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Schumer Floor Remarks On What’s At Stake For Americans’ Health Care With Judge Kavanaugh’s Nomination

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 10:24 AM] regarding President Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Judge Kavanaugh and what’s at stake for Americans with his nomination. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, first let me thank my friend and colleague from Illinois. He’s a lamp of light in this horrible moment when children are separated from parents and we don’t even know who they are, don’t even know where their parents are, showing both the inhumanity and incompetence of this administration rolled into one. He has been a constant and vigilant voice to reunite the families and bring some justice, some peace, some calm to these poor kids so I thank him for the work he has done.

Now, Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court will bring up many issues. The next justice on the Supreme Court will have an ability to impact labor rights, women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, voting rights, civil rights, environmental rights, and so much more for generations to come. We need to know how Judge Kavanaugh views those issues.

On the issue of a woman’s freedom to make her own health decisions, for example, yesterday, while shepherding Judge Kavanaugh around the Capitol, Vice President Pence said that he wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned. This isn’t some ancient belief that the country has pushed aside, there are people in high parts of the government, the vice president yesterday, the president constantly and so many others who want to repeal Roe v. Wade tomorrow. Americans should not be complacent. The vast majority of Americans want to see Roe in place. But there is an active movement here now personified by Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation, potential elevation, hope it doesn’t happen, to the bench and we have to be vigilant. Vice President Pence’s remarks that he wants Roe overturned were a prescient reminder that both President Trump and Vice President Pence have explicitly promised to appoint “strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court” who would “consign Roe v. Wade to the ash heap of history.” Those are the words of the vice president.

Judge Kavanaugh has also written some troubling things about environmental protections, consumer protections, and commonsense gun safety laws – all of which should be carefully examined by this Senate and by the American people before we have any hearings. His history as a Republican partisan lawyer during the Clinton and Bush eras – documents, emails, and writings – need to be thoroughly examined, particularly his more recent writings about executive authority.

Judge Kavanaugh argued that a president should not be subject to an investigation while in office, that a president should be above criminal and civil indictments, even going so far as to say that a president need not enforce a law that he “deemed” unconstitutional - those are serious and dangerous beliefs. They’re particularly dangerous, made even more dangerous now, because we have a president who clearly wishes to aggregate power to himself regardless of separation of powers, regardless of the norms this country has had for centuries, regardless of rule of law. Senators from both parties should scrutinize what Judge Kavanaugh has said because if he’s the swing vote on any kind of rational check on this president, I worry. We should all worry. You know conservatism has always believed in small aggregations of power so that the individual would have more freedom. That’s the core of conservatism but when conservatives embraced President Trump who wishes to aggregate power and roll over any checks to his power and now chooses to get behind Judge Kavanaugh who seems to have almost a monarchical view of presidential power, we’ve got trouble. We better be awfully careful here in this country.

The Senate is going to have to look at each and every one of these issues in due time. Today however, I want to focus on the issue that might have the most profound consequences for the average American most immediately: health care, and the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. In a few minutes I will be joined by some of my colleagues over in the Mansfield room to discuss this issue at length but right now here’s what I’d like to say.

Prior to Judge Kavanaugh’s selection, President Trump promised to nominate a judge who “would do the right thing, unlike Judge Roberts on health care.” He commissioned a list of judges from the Heritage Foundation, a far-right special interest group dedicated to dismantling government, including and especially the health care law. That’s the place where the government spends a lot of money and these rich people who are behind the Heritage Foundation, the Kochs and others, they don’t want to pay any taxes. Those poor folks, they are so struggling. And where do taxes go more than any other place? Health care. Why? Because that’s what the American people want. Who wouldn’t give everything they had if their spouse, their child, their relative was sick and needed a lot of money to be cured? That’s why we have insurance and that’s why we have the government involved in things like Social Security, and Medicare, and Medicaid. But the Heritage Foundation, the handful of rich people who fund them, and the so many Republicans who dance to their tune, they don’t want that. They hide it from the American people, because the American people don’t agree with it, but they don’t want it, and they have pushed forward Judge Kavanaugh to be the torch bearer on the court for their mission. The list of 25 that President Trump selected from was vetted and approved by this very Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation would not give its stamp of approval to anyone who would maintain or grow the health care law, particularly the protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Now the American people deserve to know where Judge Kavanaugh stands. This is a serious issue. This is not something we can allow a nominee to hide behind, say “I’ll follow existing law.” We need to know their view of the government’s ability to be involved in health care, to be able to fund it when the average person can’t afford it given how high the costs are. Right now, several cases that challenge the structure and constitutionality of the law are wending through the courts. If one or many reach the Supreme Court, I will say to my fellow Americans you’re right to be protected if god forbid someone in your family is sick is at risk. Your right to have an insurance company not cut you off if god forbid someone in your family is sick is at risk if Judge Kavanaugh ascends to the bench. That’s probably the number one reason he’s opposed by so many of us on this side of the aisle.  

Can you imagine the Supreme Court thrusting us back to a time when you could be denied health insurance precisely because you needed it so desperately? To a time when a mother with a child who has cancer is made to watch her daughter suffer in agony because they can’t get affordable health care because no insurer will insure someone who has a child with cancer in their family? Do we want to go back to that? Come on. It’s not Democratic or Republican, it’s what America believes in. And the hard right, through subterfuge and to their credit, long-term diligence, is getting these people on the court. They could never pass such a law in Congress, the elected body of the people, even with Republican majorities. But the court, the unelected branch, that’s where they’re headed for and that’s why we need to be so vigilant.  

Up to 130 million non-elderly Americans have a pre-existing condition – a third of America, more than a third. For insurance companies, it used to be the case that a condition as commonplace as asthma was justification for jacking up rates to unaffordable levels. The law we wrote to prevent those despicable abuses by insurance companies is potentially on the chopping block, in my view likely to go if Judge Kavanaugh becomes Justice Kavanaugh. How can we afford that?

The American people should have their eyes wide open to the stakes. The Supreme Court may very well hear a challenge to the legal protections for people with pre-existing conditions and President Trump’s own Justice Department is currently arguing in court that those protections are unconstitutional. I’d like President Trump at one of his rallies to tell the people at the rally that he is for taking away their protections when they have someone with a pre-existing condition in their family. He wouldn’t dare. He wouldn’t dare. That is what his legal department in HHS and Justice is doing. The president doesn’t tell people what he’s doing. He brings these hard right people in and says “I’m with you,” he whispers, “I’m with you.” He doesn’t dare tell the American people. And that’s why it’s our job in the minority since the Republican side, by and large, has shown so little spine on this issue, it’s our job to let the American people know the peril they are in, their health care is in.

If anyone doesn't believe that President Trump is still intent on tearing down our health care system, just look at what the administration did yesterday. The president decimated funding that helps people sign up for health insurance, cutting it to one-sixth of what it was two years ago. This funding is used to help people navigate the complex landscape of health insurance and select the plan or program that’s right for their family. Even worse, of the little funding remaining, President Trump mandated that it be used to direct people into his junk insurance plans that don't cover basic, essential health care. Yesterday's news should remind us President Trump remains ruthlessly committed to tearing down our health care system. He won’t admit it at his rallies. He won’t dare talk about it but that probably is the most important thing he’s doing in terms of effect on the American people and we’re not going to let him hide it. Anyone who thinks he did not make this Supreme Court nomination without an end goal of furthering health care sabotage is kidding themselves.

So while there are many rights and freedoms at stake on the Supreme Court, the right of all Americans to be able to afford health care is at the very, very top of the list. The selection process for Judge Kavanaugh and President Trump’s own words should motivate Americans from all corners of the country to contact their Senators and oppose this nominee.