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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 198 (Tuesday, December 5, 2017)]
[Page S7829]
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, 50-50.

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 important too.

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. ____________________

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