Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada on the floor of the U.S. Senate today outlined the Democrats’ agenda for the new work period:
“It wasn’t long ago that many of us criticized the Iraqi parliament for signaling that they would break for summer recess without completing any of their major legislative goals. We were right to do so. They were elected to do a job for the Iraqi people. It would have been irresponsible to leave for a long vacation before that job was done – and as we can see, they still have a very long way to go.
“Here in Congress, we have much work ahead of us as well. And in this work period, we will hold ourselves to the same standard that we held the Iraqi government: We will keep working until we get the job done. This will be one of our most important work periods of the year. In the coming weeks, we have the chance to accomplish many of the things the American people sent us here to do.
“First, we will address the Defense Authorization bill – which will give us a chance to support our troops with a readiness amendment that requires active-duty troops to have at least the same amount of time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas. It will also be our next chance to force the responsible course change in Iraq that President Bush refuses, but the American people demand and deserve.
“Second, we will reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides health insurance to six million children from low-income families. SCHIP must be reauthorized before it expires, and I hope we can all agree that keeping children healthy is too important to fall victim to partisan politics.
“Third, we will turn to the Higher Education Access Act,a bill that will help more Americans afford college by addressing the alarming rise in tuition costs.
“Fourth, we will tackle the Homeland Security Appropriations bill. Our bill strengthens airport, seaport and border security, supports our first responders, and plugs security gaps that have been ignored for too long.
“Fifth, we’re going to send the 9/11 and Ethics bills to conference. We passed both bills with overwhelming bipartisan support. Just a handful of colleagues on the other side of the aisle now seem intent on blocking progress.
“It’s time to put these political games aside so that we can get the job done that the American people sent us here to do. We will address each of these issues before we end the work period and break for August recess. I know that recess is important. It gives members the opportunity to travel, at home and abroad, which widens our understanding of the issues we face. For example, two of our colleagues, Senators Reed and McCain, just returned from a trip to Iraq over the 4th of July recess. August recess is also a time to meet with constituents back home, and that’s important too.
“But we were sent here for one reason above all others: to legislate. And that is what we must do. So I advise each of my colleagues to keep your August travel plans flexible. I believe we can address each of the issues I mentioned in these next four weeks. But that’s not just up to me.
“I will move the calendar along at a pace that allows for fair debate but not obstruction. In recent weeks, we have seen some of our Republican colleagues filibuster on issues with overwhelming bipartisan support. That is their right, but it is wrong for America – and we will not let them run out the clock.
“President Wilson once said, ‘The commands of democracy are as imperative as its privileges and opportunities are wide and generous. Its compulsion is upon us.’ The compulsion to get the job done is upon us now, and I look forward to a very successful work period.”