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Schumer Floor Remarks on the Push for Russia Sanctions Amendment, President Trump’s Infrastructure Plan, Trumpcare, and the President’s Border Wall Proposal

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding legislation imposing sanctions on Iran and the push to include an amendment also imposing sanctions on Russia, President Trump’s infrastructure plan, the need for Republicans to drop ACA repeal efforts, and the president’s most recent proposal to fund a border wall with Mexico through solar panels. Below are his remarks:

This week, we’ll be considering bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile testing, human rights abuses, and support of terrorism. I support that bill and look forward to a vote on the measure. It’s important that we do it.

I also understand that the Majority Leader will consent to an amendment vote alongside that bill on bipartisan Russia sanctions legislation.  M. President, there is broad bipartisan support for moving forward on tough sanctions against Russia.  Russia defied the sovereignty of the Ukraine with the annexation of Crimea; it has been accused of human rights abuses, including the propping up of the brutal Assad regime in Syria, and, of course, the intelligence community has confirmed that Russia interfered with our democracy.  I appreciate that the Majority Leader has committed to having a vote on Russia sanctions, and I want to thank so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle for pushing this issue. It’s the right thing to do and I appreciate them doing it.

I strongly believe that Russia sanctions legislation needs to do three important things: First, we must codify existing sanctions on Russia.  Second, we need to give Congress a chance to review any decisions by this Administration before sanctions are lifted. And third, we need to impose tough new sanctions on Russia for its attack on our democracy.

Two pieces of legislation, one sponsored by the two lead sponsors, Senator McCain and Senator Cardin. The other by Senator Graham and Cardin. Both bipartisan, both I believe with at least ten cosponsors from each side of the aisle, do these things. And what we have suggested to the Leader is that we put those two bills together and combine them, tweak them a little bit, and move forward. And we await the answer from the Majority Leader on our proposal.

It is the responsibility of this Congress to vote on a tough Russia sanctions bill as a response to Russia’s persistent violation of international norms and agreements. If we do nothing on Russia or we have a weak bill, we will not accomplish that goal and Mr. Putin will continue to do everything he is doing. We know sanctions has bite with Russia. If the Russians see that this Congress in a bipartisan way is resolute and strong, it will make a difference. And I hope we move forward.

Now, Mr. President, on another matter – infrastructure.

Today, President Trump will continue his “infrastructure week” talking about inland waterways.

I’d like to repeat that Democrats welcome a discussion about these issues. Democrats have argued in favor of a large infrastructure package to address our crumbling roads and bridges, levees, dams, ports and locks for a long time. And while we disagreed with President Trump on a great many things during the campaign, I think many of my colleagues thought we could find some common ground on the topic of infrastructure.

Needless to say, the President’s actions on infrastructure so far have been a disappointment. In six months, the President still hasn’t given any real details about his infrastructure plan. The most he’s done is endorse an off-the-shelf plan to privatize air traffic control. In fact, he actually cut infrastructure spending in his budget.

And now during what they’ve termed “infrastructure week,” the White House has only proposed to privatize much of our infrastructure.

Today, I expect more of the same: bold promises but very few details. And what details we do hear will likely be about how large financiers should decide where and how to build American infrastructure. That’s never happened before.

That approach won’t address the very broad infrastructure needs we have. Financiers won’t pay to finance infrastructure projects where they can’t make a buck. It’s their right to seek a profit, that’s what businesses do. There is no such thing as a free lunch. They’re going to need to get recompense when they lay out money.

But that kind of approach won’t fix our water-sewer systems. It won’t expand rural broadband. It won’t fix our energy grid. But it will do one thing – lead to Trump tolls from coast to coast.

After the election, we stood ready to work with the President on a real bill, provided that it wouldn’t be just tax breaks for private financiers, or roll back labor and environmental protections. We even wrote a detailed blueprint, on how to spend a trillion dollars. That was the president’s number. It would create 13 to 15 million jobs. It would rebuild our infrastructure, large parts of it, from one end of America to the other. It wouldn’t leave out rural areas. Never benefit from any kind of private financing as Senators Barrasso and Moran have made clear. We sent it to the White House and never heard a peep.

I’ve talked to the president several times on the phone. I said I want to work with you on infrastructure. No response, and now their plan, without any consultation among Democrats and even talk they should do this on reconciliation, no Democratic support or votes or input. Just as doing things on reconciliation is tying the Republican Party in knots on health care, it doesn’t bode too well for them on tax reform. It will mess up infrastructure, as well.

So I hope the President drops his go-at-it-alone infrastructure push, and decides instead to sit down and talk to Democrats about this issue. We agree wholeheartedly on the problem, let’s sit down and start talking about what solutions actually make sense.

Let’s not have a few financiers whispering into the ear of the president to determine what our infrastructure policy will be, because it will be a flop.

Now, Mr. President, on another matter – healthcare.

Yesterday, the insurer Anthem pulled out of the exchanges in Ohio, citing the administration’s decision to hold cost sharing reduction payments hostage as the reason for their exit.

Anthem joins a growing list of health insurers who have chosen to leave the 2018 marketplace or consider raising their rates as a result of the uncertainty Republicans are causing in our healthcare system.

The President and Republicans blame Obamacare for insurers leaving the marketplace, but that’s simply not true. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it is the “substantial uncertainty about enforcement of the individual mandate and about future payments of the cost-sharing subsidies” that have led insurers to withdraw from the current marketplace.

AHIP – the nation’s largest trade group of insurers, completely nonpartisan – said the uncertainty about the cost-sharing payments was “the single most destabilizing factor in the individual market.”

The Affordable Care Act is not falling under its own weight, its being sabotaged by President Trump and Republicans whipping up all this uncertainty.

Now, Mr. President, after weeks of downplaying expectations of moving forward on health care, Republicans yesterday said they expect to have a repeal bill passed by June 30th – that’s 23 days from today.

From all reports, the effort by Republican Senators to craft a different Trumpcare will be based on many of the provisions in the House bill.

A bill that would:

  • remove the guarantee of coverage for pre-existing conditions
  • raise rates on some older Americans as much as 800%
  • decimate Medicaid – which so helps rural areas, folks with a family member in a nursing home, and those suffering from opioid abuse
  • And leave 23 million more Americans without health insurance.

I want to remind all of my colleagues on the other side: Drafting a Senate Republican Health Care bill based on the House bill is putting lipstick on a pig. Trumpcare is a fundamentally flawed bill, rejected overwhelmingly by the American people, of all political stripes. It will devastate our healthcare system in order to finance massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. There is no amount of window dressing that could fix such a flawed concept.

And I would urge my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, even if the proposal is 10% or 20% better than the House bill, it ain’t close to good enough for the American people.

Republicans ought to drop repeal and choose to work with Democrats to actually improve our healthcare system, not sabotage it.

Finally, Mr. President, a word on the President’s latest idea for a border wall with Mexico. After the idea of a border wall was roundly rejected by members of both parties in the last omnibus – after no Republican from a border state area would support the border wall, the President can’t seem to let it go. Yesterday, it was reported that he pitched the idea of a 40 or 50 foot tall border wall with solar panels.

Nevermind that he still hasn’t come up with a plan for how to build a wall, where to build it – on our side of the Rio Grande or the other – or how to get the land on the border from the private citizens who own it. Nevermind that a border wall would be incredibly expensive and ineffective in actually preventing illegal border crossings. Nevermind that Mexico still wouldn’t be paying for the wall or the solar panels.

The President is still pushing this medieval proposal, now with an absurd twist. Just like painting stripes on a pony doesn’t make it a zebra, solar panels on a wall no one wants doesn’t make it any more attractive. 

If the President thinks his new idea will catch on here in Congress, well, I have a 50 foot tall wall made of solar panels to sell you.