Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gave the following statement on the floor of the United States Senate:
Remarks as prepared:
“As elected representatives of the American people, we have a responsibility to work with each other and focus on their needs.
“This is an obligation Democratic Senators have not taken lightly. We have spent the last 11 months trying to make a difference for each American citizen.
“Democrats fought to protect Social Security – – when Republicans tried to destroy it through their risky privatization scheme.
“Democrats fought for a budget that honors America’s values – – when Republicans passed a terrible budget that leading religious leaders called immoral because of its deep cuts and irresponsible tax breaks.
“Democrats moved quickly to help Katrina’s victims – – when that storm exposed the Bush administration’s incompetence and it became clear that Republicans were going to sit on their hands.
“Democrats tried to help families with energy prices….when prices spiked and Congressional Republicans only cared about their Big Oil friends.
“And Democrats stood up for our troops, Veterans and a success strategy in Iraq – – when it became clear that the White House was more interested in launching vicious attacks than providing the leadership America needs.
“Democrats know that we were sent here to do a job on behalf of the American people. We understand that together, America can do better.
“Unfortunately, as I have said, Republicans shunned our efforts.
“Instead of joining us in helping every American, they’ve blocked our efforts and decided to focus on the narrow interests of a special few.
“In fact, if you want to see the misplaced priorities of the Republican Party, look no further than the agenda they set for the United States Senate.
“If the Senate could spend over 30 days debating radical judges – and devote days to the tragic affairs of the Schaivo family – Republicans should have been able to find a few days to help millions of Americans with health care, education and energy prices too.
“While some of the work we have done this year is important, more important is the work we have missed.
“Consider the latest example – Katrina Relief.
“Democrats introduced a comprehensive Katrina relief package hours after the storm had passed. The legislation – S.1637 – included proposals to ensure that displaced families receive the health care, housing, and financial relief they need.
“Republicans talked a good game about helping victims, but over two months later, you only have to pick up the paper to know that tens of thousands of Americans still need housing, health care and financial help.
“Democrats have tried to act on these families behalf, but every time, Republicans have found something better to do.
“Of course, this is a pattern all too familiar from our Republican friends.
“When Democrats wanted to discuss health care and education, Republicans decided to debate changing Senate rules so they could pack the courts with the President’s radical nominees.
“When Democrats wanted to help families struggling with rising energy prices, Republicans gave billions to big oil – who – I might add – we’re taking in record profits at the time.
“And when Democrats wanted to the help neediest among us, Republicans decided to make deep cuts to programs working families count on, so they could give tax breaks to special interests and multi-millionaires instead.
“America can do better than these misplaced priorities.
“Whether it’s supporting our troops or providing relief from rising health and energy costs, it’s time for the Senate to get its priorities straight.
“When we return next session, let’s not waste more time putting the needs of a special few ahead of the priorities of the American people.
“Let’s pass fiscally responsible tax relief to help middle-class families who are being squeezed between declining wages and rising prices….
“Let’s move forward on issues like energy independence, real security, and affordable health care….
“And let’s build on the progress we made Tuesday with our vote on Iraq.
“On Tuesday, Democrats and Republicans voted overwhelming to express no confidence in this Administration’s Iraq policy.
“We must continue to push the President, because it’s clear he has no interest in taking the Senate’s advice.
“Instead of “changing course” as the Senate demanded, the White House has decided to reignite the Cheney-Rove smear machine and attack its critics instead.
“We saw it yesterday with Congressman Jack Murtha.
“While I don’t agree with the immediate withdrawal plan Congressman Murtha proposed, this brave man’s patriotism and his commitment to defend our country should never be questioned.
“Congressman Murtha served in Vietnam. He’s a highly decorated Veteran…someone who knows what it’s like to bleed in combat. When he speaks, the White House should listen. They could learn a thing or two.
“And let’s remember, Congressman Murtha isn’t the only combat Veteran calling for a debate about Iraq. Here in the Senate, Senator Hagel has also said it’s our patriotic duty to question what’s going on.
“The deceiving, distorting and divisive political attacks must end. We need an open, honest debate about what’s happening in Iraq.
“Next year, I hope Republicans will join Democrats in this debate.
“It’s easy to attack those who don’t agree with you. The hard part is leading and giving our troops a strategy for success.
“Mr. President, the days and months ahead should be used to do the people’s business.
“We can’t change the past, but we can change the future. Next year, we need to focus on the priorities of America’s families.
“Together, we can do better and give our citizens a government as good and honest as its people.”