Washington, DC — After spending the past two weeks listening to the concerns of the American people, the Senate has the opportunity to finally address the issues that matter most to the country. Unfortunately, President Bush and his Republican Leadership have decided to spend their time on politically divisive pet projects.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, urging him to put aside partisanship and join Democrats in a bipartisan effort to solve the problems that matter most to the nation, like lowering gas prices, easing the middle-class squeeze, and ensuring America’s security.
The text of the letter is below.
April 24, 2006
The Honorable William Frist, M.D.
United States Senate
The Capitol, Room S-230
Washington, D.C. 20510
We are 75 percent of the way through the 109th Congress. There is not much time left, especially when you consider how much work we have yet to do. Now, more than ever, it is important that we work together in a bipartisan fashion to address the critical issues facing the American people.
As Americans look back at what the Senate has accomplished this year and look forward to the issues you plan to place on the Senate’s calendar in the months ahead, they will no doubt be frustrated with the progress and priorities they see.
So far this year, we have accomplished very little that will actually improve the lives of real Americans. For example, although the Senate has spent numerous days this session attempting to complete action on last year’s budget legislation, we have yet to do so. We have failed to complete action on this year’s budget as well, even though the Budget Act sets a deadline for completion of April 15th . We have also taken up but failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Just as troubling as the Senate’s lackluster record is the fact that many of the legislative priorities you have announced you intend to pursue in the remaining months of this session neither reflect the will of the American people, nor address the major challenges they face in their daily lives. A constitutional amendment to ban flag desecration, a constitutional amendment to establish a federal definition of marriage and the elimination of the Estate Tax are serious issues of importance to many Americans. However, I am hopeful we can all agree that the top concerns of the American people are the war in Iraq and rising costs of gasoline, health care and education.
Today, I ask you to reconsider the issues you plan to bring before the Senate, and instead, join Democrats in addressing the real priorities of the American people. We have the opportunity over the next several weeks to change the American people’s poor perception of the Senate’s performance, and we can do so if we work together on the issues that really matter to the people of this country.
Reducing Gas Prices and Increasing Energy Security – At the same time oil companies are experiencing record profits, America’s families are being hit hard by record prices at the gas pump. The price of gas has increased 100 percent since 2001. It exceeds $3 in many regions of the country and is expected to rise still higher this summer. We should work together in the coming weeks to provide consumers relief and to ensure that price gouging will be fully investigated and prosecuted. We should also pass bipartisan legislation that will enhance our security and aggressively transform our energy policy by reducing oil imports and making job-creating investments in domestically-produced fuels and vehicles.
Making America More Secure – While Democrats will work with you on the supplemental appropriations bill next week to provide our troops the funding they need, there is so much more we can and must do to make America more secure. We ask that you work with us on the supplemental and other vehicles to address the security needs of our ports, chemical plants and infrastructure as well as the needs of our troops and their families, and our veterans. We also believe we should take up the Defense Authorization bill in the May work period and permit Senators ample time for debate and votes. Just as importantly, we believe that, unlike last year, we should stay on this bill until we complete action on it. We should not shunt it aside for other less important business.
Confronting America’s Health Care Crisis – Health care costs continue to skyrocket for businesses and families and the number of uninsured Americans has reached record levels. In the face of this crisis, you have proposed to take up two pieces of legislation that will neither lower health care costs nor increase coverage. First, you want to limit compensation for victims of medical malpractice, even though this unfair approach would harm the most seriously injured patients and have little effect on malpractice insurance premiums. Second, the small business health bill you propose to take up fails to provide self-employed individuals and small businesses with meaningful coverage and actually jeopardizes existing coverage for millions of Americans with state-regulated health insurance. We hope you will work with us on legislation that truly addresses, not exacerbates, this nation’s health care problems.
Passing Comprehensive Immigration Legislation – A bipartisan majority of the Senate believes our immigration system is broken and supports comprehensive legislation to secure our borders and reform our immigration laws. We urge you to return to this important legislation when the Senate completes action on the supplemental. We believe we can enact legislation that will both make the nation more secure and fix our broken immigration system if you join with us to defeat partisan amendments on the Senate floor and work with us to protect the Senate bill in the conference.
Providing Middle Class Tax Relief – The combination of stagnant wages and increased costs for health care, energy, and education have made life difficult for millions of working families across America. In the face of this problem, Republicans have proposed budget busting tax breaks that would primarily benefit multi-millionaires. We believe we can help by providing middle class families with fiscally responsible tax cuts and urge you to join with us in this effort.
The challenges before us are clear. The patience of the American people with their elected representatives is not unlimited. We sincerely hope you will join Democrats in a bipartisan effort to address these important issues. Although the remaining time in this session is short, I am confident that if you choose to drop your partisan agenda, there is much we can accomplish together on behalf of the American people.
Senate Democratic Leader