Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer this week spoke on the Senate floor regarding the school shooting in Parkland, Florida and the immigration debate. Below are his remarks:
Mr. President, I rise this morning with a heavy heart for the people of Parkland, Florida and Stoneman Douglas High School, where yesterday, 17 Americans were killed in the deadliest school shooting since Sandy Hook.
It was the 18th school shooting this year, Mr. President. We’re only halfway through February.
Again, yesterday, the scourge of gun violence visited an American school, a place where our kids should be able to learn free from the shadow of violence and mayhem.
Again, we all watched the scenes of children running for their lives.
Again, a twisted soul got ahold of an assault rifle and unleashed carnage on the innocent.
And even though we didn’t see it, in millions of bedrooms and living rooms in Americans’ homes last night, 10-year old, 8-year old, 12-year old children were saying “mom, dad, what happened? What do I do if this happens in my school?”
Again, I address this chamber knowing there are no words that could ease the anguish and the sorrow felt by the parents of those 17 Americans, by their friends and siblings, their neighbors and teachers.
As we remember the words of Scripture that tell us “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” let us resolve to do something, something, about the epidemic of gun violence in our country.
Now, on an entirely different matter, Mr. President – the current debate on the fate of the Dreamers.
Senators from both parties have engaged in negotiations for months to find a solution that would allow the Dreamers to stay in the United States as well as provide border security. On several occasions, those discussions have yielded results, including last night, when a bipartisan group of moderate Senators reached a breakthrough agreement.
The spotlight now turns to the rest of the Senate and especially to President Trump, who throughout these negotiations has not been constructive. President Trump has shown a remarkable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
President Trump, since he created this problem by terminating DACA last August, has stood in the way of every single proposal that has had a chance to become law.
He turned his back on not one but two bipartisan immigration proposals earlier this year. I went so far as to put the president’s wall on the table, and still the president would not take yes for an answer. Now, President Trump seems eager to spike the latest bipartisan compromise, potentially with a veto.
Why? Because it isn’t 100% of what the president wants on immigration? That’s not how our democracy works – you don’t get 100% of what you want in a democracy. Maybe in a dictatorship. You have to give and take. You have to compromise in order to make progress. We’ve tried to do that here in Congress, to solve a problem the president created, and yet time and time again, he’s frustrated our efforts.
If the American people want to know why our Congress can look so dysfunctional, they ought to look towards the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
If the president had been quiet, if the president had let us do our work, a bipartisan compromise would have already passed this chamber with sixty five votes, maybe more, and we’d have a solution to protect the Dreamers.
But here we are. Let’s hope it could happen. If President Trump rejects another bipartisan compromise, there is no question that the American people will blame President Trump and no one else for the failure to protect the Dreamers.
With an obstinate president and a fractious House, I hope today the Senate rises to the occasion.
The Dreamers are watching this debate right now because their futures depend on it. If we don’t succeed, they face deportation to countries they don’t remember. They’ve lived in this country their entire adult lives, pledged allegiance to our flag, built families and careers, served in our military. They didn’t break any laws, they were brought here through no fault of their own. And despite their status, despite the fear that comes with living in the shadows, they strived hopefully to make a successful life in this country which they love. What can be more American than that?
We owe it to them to find a solution that can pass this body of Congress.
The only solution, unfortunately, that my friend the Republican Leader has offered is the very partisan Grassley bill. No input from Democrats, no effort to compromise. We Democrats, on the other hand, are supporting several bipartisan agreements on the table, ready to vote on, including the genuine bipartisan compromise the moderates – Democrat and Republican – reached last night.
There are plenty of things for everybody not to like in the bill. There is a lot I don’t like in it, believe me. I think the wall will not accomplish anything, it will be an enormous waste of money, and it will be a terrible symbol about America, replacing the beautiful lady who stands in the harbor I represent. But, compromise is compromise. Democrats and Republicans will find provisions they don’t want and wouldn’t include if they had written it. But we have to do our jobs today. We have to rise above our differences, admit that no one will get everything they want, and accept the painful compromises that come with democratic government.
That is what the Senate has done through the centuries. It has been hard, people have anguished. But in the past, the Senate has risen to the occasion. Can it do it today? And I say that to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Both sides of the aisle.
No one else seems willing to do it. Not the House. Not the president. It is the Senate – what President Washington famously called the cooling saucer for our politics – that can show the nation how to lead; that can show the nation what bipartisanship looks like; what compromise looks like; what progress looks like.
The Senate can do that today. So let’s do our jobs, let’s rise to the occasion, and by the end of today, let us say to the Dreamers that the Senate believes America has a place for them, too.