Washington, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following statement today as the Senate prepares to take up the Budget Resolution.
Remarks as prepared:
Mr. President, earlier this week, I met with a group of Ministers from a host of Protestant denominations. They were very concerned about the budget, and shared with me a story from the Gospel of Luke about a rich man and the poor man who lived at his gates named Lazarus. In life, the rich man lived a grand life and paid no attention to the poor man, refusing to come to his aid. But in death, it was Lazarus who went to Heaven and the rich men who suffered in Hell.
Their purpose in telling me the story was to point out the immorality of turning a blind eye to economic injustice. And they wanted to make a larger point about the Bush 2006 Budget, which, as they put it, has “much for the rich man and Little for Lazarus.”
And when you examine the Bush budget through a moral lens, as these ministers have done, you can clearly see the injustice and the lack of values in it.
The President is proposing that we make deep cuts in many programs that are important for working Americans and for those in real need. And why? To pay for large tax breaks for the very wealthy and to provide a variety of giveaways to special interests.
Through his budget, the President is ignoring the lessons of the rich man who learned too late that we must reach out and help the Lazaruses in our lives.
For example, the President’s budget cuts health care for our most vulnerable citizens. The budget would cut Medicaid, which ensures that more than 50 million children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities have access to the medical services they need. At the same time, the budget maintains a large slush fund for HMO’s. Is that right?
The President’s budget also calls for cutting education. More than 48 education programs would be affected, with cuts exceeding $1 billion. So our kids will suffer. At the same time, the budget calls for opening up a precious wilderness area in Alaska for the oil and gas industry. Is that right?
The budget cuts benefits for veterans. Yes, the men and women who have served our nation with such bravery and courage – the people who have put their lives on the line on behalf of their nation – they’re going to have to pay more for their health care. At the same time, the Administration wants to protect drug industry profits by denying Medicare the right to bargain for lower prices. Is that right?
The budget cuts the COPS program. That’s the program that helps communities hire police officers, to keep their streets safe. So our men and women in uniform, and the neighborhoods they serve, will suffer. At the same time, the budget does little to close the many special interest loopholes that are allowing big corporations to avoid paying taxes. Is that right?
The budget underfunds environmental protection. At the same time, it lets big polluters off the hook from paying the cost of cleanups. Is that right?
The budget fails to adequately fund the national family planning program, which provides critical health care services to low income women and helps reduce the number of unintended pregnancies. At the same time, it continues to support so-called health savings accounts, tax breaks that help the well-off but are out of reach for those of modest means. Is that right?
Mr. President, America is a country that values everyone — the worker just as much as the CEO. And most Americans would agree that it’s not right to cut health care for kids and the elderly, cut education, cut veterans benefits, and cut law enforcement -while handing out a wide variety of giveaways to special interests and the powerful. That’s not just bad policy. It’s wrong.
Mr. President, if it were up to Democrats, we would craft a budget based on our nation’s values: security, opportunity and responsibility.
To promote security, we would ensure adequate funding of our police, firefighters and first responders.
To promote opportunity, we would make our schools safer and stronger, and ensure that every American has access to affordable health care.
To promote responsibility, we would restore fiscal discipline and end the era of deficits and debt.
Unfortunately, the budget resolution approved yesterday by the Budget Committee is inconsistent with these values. Instead, with a few changes on the margins, it’s based largely on the President’s deeply flawed budget.
I think we can do better. And next week, as we take up the budget resolution, Senate Democrats will work to make it better. Our goal is to turn this budget into a moral document of which we can all be proud. A document that truly reflects our nation’s priorities and the values of the American people.