Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the agreement reached to impose sanctions on Russia, Special Counsel to the Russia probe Robert Mueller, and Senate Republicans’ unwillingness to work with Democrats on bipartisan healthcare legislation. Below are his remarks:
Mr. President, late last night, Senators reached a bipartisan agreement on a package of Russia sanctions for the Senate to vote on as an amendment to the pending Iran sanctions.
It was the result of several days of negotiations and hard work. The Republican Leader and I spent a lot of time on this, I thank him for it, as did Sens. Crapo, Brown, Cardin, Corker, Shaheen, Durbin and Menendez. I want to thank each of them for their effort and their expertise in getting this done.
In particular, Senator Cardin, ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, who is one of the most trusted voices in our caucus on this issue, did an excellent job of forging bipartisan consensus on his committee with little regard for the credit he’d receive. I also want to acknowledge Sen. Brown our ranking member on Banking who has been steadfast on making sure we get a good sanctions bill, an effective sanction bill done. We would not have done this also without Senators Shaheen, Durbin and their staffs. I thank them also.
The final result of these negotiations is a good result for our country.
By codifying existing sanctions and requiring Congressional review of any decision to weaken or lift them, we are ensuring that the United States continues to punish President Putin for his reckless and destabilizing actions. I believe it’s particularly significant that a bipartisan coalition is seeking to reestablish Congress as the final arbiter of sanctions relief -- no matter what the administration does -- considering that this Administration has been too eager to put sanctions relief on the table. These additional sanctions will also send a powerful and bipartisan statement to Russia and any other country who might try to interfere in our elections that they will be punished, and that Congress will stand firm in making sure they are punished, Democrat and Republican.
So I again want to thank my Republican and Democratic colleagues for putting party aside and doing what’s best for the country, and hope this agreement quickly passes both the House and Senate and we hope that the president will sign this legislation as well, even though it cedes the power to congress.
Now, on Mr. Mueller.
I am frankly disturbed by the new strategy on the hard right to discredit Special Counsel Mueller and sully his reputation. Their strategy is clear: they know or suspect the facts might not be good for the President, so they’re trying to vilify the man who’s in charge of finding them. But they’ve chosen the wrong man.
Anyone who engages in these baseless attacks about Mr. Mueller’s character is only heaping dishonor upon themselves. Mueller his known for his service to America, for his integrity, he’s a straight arrow. He’s a Republican.
Only a few weeks ago, these same hard right commentators and pundits were praising Mr. Mueller’s selection and lauding his qualities. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions has unequivocally praised Mr. Mueller in the past for his service and credibility. Here’s what Sessions said Mueller: his “integrity is undoubted…his experience and love of country is undoubted.” To these hard right commentators who are attacking this honorable man who’s trying to do a job for our country and see that rule of law is obeyed, read what Attorney General Sessions has said. Now, because Director Comey’s testimony has made President Trump’s actions less and less defendable, these hard right commentators have turned tail and started an ad hominem nasty assault on a career public servant and a very fine man.
A close associate of the President, Mr. Christopher Ruddy, has even insinuated that the President might fire Special Counsel Mueller. I can’t think of a worse move for the President at this time. I would just have him look back in time and see what happened to a president who tried to do the same thing.
And I have one question: what are these people who are attacking Mueller afraid of? Are they afraid of what Mr. Mueller is going to find? Is the White House afraid of what Mr. Mueller is going to uncover? It seems pretty obvious that if they were not worried they’d let Mr. Mueller proceed, because they would be confident he would find nothing.
I can find no other legitimate reason why the critics would flip so quickly to attack a man of integrity unless they were worried about what he might find.
Again, if the White House truly has nothing to hide, they ought to encourage Special Counsel Mueller to investigate. They should let him do his job. When people say when there’s smoke there’s fire, they’re pointing to actions like this, and it makes the American people distrustful of the White House and their allies.
I know that all of this probably doesn’t bother former Director Mueller, he’s got a very strong spine, who will go after the facts regardless of the noise around him, but they’re bothersome, they’re wrong, they’re nasty.
One of the most important things in our democracy is a bedrock faith in the rule of law, that no person if above the rule of law. If the President’s allies are going to attack every single law enforcement agent involved in the Russia investigation for partisan reasons; if the White House ever joins in those attacks; it will greatly erode the American people’s faith in the rule of law and do significant damage to our democracy. At a time when it seems somewhat more fragile than it’s been in the past.
This is not a game. This is not funny. This is a very serious investigation that’s headed by one of the most trusted men in Washington. It is about foreign interference in our elections, something that eats at, that corrodes, the roots of our democracy, the very wellspring of our being and pride as a nation.
I’d urge that these attacks on Mr. Mueller be ceased, and that my friends on the other side of the aisle join me in defending his reputation. The critics are going a little too far here.
Finally, Mr. President, on healthcare.
There are only 11 calendar days of Senate business left before the July 4th recess and yet Republicans are looking to vote on a final healthcare bill before that deadline.
And not a soul outside of the Republican caucus has seen the bill. I’m not sure every member of the Republican caucus inside has seen it.
To everyone in America: this should be a red alert.
This should be a red alert for doctors, hospital administrators, patient groups, groups that represent older Americans, groups that fight for children’s healthcare, groups that fight for better treatment for substance abuse and mental health.
This should be a red alert for working families across this country whose lives depend on affordable health care and yet have no earthly idea what their representatives in Congress might pass in just two short weeks.
They might never know. The Republicans have not scheduled a single committee hearing, not one.
Not a single committee hearing on a bill that would reorganize one-sixth of the American economy and touch the lives of millions of Americans, a life and death issue for some.
Not a single committee hearing or public debate on a bill that would potentially change – drastically – the way Medicaid is funded, the way women are treated in our health care system, the way we treat older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.
Why on earth wouldn’t we have a single committee hearing on a bill of this magnitude? Why on earth is this bill being hidden from public view?
There is only one reason: the Republican majority is afraid of the American people learning what is in their healthcare bill. They don’t want the American people to know how much they cut and destroy Medicaid, or how fat of a tax break they give to the wealthiest few, because they know the backlash will be severe. In short, by their actions it seems our Republican colleagues are ashamed by this bill.
And they know their chances of passing a Republican healthcare bill will plummet if they release a bill that looks anything like the House healthcare bill – which only a tiny sliver of America supported, 17% in the latest polls, a majority of Republicans, a majority of Trump voters are opposed to Trumpcare.
So our Republican colleagues made a calculation, ultimately self-defeating: better to keep their healthcare bill hidden from view, under lock and key, until the last possible moment.
Maybe this is the only strategy – to pass a bill as unpopular as this bill is going to be.
Maybe it will shield their bill from criticism in the short-term, but make no mistake: there will be a reckoning if this bill is passed.
Passing a bill of this scale, with this many consequences for the American people, without telling them what’s in it; without telling them how they would fare…the political retribution will be swift. It will be a catastrophe for the Republican Party.
I’m afraid, worse, this bill will be a catastrophe for the American people.