(Senate - January 03, 2018)

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[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 1 (Wednesday, January 3, 2018)]
[Page S3]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]

                            A NEW DIRECTION

  Mr. SCHUMER. Mr. President, in the second half of the 115th Congress 
now, let's talk a little bit about a new direction. Let the induction 
of these two Senators this afternoon be the beginning of a new 
direction for the Senate in the second half of this Congress.
  The first half of the 115th Congress was not a year to be proud of. 
Partisan legislation emerged from the majority leader's office and was 
dropped on the floor of the Senate, sometimes merely hours before we 
were asked to vote on its final passage. Procedural gimmicks were used 
to avoid the Senate's long history of debate and bipartisanship. An 
economy wracked by unfairness and inequality was made even more unfair 
and more unequal by the Republican majority, which almost delighted in 
revoking consumer protections to help big business, installed a pro-
corporate Supreme Court, drove up healthcare premiums, and passed a tax 
bill dramatically skewed to the benefit of big corporations and the 
very wealthy. All in all, 2017 was a great year for wealthy Republican 
donors but a lost year for the middle class and the working men and 
women of this country.
  We Democrats hope this year is different--focused on the middle class 
rather than the rich and powerful, focused on helping them in the ways 
we have done in the last decades, with both Democratic and Republican 
Presidents, rather than this trickle down that benefits the few at the 
top and does not benefit the very many in the middle.
  In these first few weeks, we have a chance to start off on the right 
foot. We have 2 weeks to negotiate a budget deal that also must address 
a host of other issues, including CHIP, community health centers, 
disaster aid and, of course, the Dreamers.
  Democrats would also like our country to make a downpayment on urgent 
domestic priorities like combating the opioid epidemic, a scourge that 
for the first time helped cause our life expectancy to decline because 
of the higher death rate from opioids.
  We want to improve veterans' healthcare. They served us, and we must 
serve them. We must shore up pension plans for millions of hard-
working, middle-class Americans who put money in every month and, 
because of the stock market crash and sometimes corporate misdeeds, 
aren't getting what they put in for. These items are crucial to the 
middle class.
  Take opioids, for example. In 2016, a record 63,000 Americans died of 
drug overdoses, and two-thirds or more were opioid-related. It is a 
full-fledged epidemic that strikes the rich, the middle class, and the 
poor alike. It strikes urban America, suburban America, and rural 
America alike.
  I had a father cry in my arms because his son a had decided to turn 
himself around and signed up for a treatment program, but the line was 
so long because the funding is so scarce that the young man died of an 
overdose before he could enter treatment. The opioid crisis is stealing 
our youth. We have known about it for years. It is not new. It is 
heartbreaking how much we know about it, but how little we have done 
about it.
  The American people sent us here to do the Nation's business. That 
means addressing its greatest challenges. So let's make a real 
investment in this budget deal and how we treat this scourge. The 
budget is the right place to start.
  A few years ago, we made a promise to hundreds of thousands of 
children who were brought to the United States through no fault of 
their own that if they registered with the government, we wouldn't 
deport them. We said: We want you to be Americans, learn in our 
schools, work in our companies, serve in our military. So 800,000 
Dreamers came forward and did that because, above all else, they wanted 
to be Americans. They don't know another country.
  Now we are faced with a deadline. In a few months, protections for 
Dreamers will evaporate. A thousand Dreamers are losing protected 
status each week. It is time that Congress passed DACA protections into 
law and fixed this once and for all.
  Democrats, including myself, led by our great Senator from Illinois, 
a member of our leadership team, Mr. Durbin, have said over and over 
again: We are ready to negotiate a reasonable package of border 
security to pass alongside DACA. We believe in border security. We want 
to make it work. We want to make it real, not just be symbolic; we 
believe in it. If our Republican colleagues and the President engage in 
good-faith negotiations without unreasonable demands like an absurdly 
expensive, ineffective border wall that many Republicans publicly 
oppose--and privately many more do--I don't doubt we can reach an 
agreement on DACA that is acceptable to both sides. I would like to 
thank our Acting President pro tempore for his active involvement in 
this regard as well.
  In contrast to a year of chaos and ineffectiveness--a year in which 
little was accomplished, and what was done was done for the wealthy and 
the narrow special interests--I hope this year can be one of 
bipartisanship, focused on improving the stock of the middle class. 
They are the ones hurting in America. They are the ones who need help. 
They are the ones who worry about the future of this grand, wonderful 
  We can start on the budget with opioids, veterans' healthcare, 
pensions, children's health insurance, and disaster aid. We can resolve 
the fate of the Dreamers and say to these hard-working kids that 
America has a place for them too.
  Later today, the four congressional leaders will meet with Budget 
Director Mick Mulvaney and representatives of the White House to begin 
these negotiations in earnest--I hope--and will work for their success.