Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid released the following statement
Remarks as prepared:
“The philosopher Voltaire once said, “I may disagree with what you have to say, but I shall defend, to the death, your right to say it.”
“Every American knows that quote, because it reflects our most deeply cherished values and beliefs.
“Americans believe in freedom of expression. We believe in democracy. We believe in debate.
“That’s why I am so disappointed that the Administration and Republicans in Congress have attempted to stifle debate on the nomination of Condoleezza Rice to be Secretary of State.
“Secretary of State is the most powerful and important position in this and any administration.
“In my years in the Senate, I have studied our rules and procedures closely, and I have come to know them well.
“And in my years on this earth, I have studied the qualities and values that I believe will help us to become better people. One of those is “fairness,” and I have tried to uphold that value.
“So, between my knowledge of Senate rules, and my belief in the importance of fairness, I KNOW that we should be debating Dr. Rice’s nomination.
“It is our job in the Senate to debate matters of importance to the American people. We are a deliberative body. Our Founding Fathers meant for us to carefully consider the matters brought before us, and make sure our government does not act irrationally and does not act without a plan and vision for our country’s future.
“And it is a matter of fairness that those who have concerns about Dr. Rice be allowed to express them.
“Silence is not an important part of American history – debate is.
“It’s especially important that we hold debate on Dr. Rice’s nomination because of the importance of the job for which she’s being considered.
“Our Secretary of State will be handling our foreign policy – at a time when we are at war, and when our friendships with traditional allies have been strained.
“In Iraq, in Afghanistan and around the world, Americans face enormous threats and challenges every day.
“Almost fourteen-hundred Americans have died so far in Iraq, and more than ten thousand have been wounded.
“Today, 31 Marines died in one incident in Iraq. An estimated 40 troops have died in the last 2 days.
“The American people have questions and concerns about our plan in Iraq.
“Those questions deserve answers, and those concerns deserve to be addressed.
“That’s what the Senate should be doing – asking questions on behalf of the American people.
“Instead, we’re being criticized for not rubber-stamping this nomination.
“Nothing will matter more to the safety and security of our country than our foreign policy decisions over the next few years. If any nominee deserves scrutiny and rigorous debate, it’s the nominee for Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
“Democrats have had four hours of debate on Condoleezza Rice’s nomination. How can anyone say that’s too much?
“Americans take longer than four hours to decide whether to buy a car or a TV set. Certainly we can take four hours on a decision of this magnitude.
“The Republicans say a four-hour debate has been a burden to the country, and has been unreasonable. On the contrary – it is exactly what the founding fathers contemplated, with the advise and consent clause of the Constitution. Debate, vigorous debate, is an American principle, a principle of Democracy. It is a principle that is today in our national security and foreign policy interests.”