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Schumer Floor Remarks On The Trump Administration’s Family Separation Policy, Reinstating Sanctions Against ZTE, And Junk Health Insurance Plans

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Trump administration’s family separation policy, the Senate’s decision to reinstate sanctions against ZTE, and a new rule that would expand junk health insurance plans. Below are his remarks:

Madam President, members of both parties, and I believe the vast majority of Americans, remain concerned about the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that’s resulted in thousands of families separated at the border. Anyone who has seen the photos, heard the audio of small children, alone and afraid, crying out for their parents cannot help but feel horror and disgust by what’s going on. That’s not America. That’s not the America we know and love, and generations before us have known and loved.

Clearly, no one should be allowed into the country who doesn’t meet the legal requirements, but we have an adjudication process, that, in the past, did not require the separation of parents from their children. The Trump administration has decided, of its own will and volition, to take a crueler, more callous, and indeed more expensive and time-consuming approach. As a bipartisan group of former US Attorney’s wrote yesterday, “the Zero Tolerance policy is a radical departure from previous Justice Department policy, and that it is dangerous, expensive, and inconsistent with the values of the institution in which we served.”

And yet, President Trump acts as if his hands were tied, as if it’s not up to him, as if somehow Congress and Democrats are to blame for a policy his administration instituted, defended, and many members of the administration continue to defend – most recently the Homeland Security Secretary.

The truth of the matter is that the Trump administration announced this new “zero tolerance” policy at the border in April. Even they hadn’t done it before that. Though they weren’t required, the Trump administration decided to criminally prosecute every single illegal border case, instead of simply deporting them. That’s what changed. President Trump of his own volition changing the policy into a much crueler one. And he was supported by his whole administration. Or by much of his administration. Chief of Staff Kelly called the policy a “tough deterrent.” Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielson has defended the policy, as have Attorney General Sessions, White House Advisor Stephen Miller, and several other members of the administration.

Last night on Fox News, Attorney General Sessions characterized the family separation policy as a deterrent.

So when President Trump tweets “CHANGE THE LAWS” and that his policy is the result of a law that “Democrats forced upon the nation,” he’s ignoring reality, he’s contradicting his own administration. As commentator after commentator – Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative – has said:  President Trump is simply not telling the truth and in a cowardly way.

No law – no law – requires the separation of families at the border. That’s just not true.

Now, at the convention, President Trump said about the problems of the nation that “I alone can fix it.” In the case of family separation, it’s actually true. Mr. President: you alone can fix it. The president alone can fix this with the flick of a pen. Mr. President, you should fix it. But if you don’t want change this cruel policy, at least admit that it is your decision. Blaming others falsely is cheap, easy, and dishonest. A cheap way out, unbecoming of any president.

President Trump, if you are truly ashamed of what’s happening at the border, get your team together and undo this shameful policy. But if you don’t want to change the policy, you need to take responsibility and own up to it.

On ZTE: last night the Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act, fulfilling its annual duty to authorize funding for our nation’s military and update our national security policy. As part of the bill, a bipartisan amendment to reinstate sanctions against Chinese telecom giant ZTE passed as well. Although many have probably not heard of ZTE, Americans of all stripes should be cheering this news. Because in the views of many experts, if we allow ZTE into this country, China and its government will use our phones to spy on each of us, our companies with their great technology, and our military. That’s why so many people are against ZTE being allowed into this country, and in my view, the same would be true of Huawei – the other big Chinese telecom company.

ZTE, backed by China’s government, has flouted U.S. sanctions and lied about it. The FCC, the FBI, and the Pentagon have all issued stern warnings about the national risk posed by ZTE’s technology. Allowing the sale of ZTE technology in the United States could allow China to spy on every American’s private information, on American businesses, and even on our military. It’s a security risk. And why is President Trump, in a simple call with President Xi just letting it continue? Fines don’t matter at all to this giant company. They will still pose the same security risk before and after they pay a fine.

So when the Trump administration reached a sweetheart deal with ZTE to go easy on them, folks here in Congress, from both parties, were shaking our heads in disbelief. China is the single most significant threat to American jobs and American intellectual property, the lifeblood of our economy. ZTE represents that threat. There is no good reason to take it easy on them.

So I am heartened that both parties – some the most conservative of this body and some of the most liberal members of this body and everyone in between – stood up and said we shouldn’t be forgiving ZTE. It is now vital our House colleagues keep this bipartisan provision in the national defense bill if it heads towards a conference. They should not let the pressure of President Trump who simply doesn’t know how to negotiate – President Xi flatters him and he gives in on something vital to national security. They should not let President Trump pressure them into reducing American security, both economic and defense. They should not let President Trump pressure them into allowing ZTE to spy on every one of us which they could well do.

Now, before moving on on this, I want to take a moment to thank Senators Cotton and Rubio for working with Senator Van Hollen, myself, and the rest us on this issue. My friends on the other side of the aisle – it’s harder for them to oppose the president than it is for us. My friends on the other side of the aisle have had the courage of their convictions to not only speak out but to support this legislation despite the opposition of their party’s president.

It’s rare indeed when Schumer, Van Hollen, Rubio, and Cotton issue a joint statement, but on this issue, we all agree. It’s an issue that transcends party and concerns the vital, national security interests of this great United States of America. So I’m very glad, for the sake of the country, we were able to come together and pass this amendment.

Finally, Madam President, on health care. Today, we expect the Trump administration to issue a new rule that would expand junk health insurance plans that don’t cover critical conditions and are far from comprehensive health coverage.  

These plans may not include coverage for maternity care, may not include coverage for mental health treatment, may not include coverage for emergency services, newborn care, or prescription drugs. Worse still, these plans may weaken protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.  Finalizing this rule is simply the latest act of sabotage of our health care system by the Trump administration and a back door to expanding junk insurance plans which benefit the insurance industry but hurt the average American.

That’s why more than 95 percent of the health care groups that filed comments about this proposed rule opposed it. No single group that represents physicians, patients, hospitals or nurses is supportive. Not one. You’re always going to find people who can make a fast buck putting together a health care plan that does very little for people as they collect money from them. Our responsibility is to not allow that. In this Congress, we had done that. President Trump’s undoing it.

[The] Trump administration and Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats in a bipartisan way to make health care more affordable instead of taking actions that jack up costs on middle-class families and those that are sick that need health care the most.