Schumer Floor Remarks: Speaker Ryan Needs to Replace Nunes as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee


Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor calling on House Speaker Paul Ryan to replace Rep. Devin Nunes as Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Below are his remarks:

Mr. President, I rise this afternoon on a few topics. First, on the investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia.

This a matter of such gravity that we need to get it right. There should be no doubt about the integrity and impartiality of the investigation: either in the executive branch, where the FBI and DOJ are looking into it, or in Congress, where the Intelligence Committees of both chambers are conducting an investigation.

Unfortunately, the House Intelligence Committee has come under a cloud of suspicion and partisanship.

A few months ago, Chairman Nunes spoke to reporters at the request of the White House to tamp down stories on the links between the Trump campaign and Russia – which is exactly what his committee must now investigate.

This past week, Chairman Nunes broke with committee process and tradition to brief the president on information he learned but hadn’t yet shared with the Committee. Now we learn this morning that Chairman Nunes was at the White House a day before that event. Doing what? We don’t know.

Mr. President, it could very well be the case that Chairman Nunes was briefing members of the Administration about an investigation of which they are the subject. Chairman Nunes is falling down on the job and seems to be more interested in protecting the President than in seeking the truth.

You cannot have the person in charge of an impartial investigation be partial to one side: it’s an inherent contradiction. And it undermines decades of bi-partisan cooperation on the Intelligence committee, which handles such sensitive information paramount to national security; it undermines Congress as a co-equal branch of government, meant to hold the executive branch accountable for its actions; and it corrodes the American people’s confidence in our government. Mr. President, if Speaker Ryan wants the House to have a credible investigation, he needs to replace Chairman Nunes.

Congress was meant by the framers to be separate and equal…and I sincerely worry that under his direction, Mr. Nunes is pushing the committee in a direction of obsequiousness, and not one that is asking the hard questions and getting the important answers. There’s always been a grand tradition of bipartisanship on the intelligence committees. When Members go into the SCIF, the room where they get secure briefings, they check their partisanship at the door. Chairman Nunes is right on the edge of doing permanent damage to that great tradition of bipartisanship.

Chairman Nunes seems to be more of a partisan for the President than an impartial actor. He has not been operating like someone who is interested in getting to the unvarnished truth. His actions look like those of someone who is interested in protecting the President and his party. That doesn’t work when the goal of the committee is to investigate Russia and its connection to the President and his campaign.

Without further ado, Speaker Ryan should replace Chairman Nunes.

Date: March 28, 2017

Schumer Floor Remarks on Judge Gorsuch and President Trump’s Cuts to Medical Research & Infrastructure to Pay for the Wall

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor underscoring his opposition to Judge Gorsuch serving on the Supreme Court and to President Trump’s plan to inflict deep cuts on critical domestic programs in order to pay for a border wall. Below are his remarks:

Mr. President, first, on the Supreme Court.

Last Thursday, I announced my opposition to Judge Neil Gorsuch and endeavored to explain why, on the merits, I do not believe he deserves to be elevated to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Now, I listen to my friend the distinguished Majority Leader, each morning. Since the beginning of this Congress, he has chalked up every Democratic request or objection in this body to “sour grapes”; to some leftover resentment from the election. It’s just not true, but he keeps trying.

And now he’s trying the same strategy with Judge Gorsuch. He repeatedly cites a quote by a friend of the Judge who of course said that “there is no principled reason” to oppose his nomination; so he says it must be politics. That’s what the Majority Leader concludes. I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree with the Majority Leader on this point. There are several principled reasons to oppose Judge Gorsuch’s nomination. First, Judge Gorsuch was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check on a president who has shown almost no restraint from executive overreach. He asserted independence, but could not point to a single thing in his record to guarantee it, and he refused to publicly condemn what the president did when he went after the three-judge panel in the Ninth Circuit. They had a case before him. He said if they don’t decide my way, they will be guilty of terrorism. I have never seen anything like that in all my years in politics.

And Judge Gorsuch refused to publicly condemn it. He said privately to some people he was disheartened. When President Trump said “he didn’t mean me,” Judge Gorsuch shrugged his shoulders, going along with what the president said. Second, he was unable to convince me he would be a mainstream justice who could rule free from the biases of politics and ideology. His career, early writings, and judicial record suggests not a neutral legal mind but instead someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology. He was championed by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, and has not shown one inch of difference between his views and theirs. I would ask my colleagues the question: are all these groups who are spending dark, secret, undisclosed money to support his nomination doing so because they just want a Justice on the Court who will “call balls and strikes?” I doubt it. Some here may agree with the Heritage Foundation, but they’re not a mainstream organization. They’re on the far right. That’s their right to be, but their advocacy of Judge Gorsuch suggests he is not a balls-and-strikes guy.

And finally, Judge Gorsuch is someone who almost instinctively favors the powerful over the weak, corporations over working Americans. That’s what his record shows. Judge Gorsuch repeatedly sided with the insurance companies who wanted to deny disability benefits to employees and, in employment discrimination cases, he sided with employers the great majority of the time. He wrote – in dissent – that trucking company executives were right to fire truck driver Alphonse Maddin for leaving his trailer in order to save his life. And just last week we saw another example of how extreme Judge Gorsuch’s views are, when the Supreme Court unanimously rebuked his interpretation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act. In the opinion of even Justice Thomas, the educational rights Judge Gorsuch would allow to disabled students under the law amounted to no education at all.

Judge Gorsuch’s opportunity to disabuse us of all of those objections was in the hearing process, but he declined to substantively answer question after question. Absent a real description of his judicial philosophy, all we have to go on is his record – a record that landed Judge Gorsuch on the lists of the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.

President Trump, of course, selected Judge Gorsuch off these pre-approved, conservative lists that he promised he’d do during his campaign. To claim, as the Majority Leader does, that Judge Gorsuch is simply some neutral Judge is belied by his history since his college days, his own judicial record, and the manner of his selection.

Mr. President, these are principled reasons to oppose Judge Gorsuch. We need a Justice who will be an independent check on this president. We need someone who will consider fairly the plight of average citizens, not further tip the scales of justice in favor of already powerful corporations. Judge Gorsuch – his record and his performance in the hearing – did nothing to show me that he could be that kind of Justice.

So when Republicans say that if Democrats won’t support Judge Gorsuch, we won’t support any Republican-nominated Judge — that’s simply not true. It may be hard for us to support anyone from a list culled by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, but we have several reasons to be concerned with Judge Gorsuch specifically. And for all the hand-wringing by my friends on the other side of the aisle that they cannot magine Democrats voting against Judge Gorsuch, I would like to remind them that only three – THREE – of the current Senators on the Republican side voted for either of President Obama’s confirmed nominees. And all of them went along with my friend the Majority Leader’s unprecedented plan to refuse President Obama’s third nominee, Judge Garland, even a hearing or a vote for nearly a year. Which brings us back to the present day, where we Democrats have participated in a fair, transparent, and thorough process of advice and consent. Now that the time to decide whether to provide consent approaches, we take that responsibility seriously. A lifetimeappointment on the highest court of the land is not something to be taken lightly.

To participate in hearings and a thorough process – something we were denied – does not mean you have to be a rubber-stamp. After a thorough review of Judge Gorsuch’s record, many of my colleagues and I have concluded we cannot consent. If Judge Neil Gorsuch fails to reach 60 votes, it’s not because Democrats are being obstructionist…it’s because he failed to convince 60 Senators that he belongs on the SupremeCourt. My friend the Majority Leader made the decision to break 230 years of Senate precedent by holding this seat open; if the nominee cannot earn the support of 60 Senators, the answer is not to break precedent by fundamentally and permanently changing the rules and traditions of the Senate, the answer is to change the nominee.

This idea that, if Judge Gorsuch doesn’t get 60 votes, the Majority Leader has to inexorably change the rules of the Senate…that idea is utter bunk. It is the free choice of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to pursue a change in rules if that’s what they decide. And I’d remind the Majority Leader that he does not come to this with clean hands; he blocked Merrick Garland for over a year. We wouldn’t even be here if Judge Garland was given fairconsideration. That’s why we’re here today, not because of any Democrat.

 Finally on the wall, Mr. President. Last night we learned that the Trump Administration will be seeking deep cuts to critical domestic programs in order to pay for a border wall The administration is asking the American taxpayer to cover the cost of a wall – unneeded, ineffective, absurdly expensive – that Mexico was supposed to pay for – and he is cutting programs that are vital to the middle class in the effort to get it done.

• They want to cut the New Starts transportation program, TIGER Grants. These are the lifeblood of our road and tunnel and bridge building efforts. Build the wall orrepair or build a bridge or tunnel or road in your community? What’s the choice?

• They want to cut off NIH funding for cancer research to pay for the wall. How many Americans would support that decision?

• And they want to cut programs that create jobs and improve people’s lives, all so the President can get his “big beautiful wall” – A wall that we don’t need and that will be utterly ineffective. Think about that. The President wants to slow down cancer research and make the middle class taxpayer shoulder the cost of a wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

He wants to cut funding for roads and bridges to build a wall that Mexico was supposed to

pay for. Mr. President, the proposed cuts that the administration sent up last night are dead on arrival in this Congress.

These cuts would be bad for the American people, they are not what the American people want, they are completely against one of the president’s core promises in the campaign, and they will be vigorously opposed by members on both sides of the aisle.

Date: March 29, 2017

Schumer Floor Remarks on Bipartisanship, Judge Gorsuch and the Affordable Care Act

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor discussing Senate Democrats’ openness to true bipartisanship, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch and the letter Senate Democrats sent to President Trump offering to work together on improving the ACA. Below are his remarks: Mr. President, I rise this morning on a few topics, but first I wanted to mention that last night many of us spent some time at the White House, (where we were regaled by the wonderful Marine and Army Chorus), where there was talk about renewing a spirit of bipartisanship in Washington. I’m all for it. Of course, we Democrats hope that the president and Republicans in Congress will sit down with us in a true spirit of bipartisanship….Because so far in this Congress, the Republican idea of bipartisanship has meant: “we come up with our plan and you Democrats should support it.” That’s not bipartisanship. The president, the Republican Leader, and the House Speaker have come up with issue after issue, including the Supreme Court nominee – no Democratic consultation – and then said the only way you can achieve bipartisanship is to vote with us.

• You can’t try to improve the health care system with only Republican votes, on reconciliation, without consulting any Democrats — without a single sentence of input from Democrats — and call that an attempt at bipartisanship.

• You can’t do an infrastructure package of tax credits and no real spending and then ask for bipartisan support.

• And you certainly can’t limit your entire selection of Supreme Court justices to those handpicked by the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society and then ask for us to vote for that nominee as a show of bipartisan support.

Bipartisanship means sitting down with Democrats, getting our ideas, and hashing out a compromise. It does not mean proposing your policy – particularly when it is so far to the right — making an exhortation to bipartisanship, and bemoaning the absence of it when Democrats don’t go along with your way.

I truly hope the president and Republicans want to renew a spirit of bipartisanship – but it has to be real, it has to be meant, and their actions have to follow suit. Well, let’s talk about the Supreme Court because that exemplifies exactly what I’m talking about.

Over the last several weeks, my Republican friends have tried to paint Judge Neil Gorsuch as

the beau ideal of a neutral, impartial judge. They have insisted that Judge Gorsuch is a

straight down-the-middle guy, someone who will just call “balls and strikes.” The Majority

Leader even likes to cite the letter of a friend of the Judge who says “there is no principled

reason” to oppose his nomination.

Of course, there are several principled reasons to object to Judge Gorsuch. Today, I’d like to

focus on one in particular – Judge Gorsuch’s long career of ties to conservative interests and

conservative ideological groups.

This idea that Judge Gorsuch would be simply a neutral, mainstream Justice is belied by his

career, his judicial record, and perhaps most of all, the manner with which he was selected

to serve on the Supreme Court.

He was culled from a list handpicked by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation

— conservative organizations that have spent the past few decades systematically trying to

shift the balance of the courts to the right. Most of my colleagues on the other side know how

far right even the Heritage Foundation is. And they often grumble at how they are pulling the

party too far over.

Instead of consulting the Senate, President Trump outsourced his Supreme Court pick to the

Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, long before the election even took place.

The Constitution doesn’t say the President shall appoint Supreme Court justices with the

advice and consent of right wing special interest groups. It says it he should appoint them

with advice and consent of the Senate.

President Trump didn’t consult the Senate…he never even considered it…he just consulted

this list.

Surely my Republican friend from Utah, Senator Hatch, must remember when President

Clinton consulted him about his Supreme Court picks. Senator Hatch told the president not

to select Bruce Babbitt, and offered instead the names “Ginsburg” and “Breyer.” President

Clinton listened to Senator Hatch, and nominated them instead.

Surely my Republican friend from Utah also remembers when he suggested to President

Obama that Merrick Garland be nominated to the Supreme Court, calling him a “fine man.”

President Obama listened and made him his pick.

President Trump, different than all of the past presidents in so many ways, so many of them

unfortunate… President Trump, before even being elected to office, swore off this entire

process – outsourcing the “advice and consent” process to a list selected by two ultra-
conservative organizations.

Take the Heritage Foundation, for example. Are they down-the-middle? Are they unbiased?

Let’s listen to some of the things they believe, way different than most Americans. This is a

group that believes “freedom” means businesses have the right to discriminate against LGBT

people. This is a group that believes “limited government” means eliminating resources for

the Violence Against Women Act. This is a group that believes a strong national defense

means discriminatory executive orders that bar immigrants and refugees from Muslim-
majority countries.

Mr. President – this is a group that holds extreme right-wing positions, a group that is far, far

outside the American mainstream … and they want Neil Gorsuch to have a seat on the highest

court in the land.

Does anyone think they’d put a judicial moderate on their list who’d only call “balls and

strikes?” Does anyone think there’d be all this outside, dark, undisclosed money being spent

to support Judge Gorsuch’s nomination if he was just someone who’d call “balls and strikes?”

No, there’s a reason all this dark money is being spent to support him. There’s a reason the

Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation liked Judge Gorsuch enough to put him on

the president’s shortlist. And there’s a reason the president pledged only to select from the

list — he wanted to curry favor with skeptical conservatives during the campaign. So this idea

that Judge Gorsuch would simply be some neutral Justice…no, that doesn’t hold water.

So when Republicans say that if the Democrats won’t support Judge Gorsuch, we won’t

support any Republican-nominated Judge — that’s simply not true. We have several reasons

to be concerned with Judge Gorsuch specifically – and specifically, one of those things we’re

concerned about is that he was supported and pushed forward by the Heritage Foundation

and the Federalist Society, and groomed by billionaire conservatives like Mr. Anschutz.

Judge Gorsuch had a chance…most of us waited until after the hearings because at the

hearings, he had a chance to distance himself from these views, but he refused to

substantively answer question after question in the hearings.

So if Judge Neil Gorsuch fails to reach sixty votes, it’s not because Democrats are being

obstructionist…it’s because he failed to convince 60 Senators that he belongs on the Supreme

Court. In that event, the answer is not to permanently changing the rules and traditions of

the Senate; the answer is to change the nominee.

The Majority is trying to make this a binary choice: confirm Gorsuch or change the rules. Not

so. That’s just not so. The idea that if Judge Gorsuch can’t get sixty, we must move

immediately to change the rules of the Senate is a false narrative. If the Majority chooses to

go that route, they do so of their own volition. No one is forcing them to do so, except maybe

the Heritage Foundation and groups like the Federalist Society.

Now, one thing I want to say on the wall. I talked about the wall yesterday. I’m not going to

elaborate, but I’d just like to add to the record a quote on the wall from none other than the

Secretary of the Interior, former Republican Congressman Mr. Zinke from Montana. Here’s

what he said. This is his quote on the wall and I hope my colleagues will listen.

“The border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall…The Rio Grande, what side of

the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the

river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.”

Finally, Mr. President, on the Affordable Care Act.

Today, 44 Senate Democrats are sending a letter to the president that puts onto paper our

official offer to work with him to improve the existing law.

Last Friday, in the wake of the TrumpCare’s defeat in the House, I was deeply concerned to

hear the president say that he wants Obamacare to “explode.” The president and his HHS

Secretary Tom Price have significant latitude to either improve the law or undermine it. So

far, the president has tried to undermine the law: discontinuing the advertising campaigns

to get people to sign up for coverage and working behind the scenes to give insurers

flexibility to offer less generous health care. And still, the president’s executive order

directing agencies to help repeal and replace the ACA is hanging out there, causing instability

in the market and giving federal agencies the permission to undermine the law. That should

be rescinded.

What our letter today says is that, if the president drops these efforts to undermine the law,

we Democrats are ready to sit down with him and Republicans in Congress in good faith to

discuss a bipartisan approach to improving our health care system.

It’s time to work together to make healthcare even more affordable, not encourage of root

for failure of the law that would have devastating consequences for millions of Americans.

Date: March 30, 2017

Schumer Floor Remarks on the False Choice between Judge Gorsuch or a Nuclear

Option and the Administration Undermining our Nation’s Healthcare System

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate

floor urging Republicans to drop the dangerous game of exercising the nuclear option. Senator

Schumer also called for the Trump administration to immediately cease any effort to

undermine the nation’s healthcare system. Below are his remarks:

Mr. President, as we prepare to consider the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the

Supreme Court, I’d like to take a moment this morning to discuss the false choice Republicans

are presenting about his confirmation.

The Republican Majority wants everyone to believe that, by the end of next week, one of two

things must happen: either Judge Gorsuch will pass with 60 votes, or they must exercise the

nuclear option and change the rules of the Senate to pass him on a simple majority vote. As

the Republicans tell it, one inexorably follows from the other. They are talking about next

week as if they have no choice but to go nuclear if Judge Gorsuch doesn’t earn 60 votes.

It’s absolutely false. It’s complete hokum. This is not some inevitable showdown. The

Republicans control this body. They can choose to go nuclear or not. The ball is entirely in

their court.

In the past, when a president’s nominee didn’t get enough support for confirmation for

whatever reason, the president just picked another nominee. If it comes to that — that’s what

this president should do.

If Judge Gorsuch fails to garner 60 votes, the answer isn’t to irrevocably change the rules of

the Senate; the answer is to change the nominee.

It is NOT Gorsuch or bust. The Republicans are playing a game of unnecessary and dangerous

brinksmanship. If it comes to a rules change, and I sincerely hope that it does not – for the

sake of the grand traditions in this body, for the sake of the “advice and consent” clause of

the Constitution – but if it does, it will be squarely on the shoulders of the Republican Party.

A Republican Party who broke 230 years of precedent when it refused to even consider

President Obama’s nominee, Chief Justice Merrick Garland, with almost a year left in Obama’s

presidency. No vote. Not even a hearing. And Republicans accuse Democrats of the first

partisan filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee? What Republicans did to Merrick Garland

was worse than a filibuster. They didn’t even grant him the basic courtesy of a filibuster. And

Merrick Garland actually was a consensus, nominee with Republican buy-in for the Supreme

Court.

And then, President Trump totally dispatched with the notion of “advice and consent” by

pledging, before he was even elected, to nominate a Supreme Court Justice off of a pre-
approved list of hard-right, conservative Judges put together by the Heritage Foundation and

the Federalist Society. Contrast that with Bill Clinton, who sought and took the advice of

Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch in nominating Justices Ginsburg and

Breyer. He did not pick his first choice, Bruce Babbitt, because Orrin Hatch said that would

be a bad idea and would not bring the kind of unity we needed. Or how about Democratic

President Obama who took again the advice of Orrin Hatch again when he picked Merrick

Garland? There was bipartisan consultation. That’s why the process worked. There was none

now, and the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, not simply mainstream

organizations but as every Republican knows, organizations on the hard right of the

Republican side who often threaten Republicans if they don’t vote the right way, the far right

way. So we’re not talking about advice and consent. We’re talking about something that was

done without any consultation, and a political move by a president to shore up his base with

the hard right wing.

What President Trump did was worse than simply ignoring Article II of the Constitution.

President Trump actively sought the advice and consent of right wing special interest groups

instead of the United States Senate. That’s another Supreme Court-related precedent that the

Republicans discarded. And because President Trump made that choice, now Republicans

say they have no choice but to change the rules? It’s illogical and self-serving.

And for all the hand-wringing by my friends on the other side of the aisle that they cannot

imagine Democrats voting against Judge Gorsuch; I would like to remind them that only three

— three — of the current senators on the Republican side voted for either of President

Obama’s confirmed nominees.

Let me repeat that: only three of the current senators on the Republican side voted for either

one of President Obama’s confirmed nominees. Most voted for neither.

And every single one of them lined up to conduct an “audacious” partisan blockade of

Merrick Garland.

Mr. President, it is true that norms and precedents and traditions have been eroded by both

sides. We changed the rules for lower court nominees in 2013 after years of unprecedented

obstruction by Republicans on Circuit and District Court judges. Still, I’m on the record as

regretting that decision.

But this is an order of magnitude much greater than that. This is the Supreme Court. This is

the court that is the final arbiter of US law and the Constitution.

We Democrats have serious, principled concerns about Judge Gorsuch: his record, his long

history of ties to ultra-conservative interests, his almost instinctive tendency to side with

powerful special interests over average citizens. We have principled concerns about how

Judge Gorsuch was groomed by hard-right, conservative billionaires like Mr. Phillip

Anschutz. We have principled concerns about how Judge Gorsuch was selected off of a pre-
approved list of conservative judges made by organizations who have spent three decades

campaigning to move our judiciary to the far right. Judge Gorsuch had a chance to answer

these concerns in his hearing, we were all waiting and hoping. But our questions were met

with practiced evasions. He couldn’t even answer whether Brown v. Board was decided

correctly.

Instead of considering the possibility of another nominee should Judge Gorsuch fail to reach

60 votes, the Republicans are threatening to press the big red button for him.

Again, the Republicans are creating a false choice – Judge Gorsuch or a nuclear option – in an

attempt to avoid the blame if they change the rules. And it just doesn’t wash. The Republicans

control this body. They are in the driver’s seat. And they are the only reason that we are here

today: they held this seat open for over a year so that this president could install someone

handpicked by the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society…a lifetime appointment

for this president, whose campaign is under investigation by the FBI for potential ties to

Russia…

So, Mr. President, I’d just repeat to my Republican colleagues: you don’t need to change the

rules if Judge Gorsuch doesn’t get 60 votes, you’re not required to do so. You just need to

change the nominee – do some bipartisan consultation, as presidents of both parties have in

the past.

Now on the ACA, Mr. President.

HHS Secretary Price appeared before House Appropriators yesterday and testified that,

under his direction, the Dept. of Health and Human Services may try to undermine our

nation’s health care system in several ways.

Specifically, he hinted that he may make it easier for insurers to offer coverage without

certain essential benefits and refused to say if he’d continue certain programs that help

stabilize the health care markets. That is in line with steps this Administration has already

taken to undermine the health care law, like when they discontinued the public advertising

campaigns that encouraged people to sign up for insurance.

All of these things harm our nation’s health care system, and should be ceased immediately.

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