06.20.17

[VIDEO] Sen. Coons: “The idea that this big and important bill would be rolled out in a last minute secret reveal is more reminiscent of a Trump reality TV show than a regular order.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today joined Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC to discuss recent news regarding North Korea and the Senate Republicans’ health care bill.

“The idea that this big and important bill would be rolled out in a last minute secret reveal is more reminiscent of a Trump reality TV show than a regular order. And it doesn't have to be this way. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, there were weeks of hearings at the committee level, more than 150 Republican amendments accepted into the bill, as it worked its way through regular order, Democrats stand ready to work with Republicans to address the challenges, the problems with the Affordable Care Act, we should be working on this in an open and bipartisan way rather than having the Republicans trying to jam through a secret bill that their own members don't even know about, and that President Trump recently denounced the House version as being mean. I think there are real concerns from my state and folks all over the country about what is hidden in this secret bill.”

Full audio and video available here.

Excerpts from the interview below:

Senator Coons on North Korea: After this tragedy, after this assault on an American by North Korea, which as you pointed out will be very hard for us to hold them accountable for in any specific and concrete way, I question why anyone would be continuing to run groups, to take students, to take exchange programs into North Korea. This assault on Otto Warmbier by the North Koreans when he was in their custody, that led to his death, has been called out by a number of my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, here in the Senate today, as tantamount to murder of an American citizen. I am encouraged we're calling for, pressing for the release of the three remaining Americans in North Korean custody. But this just highlights the fact that we don't have a functioning strategy. At the same time that the Trump administration has urged all of us here in the Senate, I’ll remind you they brought the entire Senate over to the White House to brief us on their strategy with North Korea and they urged us to join them in creating more and more pressure on China for China to take tough action against North Korea. But, we're also currently considering a budget proposal from the Trump administration that would slash the funding for our diplomats around the world by a third. That's going to make it very difficult for us to actually carry through on a strategy that relies on encouraging our allies and our partners around the world to join us in imposing sanctions and increasing pressure on the North Korean regime. 

More on North Korea: That's right. One of the challenges of international diplomacy and of working closely with our allies in the era of President Trump is his unpredictability. He has taken not slightly different positions on important issues, not a little hot, a little cold, but wildly different positions on things like the One China policy, our support for Japan and South Korea, our engagement with NATO, our commitment to Article 5, first as a candidate, then during the transition, then in his early months as president. President Trump has taken significantly different positions on central issues to U.S. foreign policy. I was recently at a regional security conference, in Singapore, with Senator McCain, Senator Barrasso, Republican colleagues, and we heard from a dozen of our allies and partners in the region that this unpredictability, this uncertainty about exactly where we're going to come down, because of President Trump's shifting positions and statements, is making it harder for us to project strength and to show a clear direction and a clear determination in standing up to the threat from North Korea, in standing up to Russia's intervention and our last presidential election, and in charting some clear path forward in Syria, a very difficult and conflicted battle space right now. 

Senator Coons on Russia: I'm very concerned that we don't have a strategy yet from the Trump administration. We had a bipartisan hearing earlier today on foreign relations to look at Authorization for Use of Military Force that would focus our work on ISIS. We have American troops on the ground in Syria. We have American pilots in the air. And these recent incidents where American pilots shot down, an Iranian drone shot down, a Syrian Assad regime Russian fighter jet. They have heightened the tension. I'm gravely concerned that we may be slipping into a hot war with Assad's forces, with Iran or even with Russia. And we need a clear strategy from the Trump administration, both for how we're going to move forward in fighting ISIS on the ground, in Syria, and for what our strategy is in Afghanistan, and in both of these places there are secondary risks with regard to Russia if we don't have clear lines of understanding and clear lines of authority. Congress needs to step up and do its job in getting a modernized authorization for military force, but that authorization should only be coming once we have a clear strategy from the administration. 

Senator Coons on whether he has seen the Senate Republicans’ health care bill: Nope. And that is the biggest news here on the hill. That the context, the content, excuse me, of the Republican health care bill, their attempt at repeal and replace for Obamacare is being kept secret from every Democrat and from some Republicans. The idea that this big and important bill would be rolled out in a last minute secret reveal is more reminiscent of a Trump reality TV show than a regular order. And it doesn't have to be this way. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, there were weeks of hearings at the committee level, more than 150 Republican amendments accepted into the bill, as it worked its way through regular order, Democrats stand ready to work with Republicans to address the challenges, the problems with the Affordable Care Act, we should be working on this in an open and bipartisan way rather than having the Republicans trying to jam through a secret bill that their own members don't even know about, and that President Trump recently denounced the House version as being mean. I think there are real concerns from my state and folks all over the country about what is hidden in this secret bill.  

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Press Contact

Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov