Schumer Floor Remarks on Returning to Regular Order, the Need for Bipartisanship on Tax Reform, and the President’s Stance on Immigration

August 3, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the need to return to regular order after healthcare, the Democrats’ desire for bipartisanship on the tax reform process, and the GOP immigration proposal.

Mr. President, as the Senate wraps up its work this week, I’ve been in discussions, multiple, with my friend the Majority Leader about clearing nominations with bipartisan support and we’ve made significant progress.

Now that we’ve moved past the terrible process used on healthcare, I hope we can get back to a more normal way of legislating and clearing non-controversial nominees, the two are tied together. You can’t avoid regular order when you want to and then say Democrats should use regular order whenever you want us to. But now that healthcare is done I think we can tie the two together – normal way of legislating, clearing noncontroversial nominees as we move forward in September. Now of course, controversial nominees will still require the proper vetting, but I’m committed to help moving non-controversial, bipartisan nominees forward.

I hope the fever is breaking. There’s a real desire in this body to move past the acrimony of the healthcare debate and get to a place where we can work together to advance legislation that helps the American people.

And I’m hopeful that the discussions between the Republican Leader and I will produce a package of nominees we can pass today.                       

Now on taxes. The Republican Leader has said that the next big issue this body will take up is taxes.

Democrats were excluded from even participating in healthcare discussions from the very first day of Congress, a process that ultimately ended in failure.

So we made the first overture this time to show our Republican friends we’re serious about a bipartisan process on tax reform. We’ve sent them a letter outlining three very basic principles. This is a guideline for our Republican colleagues to come work with us. And these are very simple principles that I think the vast majority of Americans would support.

The Republican Leader has said that he’d pursue reconciliation again – a process that purposefully excludes Democrats – almost again on the first day when we begin to talk about tax reform. He says Democrats don’t want to have a bipartisan discussion – of course we do. We’ve said it over and over again until we’re blue in the face. But I guess the Majority Leader somehow didn’t like the three principles we laid out, and I’d like him to specifically answer what it was.

Which of these three principles does the Majority Leader disagree with? Tell us – which of the three.

We know he probably agrees with the third – surely he can’t think that a blunt budget tool that excludes 48 members of the Senate is a good way to write legislation. He’s said so many times himself, I quoted him yesterday. He warned the Senate about becoming an “assembly line of one party’s partisan legislative agenda.” Those are his words – Mitch McConnell. The Senate should not become an “assembly line of one party’s partisan legislative agenda.” That’s what he did on healthcare, is he doing it again on tax reform? I hope not.                

We know he probably agrees with the second principle – no increase to the debt and deficit. And we know he agrees because he’s said so before. The Republican Leader and members of his party have spent decades assailing the debt and deficit. As recently as May 16th, the Republican Leader told Bloomberg TV that tax reform “will have to be revenue neutral.” So that one doesn’t seem to be, and I again I’d like to hear what he has to say explicitly, explicitly, so we can work together. But that doesn’t seem to be it.

That leaves us with the first principle – no tax cuts for the top 1%.

Here again, I understand why the Majority Leader and my Republican friends don’t want to come out and say that this is the reason they’ve decided to pursue a tax bill on their own. But it almost certainly is.

Tax cuts for the very wealthy are extremely unpopular with the American people, and for good reason.

The top 1% of this country takes 20% of our income, a greater percentage of its wealth. The wealthy are doing well – god bless them – their incomes are going up at a faster rate than anybody else. But when we’re talking about our tax code and rewriting it, we shouldn’t be focused on giving the 1% another tax break, while millions of working families struggle to afford the cost of college, prescription drugs, food, and healthcare.

I’m afraid the majority is in the same boat as they are with healthcare. They don’t want to say their real reason for changing healthcare. They wanted to slash Medicaid – a good number of courageous members on the other side said we won’t do that, but that was the core of the Senate bill.

They knew it was unpopular with the American people so they didn’t talk about it, and they entered a process that hid it from the American people. I think, unfortunately, history is repeating itself. They know how popular cutting taxes on the top 1% are, but the special interest Koch brother wing of their party, that’s their number one goal – that’s all they talk about, cutting taxes on the wealthy. So they’re stuck. Well, to my colleagues, have the courage to break free from the Koch brothers and the special interests.

Don’t give breaks to the top 1% -- everyone knows they don’t need it. It’s an old discredited idea that has lost its steam except among the hard right Koch brother wing of the Republican Party. Most Americans, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents don’t go for it, so break free.

If our Republican colleagues whole basis for doing tax reform is cutting taxes on the top 1% we’re going to send that message from one end of America to the other, and their ideas will certainly fail, as they did with healthcare. 

On a related point Mr. President. I saw this morning President Trump has been bragging about the success of the stock market, which by the way went up more points under President Obama than under President Trump – Obama was there longer but it started going up years ago it’s just continuing. Most economists would give President Obama at least as much credit as President Trump, but that’s not the point I wish to make.

The stock market is mainly owned by the wealthy. As of 2013, the top 20 percent owned 92% of all stock shares. So when the stock markets going up its helping those 1%. The average American is not looking for stocks to go up, is not looking for corporate profits to hit record levels as much as their looking at ‘how’s my paycheck?’ ‘How are my expenses?’ That’s why we have a better deal for them. Because we want paychecks for average Americans to go up. We want expenses for average Americans to go down. We want them to have the tools so they can make a better living and their kids can in the 21st century.

The focus on the stock market is the focus on the highest end of people. Many will dispute whether President Trump deserved credit for it, but whether you think so or you don’t – I don’t, by and large – it’s not what the American people are looking for. It’s not the basis of bragging about the economy.                 

Going back to taxes. The American people will rebel against a tax cut for the wealthy, so Republicans clearly won’t talk about it in their plan. They’ll give a crumb to the middle class and try to hide the massive giveaway to the already fortunate. I can see no other reason why they’d object to these three very reasonable, very popular principles other than that. And we hope they won’t try to sneak it through in the same partisan process.

Finally, Mr. President, a final word on immigration.

Yesterday I heard the President railing against migrant workers, and wrapping his arms around the Cotton-Perdue bill. 

The bill goes after hardworking people who want to play by the rules, contribute to our economy, and earn citizenship while doing nothing to address the unscrupulous practices of employers that abuse our visa programs to outsource jobs and displace American workers.

But here’s what I’d like to focus on. So the President announces he’s cutting back on immigration. But a month ago he actually increased the number of H2B visas, a program the President knows well. You know why? A lot of those H2B visas work in hotels. I don’t know how many, but I would bet there’s a good number in Trump hotels.

So when the President actually looks at immigration in his own businesses he says we need more immigrants. And he has said when asked before – well he couldn’t get American workers.

But when he comes up with his big immigration plan, I think appealing to not the higher instincts of Americans, he says slash it. Those two are a complete contradiction. To hold both those views is to hold hypocritical views.                                   

The President wants to talk about immigration because he thinks the politics are to his advantage, but in truth, his immigration policy has a stunning hypocrisy at the core of it. The President criticizes and seeks to limit almost every immigration program except the one that benefits his own business.