Progressive Action Score: 56A score of 56 means that Sen. Schumer has acted to support 56% of a slate of progressive policies in the 110th Congress.
Progressive, forward-looking actions Senator Schumer has taken to merit a PAS of 56:
- On February 12 2008, Senator Charles Schumer fulfilled his Oath of Office, acting to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by casting a vote against S. 2248, the FISA Amendments Act. The FISA Amendments Act makes the misnamed Protect America Act permanent. Even worse, the FISA Amendments Act makes it legal:
- For the federal government to spy on you electronically
- Reading your email
- Listening to your telephone calls
- Watching what web pages you visit
- Following your financial transactions
- Without any explanation of why they're doing it
- Without anyone outside of the Executive Branch knowing that it's being done
- Without oversight by Congress
- Letting the government use information it obtains illegally
- Giving telecommunications companies retroactive immunity for helping the government do this, even when it was expressly against the law to do so
When a President of the United States has this kind of power at his disposal, she or he cannot be stopped. The president's power becomes total and the president becomes a totalitarian. Senator Schumer did the right thing by casting a vote against the FISA Amendments Act.
- Senator Schumer cast a vote against the ironically named Protect America Act. The Protect America Act is a law now passed by both houses of Congress which replaces judicial warrants with executive prerogative and substitutes blank checks for reasons. The Protect America Act gives the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence the power to spy on your emails, your web surfing, your telephone calls and other electronic communications. All this is carried out without a warrant, which is required by the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
There is no supervision of the spy programs put in place by the Attorney General and the DNI, except by these two indivivuals themselves. No one has the power to stop them any more. They can search your records, sift through your private messages, watch you go from web page to web page, on the pretext of protecting America from terrorists, all without a search warrant. No one has the power to tell them no.
the Attorney General and the DNI, both political appointees of the President, have the power under the Protect America Act to order any American to help them conduct their electronic spying against other Americans. Under the new law, if they order you to take part in their spying operations, and you say no, they can throw you in prison. If you do not keep their spying on other Americans a secret, even from your family, they can throw you in prison.
The Protect America Act institutes Big Brother government in the United States. It betrays American liberty. It is a shame that the Act passed, but thanks are due to Senator Schumer for casting a vote against it.
- S. 1175, The Child Soldier Prevention Act, prohibits the government of the United States of America from providing military aid to any foreign government that uses child soldiers in its military, paramilitary forces, or other official or sanctioned armed groups. The Child Soldier Prevention Act also requires the Executive Branch to research and publish reports on the use of child soldiers around the world, providing important information that can be used to more effectively counter the use child soldiers.
There are some clauses that make the bill less strong than it could be. One gives the President of the United States to issue a waiver to the law when he decides that giving military aid to a government that uses child soldiers is in the interest of the United States. However, the President is required to register every such waiver, and report on the justifications for each waiver to the Senate and to the House of Representatives. Another clause permits support for armies that recruit volunteer child soldiers as young as 16 -- because that's what the U.S. Military currently does.
These clauses make the Child Soldier Prevention Act of 2007 an imperfect piece of legislation, but it's pretty darned good, and it's the only legislation to even address the issue. It is therefore a piece of legislation that all decent Americans ought to be willing to support, regardless of political party affiliation. Senator Charles Schumer has shown that basic sort of decency by signing his name in official, public support of this bill.
- On March 27, 2007, the United States Senate defeated a Republican attempt to strip language placing an end date on the seemingly interminable occupation of Iraq. With Roll Call Vote 116, the Senate defeated Amendment 643 to H.R. 1591, an amendment offered by Senator Thad Cochran from Mississippi.
Amendment 643 would have allowed the Bush White House to continue its open-ended military occupation of Iraq without any accountability. The amendment would have eliminated the provision from the legislation that requires the Bush Administration to begin withdrawing military troops 120 days after the legislation is passed, and end the occupation by March 2008.
It is time to put a finite limit on warfare as a policy tool in Iraq and time to begin pursuing other methods of change there. By voting against Senate Amendment 643, Senator Schumer stopped clinging to a violent policy that just has not worked, and instead moved toward more peaceful and more realistic alternatives.
- Senator Schumer has cosponsored S.2, a bill that increases the minimum wage, which is currently at its lowest point since the 1950s. The bill would not raise the minimum wage to new highs. It would only return the minimum wage to a level comparable to that of the 1980s, which is in turn much lower than the minimum wage level of the late 1960s. Senator Schumer did the right thing in cosponsoring this bill.
- Sometimes good things come as amending packages. Senate Amendment 1094 to Senate Amendment 1065 to H.R. 1495, brought from the House all the way to the Senate, may have had a Byzantine route for introduction, but it contained a good idea nonetheless. Senate Amendment 1094, if passed, would have required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to consider the impact of climate change when designing water projects. The impact of climate change upon water projects is likely to be considerable, when it comes to matters such as the effect of storms and flooding. The Army Corps of Engineers has a bad record of taking relevant factors into account when it comes to such matters, and the amendment sought to strengthen their work and make public works projects more reliable.
Unfortunately, the amendment gained too few votes for passage. But at least Senator Schumer did his part by voting YES on the amendment.
- From the transfer of Total Information Awareness into the National Security Agency under codenames like topsail and basketball, through warrantless wiretape, seizures of massive amounts of cell phone and email records, and even the systematic entry of the DNA of innocent Americans into gigantic government databases, we have seen a dramatic effort by the government to watch over the most personal aspects of our lives. Because of these secretive government programs, Americans can no longer assume that their postal mail, email, phone calls, commercial activity, and other kinds of personal activity are at all private.
Through it all, there has been almost no congressional oversight. Now, a few senators are asking for that to change. Two bills have been introduced this year that would force the White House to cooperate with efforts by Congress to gain oversight of the growing network of government databases used to spy on Americans. The bills, S. 236 and S. 495 (entitled the Federal Agency Data Mining Reporting Act of 2007 and the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act of 2007, respectively), are co-sponsored by a small group of senators, including Senator Schumer, who has cosponsoredS. 495.
- Senator Charles Schumer has done the right thing in cosponsoring S.5, a bill that would permit federal funding to be used for research on lines of stem cells taken from a handful of blastocysts: non-thinking, non-breathing, blastocysts with thirty undifferentiated inner mass cells. These are just a handful of blastocysts out of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of abandoned blastocysts that will never be implanted in a uterus and are currently slated to be simply thrown in the trash. This research, using cell lines from blastocysts, is aimed at the big health care challenges of the 21st century: stopping cancer, curing Parkinsons and Alzheimers, ameliorating diabetes, stalling the aging process.
Yep, there's a lot that these stem cells could do, if only research on them could go forward. Federal funding for research on them is blocked because of the edict of George W. Bush. If enough good people like Senator Schumer support this simple bill, a lot of lives could be improved and a lot of lives could be saved.
- Short-term politics focuses on immediate expense. A short-term thinking Senator say it is a bad idea to spend the money to expand access to preventative health care for women -- including distribution of contraception, teen pregnancy prevention programs and rape prevention education and because they would cost too much money. A longer-term view notes that failure to address these issues results in high-cost outcomes for a society in teen pregnancies, unwanted pregnancies in general and a higher incidence of sexual violence. Morality aside, it just makes good economic sense in the long run to invest in preventative health programs, like those proposed in S. 21. Senator Schumer demonstrates clear long-term thinking in his cosponsorship of this bill.
Progressive political actions that Sen. Schumer could have taken but unfortunately chose not to take:
- The prisons at Guantanamo Bay are a stain on American justice, a gulag set up in order to evade U.S. and international law and to perfect the cruel science of "alternative interrogation." Guantanamo is polluting the reputation of the United States. The effort to keep the prisons of Guantanamo open is corroding American liberty.
Two bills stand before the United States Senate with the aim of shutting down the Guanatanamo Bay center for indefinite detention. The Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007, introduced to the United States Senate by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, would require the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prisons within 120 days. S. 1249, sponsored by California Democrat Diane Feinstein, gives George W. Bush one year to close the Guantanamo gulag down.
Senator Schumer has allowed the injustice of Guantanamo to continue unabated, neglecting to lend formal support to either of these bills.
- The Internet was designed and built on a backbone of publicly-funded research. The cables that carry Internet signals cross innumerable public rights-of-way. Yet despite the public basis of the Internet, big profitseeking corporations are trying to divide the Internet into two lanes: a fast lane for those with deep enough pockets to pony up an extra fee, and a slow lane for everyone else. The writers and artists who independently produce what you like to read and view would find that their work was downloaded at a sluggish pace. Big corporate websites would jump to the front of every line, with their specially packaged content getting downloaded quickly. A stratified Internet would stifle variety in speech and lead to yet another variety of media dominated by the moneyed few.
S.215 is a bill that would prohibit corporations from abusing the public infrastructure and charging extra for fast carriage of content. Senator Charles Schumer has yet to add his name as a cosponsor in support of this bill. Ask yourself why. Then ask Senator Schumer.
- Scientists across the globe have declared that the evidence of global warming and its basis in the human emission of greenhouse gases is conclusive. They also have concluded with overwhelming consensus that unless something is done quickly to curb greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) the global climate will collapse into catastrophe.
S. 309 is a bill to set standards for the lowering of greenhouse gas emissions, and to enable governmental and nongovernmental sectors to meet those standards. It is not enough to prevent global warming altogether, but it is a positive step. Will future generations forgive Senator Charles Schumer for his negligence in failing to support this legislation at such a critical time in the history of our planet?
- S.447 is a bill to abolish the death penalty. There are three sections to this bill, also known as the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act. The first section simply gives the title of the law. The second section goes item by item through federal law, striking references to the ability to punish crimes by death. The third section, in case there is a law missed by the second section, states directly:
(a) In General- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person may be sentenced to death or put to death on or after the date of enactment of this Act for any violation of Federal law.
(b) Persons Sentenced Before Date of Enactment- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person sentenced to death before the date of enactment of this Act for any violation of Federal law shall serve a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Progressives are in pretty solid agreement that the death penalty needs to go. While the death penalty punishes the guilty, it has also been imposed upon many people who turned out not to be guilty of capital crimes at all. The death penalty is selected in a biased and discriminatory manner motivated by political concerns. The death penalty is also often administered in ways that violate the guaranteed protection from the Bill of Rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
Despite these compelling problems, too many politicians refuse to do anything about the problem. They want to look tough on crime, and do not seem to mind that looking tough requires being inhumane. Senator Charles Schumer is among this set, failing to lend support to the Federal Death Penalty Abolition Act. Ask Senator Schumer why.
- It is fair to say that in most states and localities, new members of Congress were brought in to end the Iraq War. Those that survived from the 109th to the 110th did so because they showed a willingness to bring this sorry chapter of history to a close. But are the current members of Congress actually following through on their mandate?
S. 448, the Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007, would end the Iraq War within six months of its passage. It forbids the Bush White House from spending money on the activities of military personnel in Iraq, with a few exceptions that would allow for activities such as the training of Iraqi police and soldiers, providing security of places like the American embassy, and engaging in targeted counter-terrorism raids. Six months after the passage of the Iraq Redeployment Act, almost all members of the American military would have to leave Iraq. The American occupation of Iraq would finally end.
S. 433, the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007, is an alternate bill, setting May 1, 2007 for the date on which the redeployment of American troops from Iraq begins, and setting March 31, 2008 as the date for "complete redeployment of all United States combat brigades from Iraq," unless 13 conditions have been met by the Iraqi government.
The two bills go about the process of ending the Iraq War in different ways, but both offer sensible options. Where is Senator Schumer in all this? Standing on the sidelines, it seems, and failing to support either bill. When will he show the courage necessary necessary to admit an American mistake and end it?
- S. 576 is a bill proposed in the Senate to repeal many of the most onerous features of the Military Commissions Act. If passed, some of its main acts would be to:
- Restore the right of habeas corpus for people detained by the U.S.
- Narrow the definition of the MCA term "unlawful enemy combatant" to individuals who directly participate in attacks against the United States.
- Let United States detainees invoke the ethical codes of the Geneva Conventions again.
- Let U.S. detainees obtain a civilian lawyer for their defense.
- Prohibit the use of evidence garnered through torture.
- Prohibit the use of hearsay, upon the judge's discretion.
- Let juries know how statements were obtained from detainees.
- Permit federal appeals courts to review the decisions of military commissions.
In short, S. 576 would restore respect for the Constitution and a modicum of humanity to the government of the United States. Sadly, Senator Schumer has failed to recognize how important the restoration of constitutional standards are to our country. Perhaps he ought to review his oath of office again.
- Almost a month ago now, Senator Diane Feinstein introduced S.594, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007, to the United States Senate. The law forbids the United States government from spending money to use, sell or transfer cluster bombs unless the following requirements are met:
- The cluster bombs are proven to have a 1 percent or lower rate of malfunction
- The cluster bombs will not be used against anything but a clearly defined military target, in an area where there are no civilians and in places where civilians do not ordinarily live
- A plan is submitted, with the costs included, for cleaning up all the undetonated explosives that come from cluster bombs, whether they are used by the US military, or by other countries to whom the United States has supplied the cluster bombs
There is a waiver in the law for the first requirement (for the malfunctioning rate of 1 percent or lower), in cases in which it is "vital" to use cluster bombs in order to protect the security of the United States. However, even in such cases, the President is required to submit a report to Congress which explains how civilians will be protected from the cluster bombs, and revealing the failure rate of the cluster bombs, as well as whether the cluster bombs are equipped with self-destruct functions.
The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act is not a perfect law. We are not too fond of that waiver. However, the law is a big improvement over the status quo. Right now, there's nothing to stop the United States from using cluster bombs, as it did during the invasion of Iraq, or selling them for other countries to use, as was done last year with the cluster bombs that Israel used against the civilian population of Lebanon.
The thing that makes cluster bombs so much worse than ordinary bombs is that they have a high failure rate, combined with a high number of small bombs that are spread over large areas of land by the larger bombs in which they are originally obtained. Cluster bombs are designed to kill people, not to damage buildings or roads. Like land mines, they continue to kill people long after the battle in which they were used. It is typical for a large number of these smaller bombs to remain undetonated, waiting to explode, after their initial deployment. The Federation of American Scientists reports, "Studies that show 40 percent of the duds on the ground are hazardous and for each encounter with an unexploded submunition there is a 13 percent probability of detonation. Thus, even though an unexploded submunition is run over, kicked, stepped on, or otherwise disturbed, and did not detonate, it is not safe. Handling the unexploded submunition may eventually result in arming and subsequent detonation."
Cluster bombs kill civilians when they are used. Our government knows this, and yet our government continues to manufacture, use and sell cluster bombs to foreign countries.
Senator Feinstein deserves our thanks for introducing the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act to the floor of the Senate. But Senator Schumer has not earned out thanks. He has either dawdled or looked the other way, failing to support this bill and the effort behind it.
Right Wing Index Score: 0A score of 0 means that Senator Schumer has acted to support 0% of a slate of conservative, wrongheaded policies in the 110th Congress.
We are happy to report that among the political decisions by Senator Schumer that we have tracked to date, not one qualifies as regressively conservative.