Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
Remarks as prepared:
“The August recess was memorable for me for several reasons, not the least of which was my first visit to a hospital on my behalf since I was 8 years old. I am grateful to the physicians who cared and consulted with me. Admiral Eisold, the Physician of the Capitol, is a national treasure – - the Congress is fortunate to have his curative hand over all we do.
“While speaking of Admirals, I would be remiss not to mention the Senate Chaplain, Admiral Barry Black. After my brief hospital visit, my first public appearance in Nevada was at the Faith Based Summit I had been planning since January. The event turned out very well. The highlight of the Summit was the presentation of Dr. Black, our Chaplain. I only wish all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Protestant, Mormon, Hindu and Muslim – could have heard his presentation on faith – - really on religion. It was inspiring.
“I am happy to report that I am well. I feel fine and have been advised medically that I have no restrictions on my activities. I am so fortunate to now return to work in the place I love – - the United States Senate.
“Words cannot adequately express my appreciation for the thoughts and prayers and good wishes I received from my Senate colleagues, the rest of the Senate family – some of whom are in the Chamber as I speak – and my friends in Nevada and around the country. I will long remember the cards, letters, phone calls, emails and other expressions of concern. So – even though these words are insufficient – I thank you, one and all.
“Mr. President, much has happened in the weeks since we adjourned for the August recess. In just the last few days, we’ve seen tragedy strike the Gulf Coast and learned that William Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, has passed. Our thoughts and prayers are with those struggling to pick up the pieces following the Hurricane, and with the Chief Justice’s family and friends.
“I had the good fortune of working with the Chief Justice on several occasions, the first when I was head of the DPC and he spoke at one of our policy lunches. At that lunch, Chief Justice Rehnquist displayed a great command of the law, a strong commitment to judicial independence and a sharp sense of humor. A few years later, I got to know him even better when he presided over the impeachment hearings in the Senate.
“I’m grateful to have worked with the Chief Justice. My condolences go out to his family. He will be missed.
“Now that the President has said he will nominate Judge Roberts to replace Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Senate’s Advice and Consent responsibility is even more important. If confirmed to this lifetime job, Judge Roberts would become the leader of the third branch of the federal government and the most prominent judge in the nation. The Senate must be vigilant in considering this nomination.
“In addition, I look forward to consulting with the President on the O’Connor seat. Justice O’Connor has been a voice of moderation and reason on the Court, and should be replaced by someone who, like her, embodies the fundamental American values of fairness, liberty and equality.
“Mr. President, the work we have to complete here in the waning days of this Session is significant and difficult, and nothing we do here in the days ahead can be more important than helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina get back on their feet. They are counting on us in their time of need. And we owe it to them to give them everything we can.
“The most terrible tragedies routinely bring out the best in Americans. We have seen that again in the aftermath of Katrina – one of the most horrible natural disasters in our nation’s history.
“Americans are coming together and giving their time and money to the millions of victims. They are putting their personal concerns aside so they can put Americans in need first. Now, they expect America’s government to do the same.
“There are dozens of steps the Senate can take in order to get immediate relief to victims along the Gulf Coast – steps we can take to make sure families get the health care, housing and monetary assistance they need. I commend the Majority leader for clearing the Senate Calendar so we can put relief first.
“Families in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are counting on us. They are suffering, and they have no where else to turn. We owe it to them to make their survival our top priority, and we should give them nothing less.”