, a final issue. While we’re talking about agreements and bipartisanship. I don’t agree with President Trump on a whole lot, but today I want to give him a big pat on the back. He is doing the right thing when it comes to China. For many of us, Senator Graham and I since we went and visited China over a decade ago, we have watched China rapaciously take advantage of America: of American jobs, of American workers, and of American intellectual property. China’s ruthless in how they go after us. They do it quietly, they do it with a smile, and unfortunately, previous presidents, Democrat and Republican, just stood by, as China did what it did to us.
President Trump is exactly right, this afternoon, to propose a plan designed to punish China for its most flagrant trade abuses. I’ve called for such action for years and been disappointed by the inaction of both Presidents Bush and Obama. I’m very pleased that this administration is taking strong action to get a better deal on China.
China has stolen and extorted the intellectual property of American companies for years without repercussion. Our intellectual property are our family jewels. The American way of openness, of thinking, of debate, has created the kind of place where great thinkers come, think up great ideas and those ideas are often translated into millions of middle-class, good-paying jobs. China knows this, but China’s not a free and open society. To achieve the kind of gains in advancements, in technologies, in biomedical science and in so many other things, they have to steal what we do! Sometimes by buying our companies. Sometimes by cyber theft. Sometimes by these joint ventures and they tell American firms you can only come to China if you give away your intellectual property. So, China’s taking huge advantage of us.
Intellectual property is the lifeblood of emerging industries and the good paying jobs they provide. The American advantage of intellectual property is one of the main things that will keep us number one economically in this century. But not if we allow it to be stolen and taken advantage of. And the country that does that more than any other is China.
It is impossible to overstate the cost of IP theft to our economy and our workers. This sentence pains me, I think about it often. General Keith Alexander, Four Star General, non-political, who was in charge of cyber-security in America, here’s what he said, China’s theft of our intellectual property is “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” We’re letting them do it. The crown jewel of America, our free and open society that allows great thinkers to create great ideas and products. They steal it and we do nothing. It’s one of the things, Mr. President that aggravates me more than most others. Finally, President Trumps is doing something unlike his predecessors. So I commend him.
The WTO has been grossly inadequate for this problem. We cannot continue to ignore the flagrant cheating by China, whether WTO likes it or not. So the administration’s announcement today is a leap forward. If this new push is going to be successful, we also need to our allies to work with us. Germany, Italy, France, Britain, open and free societies unlike China. They know their personal stuff is being stolen too. Join with us. If we’re a united front, strong front against Chinese activities on intellectual property we can force them to change their ways, but they won’t do it by persuasion, they won’t do it by smiling, and frankly they won’t do it by diplomacy when some of our diplomats come in and say, ‘we need China for this thing, ignore the economic theft, ignore the economic disadvantage.’
So, I support what the president is doing. When it came to the tariffs on steel and aluminum, I supported the thrust, I supported the president’s instincts, but it wasn’t focused enough on China and hurt too many of our other allies like Canada where we have a trade surplus. The president, I hope corrects his thinking on that. But here this is aimed at China in one of the ways China hurts us the very most. It’s smart, it’s good, and I salute our Trade Rep. Lighthizer for pushing this issue. I salute our Commerce Secretary Ross for pushing this issue. And by the way, to help support the administration’s efforts to crack down on China, we fully funded the USTR’s trade enforcement trust fund at $15 million in the omnibus.
Let’s make sure that China starts playing by the rules and on intellectual property certainly at the top of the list. Today’s announcement by the president will be a great start in that direction, Democrats, Republicans, Americans of every political ideology of every region in the country should support these actions.