Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding Democrats’ efforts to make the American Dream affordable again while Republicans continue to stand in the way:
“This Saturday, Jeff Alberici from Auburn, New York, delivered the Democratic Weekly Radio Address. Jeff and his wife aren’t rich or poor – they are squarely middle class. He is a middle school American history teacher; she is a teacher’s assistant.
“Jeff said that if they didn’t have to transport their three children to school and sports practice, they would probably ride bikes to work to save on gas. He said that when his wife returned to work last year after staying home with their children, they thought the second income would give them the chance to pay off their debt and start saving for college.
“That hasn’t happened. Instead of getting ahead, the Alberici family’s second income is covering the extra cost of food and gasoline. Jeff summed things up by saying they’ll be fine – they are not in danger of losing their home, and neither of their jobs are at risk. But instead of ordering pizza for dinner now and then, now they make grilled cheese. And in the long term, they are not sure how they will afford to send their three children to college.
“Families in every state, region and corner of our country are facing the same challenges as the Albericis. Jeff and millions of others just like him were raised to believe that doing important work like teaching might not make you rich, but it would provide enough to live comfortably and raise a family.
“That middle-class dream – that American Dream – is vanishing before our eyes. Today, oil is trading near record levels again, hovering around $140 a barrel. Gasoline now averages $4.08 nationally – much higher in some parts of our country, including Nevada where it is $4.24. And this morning we learned that utility companies across the country are raising rates another 29 percent, on top of the 30 percent increases that American consumers have already endured over the past five years.
“On President Bush’s watch, American families are earning less today than they did eight years ago – yet paying more than ever for every day necessities like gas, heat and groceries, and more than ever for long-term needs and goals like health care, college and retirement.
“American families can’t survive this squeeze indefinitely. Right now, many are able to keep their heads above water by saving less and finding ways to tighten their belts. Like the Albericis, they are eating more grilled cheese and putting less of their paychecks into savings.
“Most Americans are too busy figuring out how to pay the bills and make ends meet to pay close attention to the United States Senate. But if working families see one thing from Congress, it is this: Democrats get it. We know what’s happening in America, and we are fighting every single day to make things better. Republicans? They talk about our country’s problems, but when time comes to stand up and take action, they are nowhere to be found.
“Republicans talk about high gas prices, alternative energy, the housing crisis and job loss – but each time Democrats have proposed solutions for those challenges, Republicans have said no.
“Our Republican colleagues can fill endless pages of the Congressional Record with endless speeches about the affordability crisis in America that a Republican President created and the Republican nominee hopes to continue. But the American people need more than empty words.
“Republicans can choose to keep standing on the sidelines, keep sticking with the status quo. They have that right. But Democrats will keep fighting to make the American Dream affordable again for the Albericis of Auburn, New York, and the millions of American families just like them who deserve better.
“Today we will give Republicans another opportunity to do the right thing by voting for cloture on the energy tax extenders bill. This legislation would lower taxes for businesses, entrepreneurs and families. The deduction for state and local sales taxes helps level the playing field and provides tax relief to residents in states with no income tax. The tuition deduction helps families afford the skyrocketing cost of college. The teacher’s deduction provides a small but important bit of help and appreciation to educators for out-of-pocket classroom expenses. This legislation would also extend tax benefits for businesses, particularly those engaged in research and development for clean renewable energy.
“Republicans have opposed this legislation in the past because it is paid for and will not increase the national debt. How do we pay for these tax cuts for businesses and families? By closing a loophole that allows super-wealthy hedge-fund managers executives avoid paying tax on their earnings.
“Why anyone would oppose legislation on these grounds is well beyond my comprehension. Why Republicans would oppose tax relief for businesses and families in order to protect a tax loophole for multimillionaires seems preposterous.
“Republicans have a right to side with hedge fund multimillionaires over small businesses and families. They have already done so by blocking the tax extender bill this year. Now they have a third chance to reverse course and support this legislation.
“Maybe this week, enough Republicans will see the suffering in their states and break with the President and their Republican Senate leaders to do the right thing. Maybe this is the time that enough Republicans say enough is enough.
“I know that our Republican colleagues see the terrible economic burden the American people are carrying. The only question is: Will they let it continue – or will they join us to do something about it? For all Republicans sitting on the fence, seeing how bad things have gotten but still not ready to stand up to the Republican party leadership, I ask: If not now, when?
“Democrats stand ready to legislate. Join us and we can begin repairing the damage and restoring the American Dream.”