Editor’s Note: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Nov. 14, spoke on the Senate floor about the 2022 midterm elections. The following are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
Last Tuesday, Americans made their voices heard in one of the most remarkable midterm elections in modern history.
With our democracy at stake, with our fundamental liberties on the line, and with a clear choice between moving America forward or holding it back, the American people spoke loud and clear: Democrats will retain the majority in the Senate.
And House Democrats, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, defied precedent and remain within striking distance of defending their majority as well.
The election was a great win for the Democratic Party. But more importantly, a great win for the American people.
And let me say this. Two things happened in the last two years: first, this Senate and this Congress passed a huge agenda, the most comprehensive agenda affecting and helping American families that has occurred in decades. Second, Democrats won the elections here in the Senate and many in the House.
Those two statements are directly related.
Because Democrats had a strong agenda here—and did things for American people—we won. And despite the negativity and divisiveness, the threats of violence, and even the violence itself that occurred with MAGA Republicanism dominating the country, the American people stepped back from the precipice and chose progress and getting things done, rather than the voices of divisiveness, nastiness, and lack of complete truth and honor.
So those two things are definitely related.
First, let’s talk about some of the things we got done. It was an incredible, incredible two years.
The list is a long one: the most significant bipartisan infrastructure bill in decades, making sure that millions of new, good jobs will occur with union labor, employing tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people in good, new working jobs.
We reformed the Post Office for the first time in a very long time.
We dealt with the issue of chips made overseas and we said to the American people that we’re going to make them here, creating thousands and thousands of good paying jobs, and we’re not going to let any country – not China or any other – take away that dominance. We’ve developed the chips here, we’re going to make them here.
We dealt with our veterans who were exposed to toxins from burn pits, and when the VA wouldn’t help them, we said the VA must.
We dealt with climate in the Inflation Reduction Act for the first time ever, and it will reduce the amount of carbon flowing into our atmosphere by 2030 by 40%.
In the same bill, we took on the prescription drug companies and we got a $35 price for insulin on Medicare, and lowered the prices of drugs for so many millions of Americans on many other drugs starting as early as next year, with a cap of $2,000 on what people pay.
We increased health care, we expanded the ACA (Affordable Care Act) making health care less expensive for many and dealing with so many other health care issues to the benefit of the American people.
So it was a huge agenda. And despite what some of the pundits and prognosticators say, that is what the American people wanted.
So how did we win the election? Because we stuck to that agenda.
And on the other side, what we saw from MAGA Republicans was the Big Lie that said that the election was stolen. It was a lie, plain and simple, but MAGA Republicans, so many in this chamber, repeated that lie over and over again.
If one political party—or a large group of people—abandon the view that the elections are on the level, it is the beginning of the end of our democracy.
Not only did we see the Big Lie, but we saw nastiness, divisiveness, threats of violence and even violence itself not only of January 6th but often directed at the people running our elections. These are nice hardworking people. All they want to do is do their job and make sure the votes are counted properly, and they got threatened.
And what bothered Americans even more than this was the fact that too many Republican leaders either condoned the violence or even aided and abetted the threats of violence. It was outrageous, but lots of people saw right through it. And not just Democrats: large numbers of Republicans said, this new MAGA Republican party is not the party of Ronald Regan, not the party of the Bush’s. It’s a different party, and I can’t count on it.
And that’s why so many of them voted for Democratic candidates, who were paying attention to the specific issues – non-divisive, non-incendiary – just helping people. And that’s why I believe we won the election.
I’ll say one more thing, the Midterms are not over. Obviously, there is an election in Georgia once again we have the contrast. Senator Warnock is a man dedicated to service. He first serviced people in the ministry and he still is the minister, the pastor, of one of the most famous and revered pulpits in the entire country, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the old pulpit of Martin Luther King Jr. – but he became a Senator and that devotion to service continued. He was one of our leaders in establishing a $35 cap on insulin, so that tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Georgians and millions of Americans, elderly – and now the drug companies, even though it is not a patented drug, were charging $600, $700, $800 a month.
He helped with healthcare. He helped get $4 billion for Black farmers who had been discriminated against for decades, and so I believe this election, this new election in Georgia, will be like the election that we’ve had last Tuesday. The candidate who is trying to help people, the candidate who is not being divisive and incendiary will win, Raphael Warnock.
Now where should we go in the next two years?
I hope this for the good of the American people will continue our record of getting bipartisan things done.
Of the six major bills we’ve passed in June and July and early August, five were bipartisan. And our hierarchy as democrats is to work on a bipartisan basis whenever we can, and we showed we were able to.
There are times when we can’t get Republicans to join us. None of them wanted to go against Big Pharma and we had to pass prescription drugs by ourselves. None of them wanted to go against big oil, so we had to pass climate change by ourselves. But we got a lot of bipartisan things done. And my hope for America, for the sake of America – this is a swirling world, people are not happy with their circumstances, they want help – is that this Senate in the next two years, under the leadership of this caucus, will rise to that occasion.
And I say to my Democratic colleagues, let us proceed in the next two years by putting people first and getting things done even if we have to compromise. We may not accomplish everything we want, but if we can get real things done that will measure how good a Congress we can be.
The guns bill that we did under Senator Murphy’s leadership last summer is an example: a few months ago, many of us wanted our gun bill to include stronger provisions like an assault weapons ban. Almost everyone on this side of the aisle, is for universal background checks. I’m the author of the Brady Law; I care a lot about it.
We couldn’t get that, but we got some significant changes. We fought the NRA and made sure young people, eighteen years old, will not automatically be allowed to go into a gun store and buy an assault rifle as the horrible perpetrator of the crime in Buffalo and Uvalde had done.
And once we got this done, even though we did not get everything we wanted, the American people were elated. They said we finally broke the logjam and got something done.
For our side, that ought to be a model – get it done. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
The American people want us to make their lives better and help them. Speeches won’t do it. Putting down just a bill that has everything we want that fails won’t do it. Getting it done will.
I say to my Republican colleagues, including Leader McConnell: work with us. Work with us. We are willing to work with you to get things done, as the past Senate has shown. Let’s sit down and talk about how we can come together. That is what we need to do, and I say to my Republican colleagues that embracing the MAGA way of divisiveness, nastiness, negativity–without constructive compromise, which is how Donald Trump wanted it and some of our colleagues followed him—that will be a disaster. That will be wrong.
It will be bad for America, but it will also be bad for the Republican Party because these elections have shown that the MAGA Republican way is not where the American people want to be. The election of 2018 showed it, the election of 2020 showed it, and this election more than ever shows it, because no one ever thought Democrats would succeed in the election because we were climbing uphill.
Let us move forward with the same spirit of cooperation and compromise that made the 117th Congress one of the most successful in recent history.
But the combination of us actually accomplishing things and focusing on those things in our campaigns and the fact of the distaste that a majority of Americans have for the MAGA Republican way of intransigence, divisiveness, nastiness, tossing incendiary language over the wall, is not going to succeed. So we can have a great, great two years if we work together. And I am urging Leader McConnell to work with us. I am urging the hopefully large group of non-MAGA Republicans on the other side to work with us so we can get things done.
Now, finally, I want to thank a few people in the aftermath of this election.
First, I want to thank President Biden for his leadership. From working with us on climate change, to lowering costs for families on drugs, to delivering action on student debt—and by the way, I forgot to add: we focused on our younger generation as well. And two issues they cared about most were climate and student debt. We delivered on both.
President Biden took great leadership on so many of these issues and delivered on so many. So I want to thank him for his leadership. He helped set this bold agenda that we in the Senate were proud to hone and act.
I want to welcome our two new colleagues to the Senate on our side of the aisle. Peter Welch of Vermont and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania. I’ve had a chance to talk to them over the phone before and after their victories and they will be excellent Senators.
And I want to thank all of those who knocked on doors, who volunteered, who said this democracy should not be left to others, I must be involved. Thank you. All of that hard work has produced a very good result, at least in my opinion, on last Tuesday.
So, the election of 2022 is approaching the end, but our obligation to serve the American people continues. Let us move forward with the same spirit of cooperation and compromise that made the 117th Congress one of the most successful in recent history. If we do it, it will be good for Democratic senators, it will be good for Republican senators, but most of all, it will be good for this grand experiment in democracy, the United States of America and its people.
Chuck Schumer is the Senate Majority Leader (D-NY).
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