Schumer and Pelosi Prebuttal to Trump: We Disagree

Democratic leaders see no signs they can work with Republicans

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer speak at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday. NPC President Jeff Ballou appears at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer speak at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday. NPC President Jeff Ballou appears at left. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 27, 2017 at 4:55pm

Congress’ top two Democrats on Monday delivered their “prebuttal” to President Donald Trump’s upcoming first address to Congress, outlining reason after reason why Democrats cannot support anything they expect the president to propose. 

Speaking at the National Press Club, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Republicans’ early actions and rhetoric on health care, immigration, budget and taxes are out of step with the Democrats’ priorities and suggested there’s no room for the parties to work together.

Trump “has moved so far to the right and in such an extreme position, it’s hard to see what we could work with him on,” Schumer said.

“If he gets away from his hard-right line, … then maybe it’s a possibility, but it sure as heck isn’t now,” he added.

Pelosi, too, said she’s yet to see any signs Republicans and Democrats will be able to craft bipartisan policy.

“Instead of acting on jobs, Republicans will make America sick again, declaring all-out war on affordable health care,” she said, criticizing GOP plans to dismantle the 2010 health care law.

Pelosi said Democrats have not seen a cost estimate for the House GOP’s health care “repeal plus” bill they outlined before the Presidents Day recess. “What we hear is it’s going to cost the federal government more,” she said.

Citing reports that Republicans plan to pay for part of their health care bill by raising taxes on employer-provided plans, Pelosi and Schumer said Democrats would vehemently oppose such a move.

Schumer predicted that Republicans, who are divided over a strategy to repeal and replace the health care law, will fail in their effort. He cited Democrats standing united in support of the law and public sentiment as reasons for his prediction.

“We will keep the [Affordable Care Act],” he said. “It will not be repealed.”

On Monday, Trump said much of his address will outline spending priorities and cuts he plans to include in an upcoming budget request to Congress. An Office of Management and Budget official said the administration’s budget will call for a $54 billion increase in defense spending that will be offset by cuts in other areas.

While Pelosi and Schumer said they don’t know yet where the Trump administration plans to find $54 billion in spending cuts, they noted that the cuts will almost certainly harm working families that Trump promised to help during his campaign.

“This is a really bad path that we have seen so far,” Pelosi said. “I don’t even know if the president really understands the ramifications of the cuts that are being proposed.”

The GOP’s budget priorities seem to be “totally wrong and out of whack,” Schumer added.

Schumer and Pelosi also rebuffed early speculation as to how Trump could propose to pay for the massive infrastructure package he talked about as a top priority during his campaign.

“If it’s tax breaks, we’re not going to be for it,” Schumer said. “That kind of thing is a nonstarter and I’ve told the president that.”

Schumer said a plan paid for with loans from the private sector — an idea congressional Republicans have floated — would lead to new tolls in places where they don’t currently exist. An infrastructure bill should be paid for “with federal expenditures, as infrastructure has always been, not cutting other programs, not with tax breaks,” he added.

Pelosi agreed, saying, “If it’s a tax bill disguised as an infrastructure bill, that’s not going to happen.”

The minority leaders also predicted Trump will continue to espouse immigration policies Democrats will vigorously oppose.

“Donald Trump would like us to believe that immigrants are all terrorists and criminals,” Schumer said, adding that the president’s sweeping plans to restrict entry into the United States and to deport thousands, if not millions, of undocumented immigrants will have harmful effects on the economy.

In general, Schumer and Pelosi said they expect Trump’s address on Tuesday to be similar to his campaign speech — full of populous rhetoric and devoid of substantive proposals.

“Populous platitudes will be a dime a dozen,” Schumer said, adding that the speech will be “far less important” than past presidential addresses because it’s unlikely to indicate what Trump actually plans to do.

“If it’s anything like his inaugural address, I think it will be a sad evening for our country,” Pelosi said.