Schumer Floor Remarks on President Trump’s Threat to Cause “Trump Tax” on Premiums, Bipartisanship on Russia Sanctions and Recess Appointments

July 31, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s threats to stop cost-share reduction payments to insurance companies, the bipartisanship on the sanctions legislation, and recess appointments. Below are his remarks:

First Madam President, on the matter of healthcare.

Now I sincerely and truly hope that the events of last week are a turning point. I hope they steer this body towards a period of greater bipartisanship. We sure could use it, because the problems in our healthcare system did not end last week. We Democrats know that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t perfect. We want to keep what works, and there were a lot of good things in it, and we want to fix what doesn’t. And we have a lot of work to do on that front.

Our first order of business should be to stabilize the individual market, and then both parties should work together – through regular order, through committees – to discuss other improvements. Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray have indicated they want to work together, they want to have public hearings, and do this right away. I’m hopeful that Chairman Hatch and Ranking Member Wyden, both of whom have proven themselves willing and able to work across party lines, also will be willing to work closely together to address broader problems with our health care system.

But let me repeat: the first order of business should be to stabilize the individual market, which has been wracked by uncertainty.

Right now, as insurers prepare to lock in their rates and plans for 2018, the Trump Administration is dangling a massive sword of Damocles over the heads of millions of Americans – threatening to end payments the Administration is supposed to make that would lower deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for so many Americans.

These payments are critical to keeping healthcare costs down and keeping the markets stable. Remember, AHIP – the largest trade group of insurers – has said that the uncertainty about these payments is “the single most destabilizing factor in the individual market.” That’s not Chuck Schumer or some Democrats saying it, that’s the insurers – they say it.

Make no mistake: by refusing these payments, President Trump is sabotaging our healthcare system. He’s actively trying to make it collapse, taking out his political loss on the American people.

That’s not being presidential; that’s small, it’s vindictive, and it will hurt millions of Americans he’s sworn to help.                  

In Pennsylvania and North Carolina, insurers have filed two separate sets of possible rates for 2018: one if the payments are made, one if they’re not. If the payments are not made, premiums would be 20% higher. Let’s repeat that. If the payments are not made – if President Trump follows through on his vindictive idea of not making the payments – premiums would be 20% higher for the people of North Carolina and of Pennsylvania.

So, if President Trump does not guarantee these payments permanently, Americans will have to pay a Trump tax on their premiums next year.

Let me say that again: if President Trump does not guarantee these payments, Americans will be paying a Trump tax of 20% higher premiums.

President Trump has a responsibility to make our healthcare system work, and millions of Americans will hold him accountable if the system implodes on his watch, if insurers leave the markets on his watch, or if their premiums go up 20% or more on his watch.

Of course, we in Congress could remove the uncertainty hanging over the market and take the decision out of the President’s hands. We can and should guarantee these payments as soon as possible, before the insurers set their rates for next year.

I’d urge my Republican friends to join us on Sen. Shaheen’s bill to guarantee these payments and prevent President Trump’s premium tax from going into effect. Republican Sens. Alexander, Collins, Hatch, Portman, and Johnson have all spoken about the need to do this, I hope they’ll help us move forward.

We could get this done very quickly and show the American people that we’re able to work together on healthcare, in a very bipartisan way, to help keep costs down for so many, so many ratepayers.

Now, Madam President, on another matter – Russia sanctions.

I am very proud that last week as nearly every member of Congress, save five, voted to pass legislation to sanction Russia, Iran, and North Korea – that there was such bipartisanship on that issue. According to reports, the President will sign the legislation.

These are tough sanctions, they’ll will have a real effect on Russia, and they are more than justified. President Putin violated the sovereignty of Ukraine, aided and abetted human rights abuses in Syria, and attacked the very foundation of our democracy by meddling in the 2016 election.

Just as important, the sanctions bill gives Congress the ability to review any decision to weaken, dilute, or lift sanctions on Russia. President Putin will not be able to get out from under the sting of these sanctions without the consent of Congress.

Let this be an unequivocal message to Mr. Putin and any other nation that’s thinking of interfering in our elections: if you interfere with our elections, which we hold sacred, you will be sanctioned, and those sanctions will be severe.    

Finally, Madam President, a word on the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Mueller.

Since the beginning of the investigation into Russia’s meddling into our election, both here in Congress and the executive branch, the heavy hand of the Administration has never been far away.

We know the Administration solicited the help of the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee to beat back reports in the press about Russia’s interference in our election, and that was after 17 intelligence agencies said it happened.

The President fired FBI Director Jim Comey and admitted on national television he was thinking about “this Russia thing” when he did it.

Then, after Special Counsel Mueller was appointed to lead the investigation, allies of the Administration went on television to defame his character, to sully his reputation – a shameful ploy to degrade a man with one of the most sterling records of nonpartisan public service a man can have in this country.

And now, the President routinely berates and humiliates his former friend, maybe still his friend – who knows – his Attorney General, his great ally in his campaign on Twitter. Jeff Sessions was one of the President’s earliest friends and one of his first supporters in Congress. Not only does that get to character, which it sure does – I can’t imagine any American likes the way Senator Sessions was treated whether you agree with him or disagree with him. But it also raises questions about whether the President wants the Attorney General to resign so he can appoint a new Attorney General willing to fire Special Counsel Mueller.

If such a scenario were to pass, we would have a constitutional crisis on our hands. The Senate should remove even the possibility of it coming about. So, in the tradition of the Senate, I expect we will hold pro-forma sessions throughout the upcoming recess to prevent a recess appointment from being made.

The fact that President Trump continues to meddle with the Department of Justice and impede the Russia investigation gets to a larger question: if President Trump has nothing to hide, nothing to fear, why not let Special Counsel Mueller do his job, follow the facts, and finally get to the bottom of the matter?

On a matter as important as foreign interference in our elections, the American people deserve a thorough and impartial investigation into the facts. President Trump should come nowhere, nowhere near it.

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