Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for bipartisan tribal legislation, the president’s behavior toward Russia and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, and the Republican tax bill :
Madam President, first, a brief comment on the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which failed to move forward in the Senate last night.
Indian Affairs has very rarely found its way to the floor of the Senate, despite a number of pressing issues facing Indian country, including: homelessness, education disparities, language loss, health care access, broadband access and more. For a number of years, Democrats, and Republicans, on the Indian Affairs committee have pushed legislation that would alleviate these problems, on our side of the aisle Senators Udall and Tester, Smith, Baldwin, Heinrich and Heitkamp, Cantwell, Murray. Have worked very hard on bills that deal with these very, very significant issues in Indian Country. But, Madam President, none of those bills have reached the floor of the Senate. The Leader has refused to put forth bills that would dramatically help Indian country on the floor. And when finally a tribal bill is brought forward by the Majority Leader, it was closed to amendments and debate. Senator Udall, our ranking member wished to have amendments. Senator Holden, the chairman of Indian Affairs told me he wanted amendments. But the way that Leader McConnell brought it to the floor was no amendments, no debate, and no discussion. And even worse, it was a bill to scrap labor rights at a time when we should be doing everything we can to strengthen labor protections. The only bill the Leader would bring to the floor is one that was divisive and destined to fail. A political act, not an act to help Indian country.
In fact, the AFL-CIO said that passage of the measure “would have amounted to the most aggressive erosion of labor protections since the 1940s.”
After many years of waiting for tribal issues to reach the floor, I think many of us were sorely disappointed that the Majority Leader opted for this incredibly divisive bill, done in such an incredibly divisive way.
I hope now that the measure has failed to advance, the Majority Leader would consent to putting some of the other tribal bills on the floor, so many of which have broad, bipartisan support, and could pass at least the Senate.
On another issue, Russia and Mueller. Yesterday, it was reported that President Trump overruled the decision of his administration to implement new sanctions against Russia for its support of the brutal Assad regime in Syria in the wake of a chemical weapons attack. That was devastating, our hearts go out when you see pictures like this.
It is only the latest action in a long pattern of behavior in which President Trump opts to treat Russia, and President Putin, with kid gloves.
It took a very long time for President Trump to even utter a negative word about Mr. Putin, and his administration has time and again delayed the implementation of sanctions. Reports in the press said that President Trump was unhappy with his administration’s decision to expel 60 Russian diplomats after British citizens were victim of a Russian-linked attack.
The decision to expel those diplomats was the correct one in my view, but apparently the president wasn’t happy with the decision by his own, appointed national security team.
Now, Madam President, the White House shouldn’t have to drag the president kicking and screaming to do the right thing when it comes to punishing Vladimir Putin and Russia. His refusal to stand up to the Kremlin is troubling and leaves many Americans wondering why, and what does the president have to hide? That’s what 90% of all Americans are asking themselves, Democrat and Republican, liberal, conservative, and his actions with Putin have been so confounding and so contrary to American interests, there’s virtually no rational explanation for it.
At the same time, the president’s rhetoric about the Russia probe should concern all of us. Should he seek to shut down or impede the investigation, by firing the Deputy Attorney General or Special Counsel Mueller, interfering with the chain of command, or issuing pardons, we would be, make no mistake about it, in a full-fledged constitutional crisis.
So I urge all of my colleagues – Democrat, Republican, Independent – to support the bipartisan legislation in the Judiciary Committee that would protect the Special Counsel from a political firing. The rule of law is not a partisan issue. It is one of the most serious issues we face. Because that is what’s at the core of being an America. That is why the whole world admires us. That is why so many of families like mine have been able to climb the ladder. For starting out in poverty like my grandparents did to a decent life. We cannot let the rule of law become a partisan issue. Let us speak in one loud, clear voice by passing this legislation through the Senate as soon as possible.
Finally, the contradictions I might just add in the administration are enormous. Nikki Haley must be so embarrassed today. That she forthrightly says, we’re going to be tough on Russia and do additional sanctions one day and the president contradicts her the next. Do they talk to each other? Do they have a set plan? Or is it just up to the president’s whim, day to day, moment to moment. When it comes to Russia, that’s far too serious to rely on whim, changing attitudes, and maybe an 800 pound gorilla in the room. Something that the president is worried about.
Finally, today is also Tax Day – probably American’s least favorite “holiday.”
And it is appropriate today to look back at what’s been happening since the Republicans passed their tax bill last year.
Since the beginning of the tax debate, Republicans have insisted their bill is about cutting taxes for working Americans. Even though the crux of their bill was a massive corporate tax cut, they said workers would see the most benefit. Even though it would direct 83% of benefits to the top 1%, they said the tax bill would be a “middle-class miracle.” Well, how many middle-class people today think that tax bill is a miracle? Not many.
The only way that could be true is if corporations decided to invest a substantial amount of their newfound profits in their workers. And that’s what Republican’s argued would happen.
Democrats warned that if you gave big corporations the lion’s share of the tax cuts, corporations would do what they always do when they have higher profits and extra cash – distribute it amongst themselves. Have a nice little party.
Unfortunately, the evidence is mounting that our predictions, as much as we wish they hadn’t come true, were prescient.
Since the passage of the tax bill, listen to this Madam President, corporations have spent over $250 billion on share buybacks since the tax bill passed, putting corporations on track to spend between 800 billion and a trillion dollars on share buybacks this year alone – outstripping the pace of previous years. Now, people may ask ‘what is a share buyback?’ Here’s what it is, a corporation has a lot of money. One thing they could do is pay workers more, give paid family leave, treat their employees better. Another thing they could do is invest in new plants and equipment, new training to make that corporation more efficient and sell more of its goods. Those are good things. What’s a bad thing? Buying back the stock. Why is buying back the stock, the corporation says, ‘I have a million shares outstanding.’ If I buyback a hundred thousand of them, the price of the remaining ones will go up. And who benefits? Well, above all, the CEOs of the corporations who have a lot of the stock shares and the wealthiest heads of those companies. Who else benefits? Shareholders. While 80% of all shares in America -- despite pensions, despite 401(k)’s -- are held by the ten percent richest people in America. And a third of all shares, totally go to people overseas. That’s who benefits from stock buybacks. Corporate CEOs, corporate shareholders, people overseas. More than the average American worker. And that’s what’s happened.
And according to a recent analysis by Just Capital, only 6% of the capital allocated by companies from the tax bill’s savings has gone to employees, while nearly 60% has gone to shareholders.
That statistic gets to the very core of the debate – who benefited from this tax bill? Mainly, wealthy CEOs, a lot of foreigners, and the wealthiest people in America. Not the average working person.
As USA Today put it last week, “the number of companies letting workers know they are getting a bonus, raise or other form of financial compensation has slowed to a trickle. Most of the extra cash from tax savings is going into the pockets of stock shareholders through dividend increases and companies buying back their own stock in hopes of boosting its price.”
The whole theory of the Republican tax bill was to be summed up in two words: trickle down. The whole theory was to lavish corporations and the already wealthy with tax cuts, and maybe the benefits will trickle down to everyone else. We’re already seeing the balloon burst on that idea, as corporations dedicate an enormous percentage of the tax savings to stock buybacks, and only a sliver to worker compensation.
That is why the Republican tax bill is so unpopular. A poll out today from NBC/WSJ, Wall Street Journal, hardly a working man’s newspaper, showed that now only 27% of Americans think the tax cuts were a good idea…fitting news on Tax Day, one of the least popular days of the year.