Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“This week, we will receive the conference report for the Veterans and Labor, Health and Education Appropriations bills. This legislation was supported overwhelmingly by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. It provides the greatest funding increase ever to care for our troops and veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country. It repairs the woeful conditions we have seen at Walter Reed and other military health centers. And it will help reduce the logjam that is keeping thousands of veterans from receiving health care because the VA has been under-funded.
“The labor, health and education portion of the bill makes critical investments in America’s children – and substantially increases the federal commitment to medical research for diseases like Alzheimer’s. This legislation passed the Senate overwhelmingly because they are the right priorities for America. Unfortunately, President Bush has promised a veto, and that is unfortunate.
“This is the same President who has under-funded and short-changed our troops, our veterans and our domestic priorities here at home, who now argues that this bill costs too much. He is just plain wrong. Now, it appears that Republicans will attempt to separate the VA portion of the bill. The minority supported the Mil-Con/VA bill and the Labor-HHS-Education bill overwhelmingly. Now they will apparently seek to put up road blocks to their passage.
“I urge all my colleagues to reject this effort so that we can pass and send this crucial legislation to the President as soon as possible.”
“This week, we also turn to the Farm Bill. Chairmen Harkin and Baucus and Ranking Members Chambliss and Grassley deserve tremendous credit for working both among their caucus and across the aisle to write the bill we will debate this week.
“In the 24 years I have been in Congress, first in the House, and now of course, in the Senate, no Farm Bill has embodied as much reform as this one. There are some who say this bill does not go far enough in the direction of reform. To those critics, it should be clear that there will be opportunity for Senators to offer amendments during debate.
“What I like to see more reform? Of course I would. But I would like to focus on the positive and forward-looking elements that lie at the heart of the bill:
- “It saves billions by reforming existing programs, which allows new investment to expand food and nutrition programs for families, the elderly and the disabled – as well as an expansion of the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program to all 50 states to improve the health and wellness of American children;
- “it invests more than $4 billion in conservation programs to protect wetlands, grasslands and working farm land;
- “it takes us one step closer to the vital goal of energy independence with more than $1 billion for programs that are environmentally responsible while growing the farming economy;
- “it responds to the urgent need for permanent disaster assistance, which will help farmers respond to and recover from future unavoidable disasters;
- “it invests nearly $2 billion in specialty crops;
- “it offers a reasonable compromise on Country of Origin Labeling; and
- “it improves competition in the livestock industry.
“As I mentioned, I expect that there will be many amendments offered during floor debate. Senators Dorgan and Grassley will offer an amendment on payment limits. Senators Lautenberg and Lugar will offer an alternative farm bill amendment. Leader McConnell and I understand that these amendments are important to members on both sides of the aisle, and will work together to ensure that time is given for consideration.
“I am confident and hopeful that this process will result in a truly bipartisan bill that will support our agricultural communities, promote a cleaner environment and grow our economy.”