Jun 18, 2020
Chuck Schumer & Mitch McConnell Senate Floor Speeches June 18: React to DACA SCOTUS Ruling
Senators Chuck Schumer & Mitch McConnell gave June 18 speeches on the Senate floor. Schumer said he cried “tears of joy” in reaction to the Supreme Court ruling on DACA & the Dreamers. They also talked about China & COVID-19. Read the speech transcripts here.
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Mitch McConnell: (00:00)
… Arch. We sent historic resources to the healthcare fight against COVID-19 on an overwhelming bipartisan basis. We passed the largest rescue package in American history on a bipartisan basis. We just passed a generational bill for our public lands, also on a bipartisan basis. Yesterday, the junior Senator from South Carolina introduced a major proposal to reform policing and promote racial justice.
Mitch McConnell: (00:29)
If our colleagues across the aisle can put politics aside and join us in a real discussion, then on this issue too, we should be able to make law on a bipartisan basis. The Senate has led and is leading the way towards serious solutions, but at the same time, Madam President, developments around the world continue to remind us that the safety and interests of the American people are also threatened from beyond our shores.
Mitch McConnell: (00:56)
Two weeks ago, I explained how the Chinese communist party has used the pandemic they help worsen as a smokescreen for ratcheting up their oppression in Hong Kong, and advancing their control and influence throughout the region. It hasn’t stopped. At sea, they have stepped up their menacing of Japan near the Senkaku Islands.
Mitch McConnell: (01:17)
In the skies, Chinese jets have intruded into Taiwanese airspace four separate times in a matter of days. On land, for the sake of grabbing territory, the PLA appears to have instigated the worst violent clash between China and India since those nations went to war way back in 1962.
Mitch McConnell: (01:38)
Needless to say, the rest of the world has watched with grave concern this violent exchange between two nuclear states. We’re encouraging deescalation and hoping for peace. But the world could not have received a clearer reminder that the PRC is dead set on brutalizing people within their own borders, challenging and remaking the international order anew in their image to include literally redrawing world maps.
Mitch McConnell: (02:05)
Of course, this is not exactly breaking news to any of us who’ve been paying attention. Earlier this year, the Senate passed legislation to give the administration new tools to directly punish the CCP for its egregious, egregious treatment of the weaker people, and the modern day gulags it has constructed there in Xinjiang province. The president signed it into law yesterday.
Mitch McConnell: (02:31)
And going back to the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act, which I wrote back in 1992, the Senate has maintained a keen interest in the freedom and autonomy of our friends in that city. Unfortunately, Beijing has continued to tighten its grip there as well. More and more Hong Kongers find themselves facing an agonizing decision. Can they remain in the city they love or must they flee elsewhere if they want their children to grow up free? As I’ve said often, every nation that cares about democracy and stability has a stake in ensuring that Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong carry consequences. So I encourage the administration to use the tools Congress has given it and to work with like-minded nations to impose those costs. But punishing the PRC cannot be our only priority. We also need to actively help the people of Hong Kong. Led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom says they’re preparing to offer visas to potentially millions of Hong Kongers. In addition to funding democracy program and supporting legal assistance, we must also consider ways to welcome Hong Kongers and other Chinese dissidents to America.
Mitch McConnell: (03:49)
Chinese Americans have formed part of the backbone of our nation for about two centuries. Against headwinds of racial prejudice, Chinese immigrants literally helped build modern America as we know it. Generations of Chinese Americans have enriched our society and fueled our economic prosperity.
Mitch McConnell: (04:10)
Not surprisingly, I’m particularly partial to the secretary of transportation, whose parents fled communist rule. She has served her country across four presidential administrations, including as the first Chinese American to ever serve in a president’s cabinet. If some of the same brave Hong Kongers who have stood up for liberty waved our American flag and singing our American national anthem, would like to come here and join us, we should welcome them warmly.
Mitch McConnell: (04:44)
Of course, the Senate is not only acting with respect to China. Earlier this year at my urging, the Senate enacted to Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, and this week the administration is using these tools to impose painful new sanctions on the brutal regime of Bashar Assad. With the help of Russian air power, Iranian advisers, and manpower from Hezbollah terrorists, Assad has recaptured military control of most of the territory he had lost during nine years of civil war.
Mitch McConnell: (05:20)
But he has effectively destroyed his own country in an effort to save his regime. Assad faces renewed protests across the country, infighting within his regime and family, and a Syrian economy that is in free fall. because of this Congress and this administration, the cash flow to these butchers is going to shrink and the price that leaders and businessmen in Tehran, Beirut, Cairo, Moscow, and Beijing will have to pay to do business with the regime will grow.
Mitch McConnell: (05:52)
These new steps will help us achieve our objective, creating leverage for diplomats and our partners on the ground to negotiate a political solution, and finally, end the war. To maintain this pressure, we should keep our limited physical presence in Syria. We should work to bring our NATO ally Turkey back onto the right side, and we should preserve the deterrence that President Trump has rebuilt against Iran to keep checking their influence in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
Mitch McConnell: (06:26)
Now, one final matter. Later today, the Senate will confirm Judge Justin Walker of Kentucky to join the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, as I’ve noted, in just the last several weeks, Judge Walker has given the Senate several new reasons to support his nomination to the second-most important federal bench.
Mitch McConnell: (06:49)
In testimony before our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, he demonstrated an impressive grasp of legal precedent. At his current post as district judge for the Western district of Kentucky, he eloquently applied this understanding to uphold Americans’ religious liberty, and he earned the approval of the American Bar Association with a rating of well-qualified.
Mitch McConnell: (07:13)
But of course, Judge Walker’s credentials were already sterling. Long before this nominee began practicing and then applying the law, he was collecting plaudits for his excellence at studying it. Judge Walker, as I’ve mentioned before, graduated from Duke University, summa cum laude, Harvard Law School, magna cum laude. Those credentials could easily lead someone to an elite law firm in a big city.
Mitch McConnell: (07:38)
Instead, they led Judge Walker to clerkships for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh and then Justice Anthony Kennedy, and then back home to the University of Louisville Law School. He quickly became a star faculty member, producing distinguished scholarship on a wide range of legal issues, and once Judge Walker took his current seat on the bench for the Western District of Kentucky, he wasted no time building an equally strong …
Mitch McConnell: (08:03)
… He wasted no time building an equally strong reputation for the fairness and open-mindedness that Americans deserve from their judges. In one letter to our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, 100 practicing lawyers from across Kentucky said, “If Judge Walker’s confirm, we could give our clients an assessment of him, for which any judge has tried, he is sharp, fair and will follow the law.” In another letter, 16 different State Attorneys General told us, “As someone from outside the beltway with a commitment to the rule of law, we know that Judge Walker will listen to the arguments of advocates appearing before him, that he will weigh the facts against the law as it is written and not as he wishes it to be. And that he will fairly decide these cases based upon controlling precedent.” These glowing assessments are not from elite corporate counsel or frequent flyers on the DC Circuit.
Mitch McConnell: (09:01)
These are from men and women across Kentucky and across America, who’ve seen this man work and watched his career. Republican Presidents have a proud tradition of looking beyond Washington to freshen up the DC Circuit with diverse perspectives from across America. President Nixon thought this crucial court could use the expertise of a Texan and a Minnesotan. President Reagan chose legal minds from Colorado and North Carolina. President Bush 41 chose a South Carolinian. And president Bush 43, a Californian. So when the Senate confirms Judge Walker to this vacancy, we’ll not just be promoting it widely admired legal expert and proven judge to a role for which he is obviously qualified.
Mitch McConnell: (09:51)
We’ll also be adding to a time honored tradition of finding men and women from all across the country to help ensure that this enormously consequential bench here in our nation’s Capitol is refreshed with talent from all parts of America. My fellow Kentuckians and I are sorry to part with this son of the bluegrass, but mostly we are proud because Judge Walker will be putting his legal brilliance and his exceptional judicial temperament to work, not just for his home state, but for our entire nation. And in even more consequential ways. So I look forward to voting, to confirm Judge Justin Walker, and I would urge each of my colleagues to do the same.
Mitch McConnell: (10:41)
Senator, there’s a bill at the desk to do a second reading.
Madam President: (10:43)
The clerk will read the title of the bill, the second time.
S-3985, a bill to improve and reform policing practices, accountability and transparency.
Mitch McConnell: (10:56)
In order to place the bill on the calendar under the provisions of rule 14, I would object to further proceeding.
Madam President: (11:02)
Objection is heard. The bill will placed on the calendar. Under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. Morning business is closed. Under the previous order, The Senate will proceed to executive session to resume consideration of the following nomination, which the clerk will report.
Nomination to judiciary, Justin Reed Walker of Kentucky to be United States Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Madam President: (11:31)
I’ll call the roll.
Chuck Schumer: (12:52)
Madam President: (12:53)
Chuck Schumer: (12:55)
Are we in a quorum?
Madam President: (12:56)
Chuck Schumer: (12:56)
I ask unanimous consent the quorum be dispensed with.
Madam President: (12:58)
Chuck Schumer: (13:00)
Madam president, I cried tears of joy a few minutes ago when I heard the decision of the Supreme Court on DACA. These wonderful DACA kids and their families have a huge burden lifted off their shoulders. They don’t have to worry about being deported. They can do their jobs. And I believe, I do believe this someday, someday soon, they will be American citizens. I’ve met so many of these beautiful children and their families. Now many have been grown up. They came to America as a little kids. And all they want to be is Americans. They work hard. I met some of them during the COVID crisis in New York, risking their lives to deal with the healthcare crisis we had.
Chuck Schumer: (13:55)
I’ve seen them enlist in the armed forces and go to college. And some of our best colleges and law schools. And climb that American ladder that has been around for so many years and some people want to rip away. So this is a wonderful, wonderful day for the DACA kids, for their families and for the American dream. We’ve always believed in immigration in America. We’ve had some dark forces oppose it in recent years, but we believe in it. It’s part of our soul. Every one of us cares about immigrants. And so many of us are descendants of immigrants.
Chuck Schumer: (14:40)
Wow. What a decision. And let me say this, in these very difficult times, the Supreme Court provided a bright ray of sunshine this week. With the decision on Monday, preventing discrimination and employment against the LGBTQ community. And now with this DACA decision. To me, frankly, the court’s decisions were surprising. But welcome and gives you some faith that the laws, and rules and morays of this country can be upheld.
Chuck Schumer: (15:20)
Wow. The decision’s amazing. I am so happy. These kids, their families, I feel for them. And I think all of America does. Now, on some other issues. But again, I cannot… The Supreme Court, who would have thought, would have so many good decisions in one week. Who would have thought. Wow. Okay. Now, let’s get to some other very important issues as well-
Chuck Schumer: (16:03)
Now, let’s get to some other very important issues as well. Two weeks ago, the House and Senate Democrats introduced the bill, The Justice in Policing Act to bring sweeping change to the nation’s police departments. The bill would bring comprehensive and enduring reforms, the most forceful set of changes to policing in decades. The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation yesterday and it will pass the full house next week. Here in the Senate, Republicans put forward their own proposal yesterday led by the Senator from South Carolina. We welcome our Republican colleagues to this discussion. It’s something they’ve resisted for so long. But merely writing a bill, any bill, is not good enough at this moment in American history. It’s too low a bar to simply say, “We’ll write any old bill and that’s good enough.” Isn’t good enough for so many people, many of whom are marching in the streets to get real justice.
Chuck Schumer: (17:13)
We don’t just need any bill right now. We need a strong bill. We don’t need some bipartisan talks. We need to save Black lives and bring long overdue reforms to institutions that have resisted them. And the harsh fact of the matter is, the legislation my Republican friends have put together is far too weak and will be ineffective at rooting out this problem. The Republican bill does nothing to reform the legal standards that shield police from convictions for violating America’s constitutional rights. It does nothing on qualified immunity, which shields even police who are guilty of violating civil rights from being sued for civil damages. The Republican bill does nothing to encourage independent investigations of police departments that have patterns and practices that violate the Constitution. The Republican bill does nothing to reform the use of force standard, nothing on racial profiling, nothing on limiting the transfer of military equipment to local police departments. And what the Republican bill does propose does not go far enough. Unlike The Justice in Policing Act which bans no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, the Republican bill only requires data on no-knock warrants. Breonna Taylor, a first responder in Louisville, Kentucky was asleep in her bed when she was killed by police who had a no-knock warrant. More data would not have saved Breonna Taylor’s life. Unlike The Justice in Policing Act which bans chokeholds and other tactics that have killed Black Americans, the Republican bill only purports to ban chokeholds by withholding funding from departments that don’t voluntarily ban them themselves. And only those chokeholds that restrict airflow, but not those chokeholds that resist blood to flow to the brain. And the ban only applies unless the use of deadly force is required. Who determines when the use of deadly force is required? Usually the police themselves and courts defer to their judgment.
Chuck Schumer: (19:31)
I don’t understand. If you want to ban chokeholds and other brutal tactics that have killed Black Americans in police custody, why don’t you just ban them? Now, I like my friend from South Carolina, Senator Scott. I know he’s trying to do the right thing, but this is not about just doing any bill. This is not about finding the lowest common denominator between the two parties and then moving on. This is about bringing sorely needed change to police departments across the country. About stopping the killing of African-Americans at the hands of police. And bringing accountability and transparency to police officers and departments that are guilty of misconduct. Unfortunately, the Republican bill doesn’t go nearly far enough on prevention. Doesn’t go nearly far enough on transparency, and hardly brings even one ounce of accountability. And that matters a great deal. We have to get this right. If we pass a bill that’s ineffective and the killings continue, and the police departments resist change, and there’s no accountability, the wound in our society will not close. It will widen.
Chuck Schumer: (20:46)
This is not about making an effort or dipping our toes into the waters of reform. This is about solving a problem that is taking the lives of Black Americans. Let me say that again. Because it’s so important for my colleagues across the aisle to hear. This is not just about making an effort or dipping our toes into the water of reform. This is about solving a problem that is taking the lives of Black Americans. If the bill would not have prevented the death of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbrey, or Michael Brown, or Eric Garner, it won’t stop future deaths of Black Americans at the hands of the very people that are meant to protect and serve them then it does not represent the change we need now. As drafted, the Republican bill does not rise to the moment. The Democratic bill, The Justice in Policing Act does.
Chuck Schumer: (21:49)
And of course, well, Democrats are glad that Leader McConnell felt the pressure and heeded our call to put policing reform on the floor next week, it won’t be before the Republican leader asks us to confirm two more hard right wing judges to the federal bench. Today, the Senate will vote on Justin Walker, a 38 year old with less than a year’s worth of experience as a District Court judge, to sit on the highest court in the country for the rest of his life. The temerity of doing that, he’s just on the court for a few months, but he’s friends with leader McConnell so he gets rushed to this very high court without the necessary experience and maturity of judgment. The Republican Senate approved his nomination to the District Court on October 24th last year after the ABA rated him not qualified. Now eight months later, Leader McConnell wants to give Justin Walker, a former intern of his, a promotion to the DC Circuit.
Chuck Schumer: (22:53)
Even in his extremely limited time as a jurist, Walker made news by calling the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold our healthcare law catastrophic and an indefensible decision. I’d like leader McConnell to go home to Kentucky and tell the citizens of Kentucky why he nominated someone who wants to repeal our healthcare law, when the COVID crisis is hurting people there as it is everywhere else. In the middle of a national health crisis, the Republican Senate majority is poised to confirm a judge who opposes our country’s healthcare law. There is no reason to do this nomination now. There is no stunning number of vacancies on the DC circuit. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and a national conversation about racial justice and police reform. This is about the Republican leader and his relentless pursuit of a right wing judiciary. Usually my friends on the other side of the aisle voting lockstep on these judges, so it’s an indication of Mr. Walker’s caliber or lack thereof that at least one Senate Republican has announced opposition to his nomina-
Chuck Schumer: (24:03)
… His one Senate Republican has announced opposition to his nomination. After Mr. Walker, again before we move to policing reform, Leader McConnell will put forward the nomination of Mr. Corey Walker to the fifth circuit court of appeals. Even by the very low standards of Trump’s nominees to the federal bench, Mr. Wilson is appalling. He called our nation’s healthcare law illegitimate and perverse and advocated the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Worse still, Wilson strongly supported restrictive voting measures, including voter ID laws and is opposed in this day and age toward minority voting rights.
Chuck Schumer: (24:46)
There will be a massive split screen in the Senate next week. As we prepare to debate legislation to reduce racial bias and discrimination law enforcement, Senate Republicans will push a judge who has a history of fighting against minority voting rights. The hypocrisy is glaring. It’s amazing to me the temerity sometimes that the majority leader shows in talking about trying to bring racial justice and putting someone on the bench who has fought against racial justice in terms of voting rights throughout his career. Again, the hypocrisy is glaring.
Chuck Schumer: (25:26)
And now on China. My colleagues know how long I oppressed administrations of both parties to be tougher on China’s rapacious economic policies. For a time I even praised our current president for talking about going after China’s trade abuses. But like on so many other issues, President Trump talks a big game and then completely folds. After a few months of negotiation, President Trump announced phase one trade deal with China which lifted tariffs on Chinese imports in exchange for a few short term agricultural purchases.
Chuck Schumer: (26:02)
It was clear at the time that President Trump sold out. I argued strenuously with the Trade Representative, Mr. Lighthizer, about the phase one deal. And now as excerpts from Mr. Bolton’s book hits the press, we see why President Trump caved to China so completely. The president’s former national security advisor wrote that President Trump decided to drop all of our major demands on China because he wanted agricultural purchases from states that would aid his reelection. Mr. Bolton alleges that the president wanted the support of farmers in key states so he sold out the national interest for his personal political interest. Sound familiar? My Senate Republican colleagues, sound familiar?
Chuck Schumer: (26:49)
Ironically of course, American farmers aren’t even getting the benefit because President Xi has renayed on purchasing American soybeans and wheat. When President Trump was so craving to bring this up, it was a signal to Xi, you can stand strong and the president won’t do anything. Won’t do anything. And that’s what happened. So no one won. American manufacturing, American jobs were lost out in a weak T deal to China. Weak need deal to China. And then even the farmers who were supposed to get benefit, of course for Trump’s political interest, didn’t get any benefit.
Chuck Schumer: (27:34)
While I would have preferred Mr. Bolton to have told these stories under oath at the impeachment trial, they’re quite illuminating nonetheless. It seems he should have titled his book, the real art of the deal. President Trump’s failure to secure an end to China’s predatory intellectual property theft is now explained. President Trump’s ridiculous praise of how Xi handled the Coronavirus is now explained. President Trump’s silence on human rights abuses and the protests in Hong Kong is now explained. And even more revolting, Mr. Bolton alleges that the president approved of President XI’s plan to place up to a million Uyghurs into concentration camps, possibly the largest interment of a religious or ethnic group since World War II.
Chuck Schumer: (28:24)
China is American’s competitor for this generation and the next and this president’s insecurity and weakness and vanity and obsessive self-interest is a threat, a real threat to our economic security and our national security. President Trump cannot be trusted to deal with China policy any longer. And before I yield the floor, I spoke earlier about the DACA decision and I thought first of those wonderful kids and their families and the burden that is off their shoulders. But after a few minutes, I dialed 217-836, I won’t give the last four numbers.
Chuck Schumer: (29:01)
But my dear friend, Senator Durbin, he has waged this fight since I believe it is 2002? 2000. He has been passionate and unrelenting in fighting for the DACA kids and their families. He talks about it in our caucus every week. He did just this past week. And now, while our work is still not done, we must all work so that these kids can eventually become American citizens. At least they are free, free at last, and in good part that’s because of the work of the senior Senator from Illinois who met them, got to know them and love them, and took his amazing legislative acumen to help them. And I believe that in part, the decision across the street occurred because of Senator Durbin’s effective and unrelenting passionate advocacy for the DACA kids. I yield the floor to my dear friend and a happy man this morning, the senior Senator from Illinois.