Schumer Floor Remarks Opposing Senate Republicans’ Focus On The Nomination Of Justin Walker To The DC Circuit Court Of Appeals Instead Of Addressing the Ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic And The Need For Oversight Of The Trump Admin’s Response To The Crisis

May 6, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the nomination of Justin Walker to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and demanded Leader McConnell to focus on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic instead of his focus on right-wing nominees. Senator Schumer also spoke regarding the need for oversight of the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak amid reports of its failures and attempts to hide the truth. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The Senate is here and open for business. The janitors and food service workers, and all the staff that operate the floor are here. They're all here. Capitol Police are doing their usual, excellent job. The Republican leader called us back, despite the obvious health risks, but we are ready to do the business our country demands.

So there's a question that looms: Why aren’t we? Why isn’t the Senate focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic?

There hasn’t been a single vote here on the Senate floor related to coronavirus, not even a nominee related to coronavirus response.

Rather than focusing on COVID-19 with laser-like intensity, the Senate Judiciary Committee today will waste precious time on the nomination of Leader McConnell’s protégé, Justin Walker, to serve on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals—the second most powerful court in the country.

Mr. Walker, is a thirty-seven year old Federalist Society disciple who has more experience as a cable news commentator than he does trying cases in court. Mr. Walker’s qualifications pale in comparison to those of previous nominees to the DC circuit—made by Democrat and Republican presidents. Nominees by Democratic presidents and Republican presidents all were deeply steeped in the law, just about every one, and here we have this what Leader McConnell is doing to the courts is nothing short of disgraceful. The judges currently sitting on the second highest court in the land have had decades of experience in Supreme Court Advocacy, appellate work, criminal law, private practice, academia, and so on prior to their nominations. Mr. Walker has been a district court judge for less than a year. He had no trial experience prior to that.

Mr. Walker has been a district court judge for less than a year. Less than a year. He had no trial experience retire to that.

Inexperience aside, bad enough as that is, Mr. Walker’s views are way outside the mainstream. In 2018, he described Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion upholding our health care law as “indefensible” and “catastrophic.” Meanwhile, he praised a dissenting opinion by then-judge Kavanaugh as a “roadmap for the Supreme Court” to invalidate it.

Every Republican who votes for this nominee, Mr. Walker, will be voting to dismantle the ACA and take millions of people's health care away from them if his statements prove to be how he judges things, which seems very likely given previous experience of other nominees like this.

This week, legal briefs are due in the Supreme Court case that will determine the future of our health care law. In the midst of a global pandemic, a time when our health care system has never been more important, Senate Republicans are preparing to jam through a judge who believes it should all come crashing down. Tens of millions of people would lose their health insurance and protections for Americans with pre-existing condition would be eliminated.

Mr. Walker’s nomination would be controversial in normal times, to say the least. During this public health crisis, his nomination is nothing short of a disgrace.

The Senate should be focused on helping the country: hospitals and doctors, nurses and health care workers, essential employees and small businesses and families suffering great financial hardship.

There are millions of newly unemployed Americans. But the only jobs issue the Republican majority seems to be focused on this week are the jobs of right-wing judges, who wish to dismantle health care at a time when health care is needed more than ever.

Let me say that again. There are millions of newly unemployed Americans. But here in the Senate, the Republican majority is spending time giving jobs to right-wing judges.

Now, let’s get back to what matters.

Democrats are focused on helping workers, small businesses, and American families. In times of crisis and economic hardship, these average Americans, these working people, they take it on the chin. That’s where our focus needs to be. Not on legal immunity for big corporations. Not on big oil or gas companies. Not on juicing the markets. The focus should be on average folks. That’s who all of us in Congress should be focused on helping right now.

That's who all of us in Congress should be focused on helping right now.

Congress, however, is only the legislative branch. We can pass laws but do not execute them. I have been proud of how both parties have come together over the past few months to pass historic legislation—96 to nothing. With a great deal of input and improvement by the Democratic minority. But to make this legislation work, we need a competent, steady, focused administration to not only implement our laws but coordinate our national response.

It is no secret that the Trump administration has been anything but focused, anything but steady, anything but competent.

President Trump seems to spend more time deflecting blame, attacking others, pushing quack medicines and hiding from the truth than he does actually leading our nation’s response to this crisis.

Last night, in an interview on ABC News, the president said that his failure to prepare our national stockpiles with medical equipment was because he “had a lot of other things going on.” The national stockpile for the vital PPE that our frontline workers need and other materials, the president failed to prepare our stockpiles with this equipment because he “had a lot of other things going on?”

Vice President Pence yesterday confirmed that the White House was winding town its coronavirus task force, long before the disease has been contained—waving the white flag of surrender to COVID-19 long before the battle is over.

A report in the today’s New York Times details the failures of the administration—and Mr. Kushner in particular—to procure critical supplies at a time when we lacked masks, gloves and other equipment—protective equipment. Instead of appointing a military person with experience in command and control, as I suggested, Mr. Kushner recruited a team of consultants who had “little to no experience with government procurement procedures or medical equipment.”

And now we are reading reports of a whistleblower from the Department of Health and Human Services who reports that there was "pressure from HHS leadership to ignore scientific merit and expert recommendations and instead to award lucrative contracts based on political connections and cronyism.”

This whistleblower is scheduled to appear before a House committee next week. This whistleblower should come before the Senate as well. Senators have many questions to ask him. I believe senators on both sides of the aisle would have those questions.

So this was—and is—a time when the American people need the executive branch to lead a coordinated response to this evil virus. To listen to medical experts and heed their advice. To respect and listen to science.

But President Trump seems unwilling and unable to handle the truth. And it is hurting our country each and every day.

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