Schumer Floor Remarks On The Trump Administration’s Effort To Separate Families And The Need For A Bipartisan Effort To Protect Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

June 18, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Trump administration’s effort to separate families and the need for a bipartisan effort to preserve protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, Americans are deeply troubled by the images and news of parents being separated from their children at the southern border. The Trump administration’s policy of “zero tolerance” at the border has already resulted in 2,300 cases of forced family separation, according to Homeland Security statistics obtained by the Associated Press. The pace of separations has increased, from nearly 50 to nearly 70 a day.

Any parent could imagine how difficult this is, how heartbreaking it is to be separated from your young son or your young daughter, looking at their faces as they wonder, “What’s going on here? Why are they taking my parents away from me?” It’s heartbreaking to imagine the separation and the anxiety it produces in everybody.

So, let’s be clear here: separating children from their parents and denying relief to victims of brutal domestic violence will not make our country a better or safer place. The policies are cruel, inhumane, and so unlike the America we have known for two hundred and twenty-nine years.

No one should be allowed into the country who doesn’t meet the legal requirements – we cannot have open borders – but we have an adjudication process for those cases. In the past, there has been no need to separate parents from children while that adjudication is occurring. The Trump administration has actively decided to take a different, crueler, more callous approach.

And yet, what does President Trump do? He has spent the past few days trying to deflect blame! The president has said, repeatedly, that the separation of parents and children is the result of a law “the Democrats forced upon our nation.” That is just not true. Allow me to quote from the Associated Press’ – nonpartisan – fact check of the president’s claims: “There is no law mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. The separations are a consequence of a Trump administration policy to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. Trump’s repeated, but nonspecific references to a Democratic law appear to involve one enacted in 2008. It passed unanimously in Congress – that meant Democrats and Republicans supported it – and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush – hardly a Democrat. It was focused on freeing and otherwise helping children who come to the border without a parent or guardian. It does not call for family separation.”

Now, I know what President Trump will say, as he tries to undo our American institutions: “That’s fake news! It’s the Associated Press,” which has had a reputation of being down the middle for scores of years. So, let me quote the New York Post Editorial Board, one of the most conservative newspapers in America, hard right. Here’s what they say: “The immediate cause of the crisis is Team Trump’s decision to start prosecuting illegal border-crossers, rather than simply deporting them.” And in the editorial, they go on say to President Trump, “Fix this problem, and stop blaming Democrats. They are not to blame.”

President Trump and Attorney General Sessions announced this “zero tolerance” policy in April, and it went into effect in May. If there was a law requiring it, why hasn’t it been going on since Trump became president? They just started it. Chief of Staff Kelly called the policy a “tough deterrent.” This has nothing to do with our current immigration laws; it has nothing to do with any “Democratic law”; it’s entirely about a decision made by the Trump administration to start separating families.

So, let me say this to President Trump: President Trump, you can undo the policy tomorrow if you want to, with a snap of your fingers. And, President Trump, if you don’t want to change the policy, own up to it and defend it, instead of blaming somebody falsely. Either reverse it – which you can do, Mr. President – or own up to it. But this idea “Oh, well, it’s Democrats to blame” is false and untrue, and not showing too much courage of conviction.

Health care. Over the past few months, insurers in several states, including Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Oregon, have requested significant rate increases for next year, the result of Republican health care policies that have undermined our health care system. But on Friday, the state of Minnesota sought a decrease in their rates.

Now why? What made Minnesota so different from the other states? Why do the people of Minnesota get to breathe a sigh of relief that their insurance costs weren’t going up, whether it be the monthly payment, or the deductible, or the copayment? Why? I’ll tell you why…

Minnesota implemented a state-funded re-insurance program that’s helping backstop their health care market. This is what can happen when states support patients and fight back against what President Trump and Congressional Republicans are doing. This is what happens when you try to strengthen our health care system instead of sabotaging it.

Imagine if every state were like Minnesota. Imagine if every state, for the first time in decades, was dropping premiums and out-of-pocket costs for consumers next year. Think about what a difference that would make in the lives of tens of millions of Americans who pay too much for health care, and worry both their health care bills are going to go up, and the quality and availability of their health care will go down.

It would not have been that difficult to achieve the goals of Minnesota. We spent months negotiating a bipartisan health care stabilization package that would have included ideas like the reinsurance policy that’s been implemented in Minnesota. Senator Nelson from Florida talked about this, wanted to do it. Our Republican friends wouldn’t. Senators Murray and Alexander came to an agreement. It would have done a load of good.

But rather than pass a bill to strengthen our health care system, even after the Republicans tried and failed to repeal the ACA, the Republicans doubled down on sabotage. They just hate the system, the idea that people should get help from their government so much that they make it worse. As a part of the tax bill, Republicans repealed the coverage requirement and put nothing in its place. Then, they added poison pills to the bipartisan stabilization bill to ensure it wouldn’t be able to pass.

When President Trump canceled the program that helps offset the costs for low-income Americans and proposed expanding junk insurance plans – you pay a lot and get very little – our Republican colleagues hardly made a peep. Recently, the administration said it will refuse to defend in court protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. This is a new one. Our Republican friends now say we don’t want that a family that has a pre-existing condition gets health insurance. That’s even worse than they’ve been before.

The Republican Leader said last week that his whole caucus supports protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. While this a complete reversal from the various health care bills Republican leadership supported last year that would have decimated protections for people with pre-existing conditions, I applaud him for saying it and hope it represents the turning over a new leaf.

But now Senate Republicans have to put their money where their mouth is. When President Trump does things that are so bad for the American people, so bad for his supporters who depend on health care, our Republican colleagues just fold, they’re afraid of him. I hope that’s not the case on pre-existing conditions because millions of Americans’ lives, and health, and sanity – at least fiscal sanity – depend on it.

So, if Republicans are serious about maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions, they would join us in urging the Trump administration to reverse their shameful decision not to defend the pre-existing healthcare law in court. They would join us in urging the administration not to finalize their plan to sell junk insurance policies. I’d say to my Republican friends, and my dear friend Leader McConnell: Actions speak louder than words. Your simply saying that your whole caucus protects Americans with pre-existing conditions doesn’t make it so, as the very administration you support tries to undo it.

Republicans should work with Democrats, right now and throughout the summer, to focus on lowering costs for the American people. That starts with telling the Trump administration to defend the vital protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

And I wanted to say one more thing on the immigration issue, Mr. President. First, I’d ask unanimous consent that the New York Post editorial, which I referenced, be placed in the record. “Stop Breaking up Families at the Border” is the title.

Second, I would like to mention this: So, the House is toying with a bill, supported by some of the less extreme Republicans, and they’re trying to deal with this issue of family separation. First, we haven’t seen the copy, but from all reports it doesn’t really deal with it. But second, it’s loaded up with so many other poison bills that it’s never going to see the light of day.

If our Republican colleagues in the House, who endeavored to pass the discharge petition and failed by a few votes so they could help the Dreamers, want to do something real about this, about the Dreamers, and about family reunification, the support of a bill that’s just dead on arrival here in the Senate will not assuage their constituents, assuage their conscience, or most important fix the problem.