WASHINGTON - Sen. Chuck Schumer said Democrats will hold the Republican majority in Congress and President-elect Donald Trump “accountable” to the American people and the law as the New Yorker made his first speech Tuesday as Senate minority leader.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Schumer directly addressed Trump, appealing to him to keep promises he made to win working-class votes, warning him about coarse divisive language and criticizing him for taking a hard-right turn with his Cabinet nominees.
Schumer also poked fun and warned Trump about using social media to make policy. “With all due respect, America cannot afford a Twitter presidency,” he said. “These issues are complex and demand both careful consideration and action. We cannot tweet them away.”
Schumer, who now leads the 48-member Democratic caucus, repeated his promise that Democrats would work with Republicans on issues of mutual interest but would fight them on issues of disagreement as they began to roll back much of President Barack Obama’s legacy.
“It is not our job to be a rubber stamp. It’s our job to do what’s best for the American people, the middle class and those struggling to get there,” Schumer said.
“What we will always do is hold the president-elect and his Republican colleagues in Congress accountable,” Schumer said.
Armed with senatorial privilege, the need for unanimous consent and a filibuster requiring 60 votes to pass bills and Supreme Court nominees, Schumer’s caucus represents the Democrats’ best and only brake on a unified Republican Congress and White House.
Republicans still will win more often than not, Schumer tacitly acknowledged. “But we can raise our voices to present an alternative way forward and we can rally the American people to support those programs,” he said.
Reading from a prepared text, Schumer covered many issues, including jobs, trade and foreign policy. He said Democrats would hold Trump accountable for benchmarks, like a 5 percent to 6 percent economic growth rate and a lower unemployment rate.
But the Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and then postpone its replacement for years emerged as a flash point in the day’s Senate speeches.
“The ACA extended health care to 30 million Americans. We ask the president-elect: If you repeal the ACA, what are you going to do to protect these 30 million people?” Schumer said.
“It is not acceptable to repeal the law, throw our health care system into chaos and then leave the hard work for another day,” he said.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, confirmed as soon as Schumer sat down that “the first job the new Congress will have is to repeal Obamacare.”
Cornyn said in his address, “I believe the verdict of the American people is that Obamacare failed” and that it is why Democrats dropped from 60 members to 48 in the Senate.
Schumer said Trump would have a “failed presidency” if he turned over his administration to his Cabinet, which Schumer said “is stacked with billionaires, corporate executives, titans of Wall Street and those deeply embedded in Washington’s corridor of power.”
Schumer said, “It seems that many of his campaign themes are being quickly abandoned. He said he was going to unrig the system. So far, it still looks rigged.”