Schumer Floor Remarks on the Hacking of the French Election, the Testimony of Yates and Clapper, Trumpcare, and the Paris Climate Agreement

May 8, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the hacking of the French election, the testimony of former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former director of national intelligence James Clapper, Trumpcare, and the Paris Climate Agreement. Below are his remarks:

Mr. President, first I want to thank the Majority Leader for his speaking about the agreement that the House and Senate came to on the appropriations bills, the spending bills. We may not agree on emphasis, on what the most important things are. But we certainly agree it was a good, good effort that moved things forward and I was proud to be part of it.

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Now yesterday, Mr. President, the people of France took part in a time honored tradition of a democratic people – the election of a new president.

We here in the Senate congratulate Emmanuel Macron on his win and look forward to continuing the deep and longstanding friendship between our two countries.

But unfortunately, the elections in France were victim to a malicious attempt to distort the results through a coordinated cyber-attack on one of the candidates -- much like Hillary Clinton’s campaign was targeted in our elections.

In the waning days of the French election, according to reports, Macron’s emails were hacked and leaked to the public, potentially with some altered information included, by agents believed to originate in Russia. The hack was then promoted and spread by far-right activists across the globe, some of whom reside here in the United States.

It was déjà vu all over again: Russia elevated old-school propaganda tactics and techniques using new-school methods – spreading misinformation with an army of paid “trolls” and computer bots, aided and abetted by far-right activists here in the United States.

It seems that Putin and the international far-right have formed an unholy alliance.

The goal of this alliance is not necessarily to promote one candidate over another, one party over another – though that is part of it – their true goal is to destabilize and subvert democratic societies.

…To cast doubt on the outcome of free and fair elections.

…To hobble democratically elected leaders before they even take office.

…To degrade the alliances and international regimes that have created so much stability, strength and shared prosperity in the post-World War II era.

Despite Macron’s win yesterday, we would be foolish to think that this unholy alliance won’t use the same tactics again in upcoming European elections, and even more important to those of us in this country, in upcoming American elections.

Make no mistake about it: Putin has no loyalty to any one person or president. Whatever is good for Russia at the moment, whatever hurts the United States the most – that’s what he will pursue.

This is an issue that should provoke grave concern in both parties. He may favor one party one day, and another party the next. And it should compel us, Democrats and Republicans, to take proactive actions against this new threat.

This afternoon, the Judiciary committee will hear from former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.  Later this week, the Intelligence Committee will hold its annual worldwide threats hearing. 

I sincerely hope that these two committees will cover these issues in their hearings and beyond. We should begin an extended, bipartisan discussion about how to combat foreign information operations campaigns and safeguard the integrity of democratic elections all over the world, and most importantly, in our own country.

It’s no less serious than this, Mr. President: The integrity of our democracy – which has thrived blessedly for over 240 years – could well be at stake.

Health care, Mr. President, another matter. Last week, House Republicans passed the latest version of Trumpcare after a failed attempt earlier this year. The majority of Americans, when they see this version, will think it’s even worse than the first version.

This partisan bill will dramatically increase the cost of health insurance for those who need it most – including older Americans -- and lower the quality of coverage.

Trumpcare would mean 24 million fewer Americans will have health insurance.

It would hike premiums by 20% in the first few years, and average costs for the middle class could go up by more than $1,500 a year. Middle class people can’t afford that kind of money. If you’re struggling to make it into the middle class, Trumpcare could raise your costs by up to $4,000, putting you in an even worse pickle.

It makes it possible for insurers to charge older Americans as much as five times the amount they charge younger people, and states could make this ratio even greater if they want. Under the first Trumpcare bill, someone making about $20,000 and 63 years old could have his or her own premiums go up from something like $1,500 to $2,000 all the way to over $10,000 a year. This will be devastating for senior citizens, those 50 to 65 – at 65 they get Medicare. They’re in decent shape. But when they’re older and not under Medicare, they could get clobbered by this bill – clobbered by this bill after working so hard, and that’s the time when you start getting susceptible to so many serious illnesses.

Trumpcare would devastate our rural areas. By decimating Medicaid (which rural areas rely on) and limiting subsidies to lower-income Americans (many of whom live in rural areas), Trumpcare would put insurance for rural Americans even further out of reach.

Many rural hospitals are the largest employers in their areas. We have many in New York State, in Upstate New York. They would be shortchanged by this bill; these hospitals, often the largest employer in our rural counties and the only provider of health care for scores and sometimes hundreds of miles around, might be forced to lay off thousands of workers Many of these rural hospital leaders say if Trumpcare passed, they would have to close. Hundreds out of work in an area where it’s not easy to find work and for those who don’t work in the hospitals, harder to get to the hospital. And we all know how important it is to get there quickly when, God forbid, a stroke or some other serious illness occurs right away.

Maybe most troubling of all, Trumpcare would now eliminate crucial consumer protections in our healthcare system, including the ones that protect Americans with pre-existing conditions.

Every family in this country knows someone who has a preexisting condition. That sounds like a fancy word. What does it mean? Diabetes, chronic asthma, cancer, things like that. Now if you live in a state that opts-out of this requirement, those Americans will have to jump through so many hoops to maintain access to care, and even then, it likely won’t be affordable.

It’s unimaginable. You’re a parent. Let’s say you’re 40 years old, husband and wife. And your child gets cancer and you can’t get that coverage that under present law the insurance company has to give you or keep with you, and you watch your child suffer. That’s inhumane. How, for ideological purposes, the folks in the House could have first eliminated it and now made it almost unattainable for many millions of Americans? Unfathomable.

We fixed this problem in our healthcare system because we had heard so many horrible stories. The Republican bill brings it back from the dead.

So Mr. President, the way the House bill was put together in such a secretive and slapdash way…it is barely legislation…and it well could be a menace to millions of American families.

It makes healthcare for working families, rural Americans, older Americans, veterans much poorer, and at the same time massive tax breaks to the wealthy. Some say that’s the motivation of some in the House. To pay for these tax breaks for people making over $250,000 a year and they get a big break, cut back health care on everybody else or on so many others. That’s wrong. That’s wrong.

And it does frankly, Mr. President, exactly the opposite of everything that President Trump promised he would do on healthcare: “lower costs, better care, insuring everyone.” His words. President Trump said he wouldn’t cut Medicare or Medicaid – his bill does both! Trumpcare is a giant broken promise to the working people, the hardworking people of this country of ours.

And House Republicans just rushed it through without hearings, debate or even a final CBO score. The final version was posted 8 hours before members had to vote on it. Some of the very same Republicans who during the Obamacare debate chanted “read the bill!” didn’t even look at the final legislation – let alone study it.

That’s a breathtakingly irresponsible thing to do for a bill that will affect almost one fifth of our economy and the health care for millions of Americans. And I’m not surprised our Republican colleagues wanted to rush it through. The more the American people see it, the less they will like it, just like with their first bill. That’s why the first bill didn’t pass, and why the second one is in so much trouble here in the Senate.

Now to borrow Speaker Ryan’s catchphrase, there’s a “better way” to reform our healthcare system. Instead of a partisan process -- rushing through bills in the dead of night, no hearings, no debate, no score, no input from the other party – both parties could start working together on improving our health care system.

Now that the bill is in the Senate’s hands, we hope the Republican majority will pursue a bipartisan approach. If they drop their repeal efforts, which are already causing such uncertainty that insurers are pledging to hike rates on Americans next year, we Democrats are willing to work with our Republican colleagues to improve our healthcare system.

Mr. President, in the last few years, we’ve made a good deal of progress. We’ve made major improvements in our health care system: expanding coverage for over 20 million Americans, bending the cost curve down, protecting folks with pre-existing conditions.

Well why don’t we keep all the good things we have in our system and work on making it even better in a bipartisan way? We want to improve quality, lower costs, reduce the price of prescription drugs, and expand coverage for all Americans. Unfortunately the House bill does the exact opposite.

So I hope my Republicans friends toss this House bill out the window and resist the temptation to follow the same partisan, rushed process. I hope my friends on the other side of the aisle drop repeal -- which is hurting our healthcare system right now, just the threat of it – and start working with Democrats to make our healthcare better.

Finally, Mr. President, a word on the Paris Climate Agreement. Reports have indicated that the Trump Administration is leaning toward withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement.

This would be an historic misstep that would massively disadvantage both America’s businesses and diplomats. It would damage our standing on the world stage and allow China to take the high moral high ground—and the economic upper hand—in combating climate change.

And most importantly, a great step forward made by President Obama to get the entire world community to work in a coordinated and concerted effort to reduce carbon pollution. All that would be undone in one fell swoop.

Europe and other countries have warned the Trump Administration that abandoning the Paris agreement could lead to carbon tariffs on U.S. goods, stymying access to global markets for our companies and undercutting our trade position. That’s why hundreds of American companies, including 28 Fortune 100 CEOs representing 9 million jobs, support the climate agreement.

There is a giant difference between putting America first and making America an international pariah. The latter approach only undermines our power and erodes our standing in the world.

Right now there are only two countries, two countries, in the world that are not party to the Paris agreement: Syria and Nicaragua, the latter of which objects because they feel the agreement is not strong enough.

Climate change is real, it is being driven by human activity, it is happening right now. These are facts; they are not in dispute. Our scientists know it, our businesses know it, the world knows it, and the American people who have experienced such changes in weather and climate know it, too.

The United States needs to have a seat at the table as the world works together to solve this existential challenge.

I strongly encourage the Administration to rethink their position and remain in the agreement.