Senate Democrats

REID: THE SENATE SHOULD ADDRESS THE AMERICAN PEOPLE’S PRIORITIES

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, calling on him to put aside a constitutional amendment with no hope of passage in favor of much-needed legislation that would address the issues that matter most to the American people.

The text of Senator Reid’s letter is below.

June 6, 2006

The Honorable William Frist

Majority Leader

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Frist,

For the last week, I have had the chance to talk to the people of Nevada about issues of concern to them. They are worried about the war in Iraq and the state of our national security.  They are worried about gas prices, health care costs and education. The American people know what the most important issues are and they want the Senate to take the same bipartisan approach to these problems as we took to comprehensive immigration reform.

Sadly, instead of national security, gas prices, health care costs or other critical issues, you will turn the Senate’s attention to constitutional amendments to ban same sex marriage and flag burning and a bill to repeal the estate tax for the wealthiest Americans.

I understand the concerns many Americans have about these issues and my position on each is clear. These issues, however, are hardly the most pressing ones facing Americans today.  At a time when the American people expect us to work together to address their major concerns, you have proposed a partisan political agenda that will do nothing to help working Americans and their families.

Instead, I urge you to allow the Senate to focus on critical national security issues during the June legislative session, including legislation to help our troops and their families, to assist our intelligence agencies, to improve our defenses against terrorist attack, and to reduce gas prices and reliance on foreign energy sources.  Some of the specific bills the Senate could consider include:

(1)  The Defense Authorization bill which authorizes funding for our troops and their families, essential training and equipment, and policy guidance on virtually every major issue impacting the Armed Forces.  At a time of war, delaying consideration of this bill for other less important issues as occurred last year is simply inexcusable.

(2) The Green Lane Maritime Cargo Security Act, authored by a bipartisan group of Senators, which addresses the critical security lapses in America’s ports.  The bill, supported by the Bush Administration, creates incentives for shipping companies to prescreen cargo prior to shipment and expands the infrastructure and the resources needed to better protect our seaports. 

(3) The Intelligence Authorization bill is vital to thousands of intelligence community professionals, many on the front lines in the war on terror.  Due to reported Republican objections, the Senate failed last year for the first time in 28 years to take up and pass an annual intelligence authorization bill.  The Senate should consider the 2007 intelligence authorization bill without delay.

(4) The Maritime, Rail and Public Transportation Security Act, a comprehensive homeland security bill, which would strengthen several key aspects of transportation security.  If enacted, the legislation would improve the examination of cargo before it reaches U.S. ports, compel the Transportation Security Administration to develop standards to improve rail security, and authorize a series of measures to better secure our nation’s mass transit systems.

            (5)  The Clean EDGE Act, which offers a comprehensive approach to the important national security issues of America’s reliance on imported oil and our need for energy independence.  Skyrocketing gas and energy prices affect every American’s budget and have ripple effects through the entire economy.  It is essential that the Senate addresses these matters immediately and I urge you to schedule debate on this issue this month.

We have an opportunity this month to show the American people that the Senate is capable of reversing course and dealing with vital problems that truly matter to them. I urge you to put aside your political agenda in favor of legislation that addresses the critical issues of national and homeland security and energy independence. Let us continue what we started with immigration reform, and in a bipartisan spirit of compromise, do what is best for the people we were elected to serve.

Sincerely,

Harry Reid

Senate Democratic Leader

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