Schumer Floor Remarks on Former Deputy AG Yates and Former DNI Clapper Testimony and Trumpcare

May 9, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former director of national intelligence James Clapper testimony in a Senate hearing yesterday as well as House Republicans’ legislation aimed at replacing the Affordable Care Act. Below are his remarks:

At yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, we heard from former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

In their testimony, both of them confirmed what we already know – that Russia tried to interfere in our elections and likely will do so again.

In particular, Deputy A.G. Yates made the point that General Flynn, who misled the Vice President about his contact with the Russian Ambassador, was vulnerable to blackmail since the Russians knew about those conversations.

It is still an open question whether or not the Trump Administration will hold Gen. Flynn accountable under our criminal law, but needless to say, his presence in the Administration and the length of time it took to dismiss him raise serious questions about why the President brought him on board to begin with and why they did not respond more quickly to protect our national security.

Mr. President, both parties here in Congress should be focused on the threat posed by Russia’s hacking activities and their attempts to influence foreign elections, especially ours.

Make no mistake about it: these cyber-attacks won’t be limited to any one party or president. Anyone who draws the ire of President Putin – president, senator, congressmember, elected official -- could be subject to these dark attacks. Whatever is good for Russia at the moment, whatever hurts the United States the most, that’s what he will pursue.

Director Clapper testified that Russia likely feels “emboldened” to continue their hacking activities given their success at disrupting our 2016 elections.

He said, “If there has ever been a clarion call for vigilance and action against a threat to the very foundation of our democratic political system, this episode is it. I hope the American people recognize the severity of this threat and that we collectively counter it before it further erodes the fabric of our democracy.”

I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Clapper. I hope these hearings are just the start of a bipartisan discussion about how to combat these efforts and safeguard the integrity of our elections. Democrats and Republicans should join together, pick out what Russia has done to us in the past, and how we prevent it from happening in the future. Again, as Director Clapper said, the very foundation of our democracy is at stake. The Founding Fathers in their wisdom wrote in the Constitution that we had to worry about foreign interference. It’s happening now in a way that it has never happened before. And in a bipartisan way, we must act.

Now, a word on healthcare.

The bill the House of Representatives passed last week is devastating in so many ways, and to so many different groups of Americans.

…To older Americans – who could be charged 5 times as much as others;

…To middle-class Americans, who will be paying, on average, over $1500 a year more for their coverage the next few years;

…To lower-income Americans, who are struggling to make it into the middle-class, who will be paying thousands of dollars more per year;

…To women, to whom pregnancy could now become a preexisting condition.

Amazing. Why are they making these cuts? For all too many on the other side of the aisle, it is for one purpose: to give a massive tax break to the wealthy -- folks making over $250,000 a year. God bless the wealthy. They’re doing well. They don’t need a tax break at the expense of everyone else, especially when it comes to something as important as healthcare.                                            

Amazingly, the bill is even devastating to our veterans. And I’d like to focus on that for the remainder of my time this morning.

You would think that when the House Republicans were writing their bill, that House members would be more careful to make sure that our veterans – who have put their lives on the line for our country – wouldn’t be hurt by their legislation.                                                     

But in their haste to cobble together a bill that could pass the House, the Republican majority actually prohibited anyone who is eligible for coverage at the VA from being eligible for the tax credits in the bill.

I’m sure my Republican friends, who rushed to draft this bill, thought that was a perfectly fine policy. After all, our veterans can get care at the VA. But, in fact, many veterans don’t get their care from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Yes they are eligible. Many live in rural communities that don’t have a VA facility. Many can’t go to the VA because of means testing. Some get treated at the VA for a specific injury related to their service, but rely on private insurance for the rest of their health care. I’m sure some veterans would simply prefer the choice to have private insurance rather than through the VA.

Under Trumpcare, any veteran that falls into one of those categories would be denied the tax credits they’d need to get affordable coverage.                                     

Let me repeat: as many as 7 million veterans, possibly more, who qualify for VA health care wouldn’t be eligible for the tax credits they’d need to get affordable insurance on the private market.

For the sake of perspective: under Trumpcare, folks who make over $250,000 a year would get a massive tax break while taxes and costs would go up for so many of our brave veterans.

I’m not sure it’s possible for a bill, and for the party that passed it, to get its priorities more wrong than that.

It’s the shameful consequence of a slapdash, partisan bill that was thrown together at the last minute – a bill whose purpose it seems, is not to provide better coverage, or lower costs, or even to provide better care for our veterans…its purpose seems to be to provide a tax break to the very wealthy.                                  

For the President, who lobbied for this bill down to the individual member, it’s another giant broken promise to working people and, in this case, to our veterans.

President Trump made improving healthcare for our veterans a theme of his campaign. And just a few weeks ago, he said that “The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long and it’s time that they are recognized and it’s time that we now take care of them and take care of them properly.”

But his healthcare bill, Trumpcare, would deny the means of affording private insurance to as many as 7 million veterans, maybe more. Another broken promise. Saying one thing, doing another. Many of the people who support Donald Trump don’t want to embrace that idea, but it’s happening on issue after issue, and they will see it. Saying one thing, doing another. That’s another reason for Senate Republicans to scrap this bill, scrap repeal, and start working with Democrats on bipartisan ways to improve our healthcare system.

Today, we Democrats will be sending a letter to Republican leadership laying out our position on health care. All 48 Democrats and the two Independents who caucus with us have signed it. And it’s been our position all along: we’re ready to work in a bipartisan, open, transparent way to improve and reform our health care system.  

Look, we’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years: kids can now stay on their parents’ plan until they’re 26, women are no longer charged more for the same coverage, there are more Americans insured than ever before. These are good things. We ought to keep them and build on our progress.

So to our Republican friends we say this: drop this idea of repeal, drop this nightmare of a bill – Trumpcare – which raises costs on our veterans, and come work with us on ways to reduce the cost of premiums, the cost of prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket costs.

We can find ways to make our healthcare system better if we work together. Trumpcare is not the answer.

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