[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 198 (Tuesday, December 5, 2017)]
From the Congressional Record Online through GPO
ISSUES BEFORE THE SENATE
Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, instead of rushing a bad tax bill through
the conference, the Senate should focus on the bevy of year-end issues
confronting us. First and foremost, we must reach a spending bill that
would have us meet our commitments to support the military and also
urgent priorities here at home, such as combating the opioid crisis,
shoring up pension plans, supporting veterans' healthcare, relieving
student loan debt, and building rural infrastructure.
In previous budget agreements, Democrats have always strived to
achieve parity between our investments in defense and jobs and economic
development here at home. It has continually been a sticking point with
Republicans as we go through these negotiations. They want to increase
the spending for defense, the military, but shortchange important
domestic programs such as infrastructure, education, scientific
research--measures that create jobs and help the middle class. We
Democrats support an increase for our military, but we want to make
sure other crucial programs don't get left behind. So we will fight
just as hard in this budget agreement to ensure that for each dollar we
add for defense, a dollar is added for domestic economic development,
We care about our soldiers. They are the greatest. They are risking
their lives for us, but we also care about a pensioner who spent his
whole life working in the steel mills, working driving a truck, working
building buildings. They religiously put money away every month so they
would have something when they retire, and if it is not there--they are
General Mattis came to see me and told me how badly our Defense
Department needs help. I agree, but I told him to go back to the White
House and tell the White House the domestic side of the ledger needs
help as well. Spending on the domestic side of the ledger is lower than
it was in 2010, despite increased costs.
We also need to provide funding for Community Health Centers, the
Children's Health Insurance Program, relief for millions of Americans
still recovering from national disasters, and we must come together on
a bipartisan bill to support the Dream Act along with tougher border
security measures. So it is a lengthy to-do list. It will require hard
work, steady cooperation, and compromise on both sides.
Last night, however, there was a concerning spectacle on the House
floor. The freedom caucus held up an unrelated vote on the tax bill--
who could figure--because they were unsatisfied with the Republican
leadership's plan to keep the government open. If we are going to solve
all the problems that confront us before the end of the year, House
leaders cannot let the Freedom Caucus--a small band of hard-right
reactionary conservatives--run the show. If they cooperate with
Democrats, they can accomplish something. To just let the Freedom
Caucus dictate is a recipe for chaos.
Once again, negotiations broke off because we were at an impasse on
the 50-50 parity for defense and nondefense. That has been very
important to Democrats for years. We have settled our budget
agreements, our spending policy, omnibus agreements always with 50-50,
and we believe it is still important today--parity, parity, parity.
As we continue to negotiate with our Republican counterparts, we hope
the Republican leadership can avert more of this unnecessary hostage-
taking like we saw on the House floor last night that can only impede a
serious, ongoing bipartisan negotiation.
I yield the floor.