Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the Senate’s accomplishments in the face of Republican obstruction this work period. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The day I was selected by my peers as the new Democratic Leader back in 2004, I said that I would rather dance than fight. I feel that way just as strongly now as I did then.
“I was elected to the Senate because the people of Nevada knew that though I am a proud Democrat, I would eagerly reach across the aisle to find common ground whenever possible. My friendship and close working relationship with Senator Ensign is proof of the good that can come from this approach to legislating.
“It may not be apparent to those who watch the daily skirmishes of the Senate from afar, but Democrats have approached every issue in this Congress with the same eagerness to find common ground. On occasion, our Republican colleagues have joined Democrats in the pursuit of progress. When they’ve chosen that path, we have together accomplished great things for the American people.
“Even in this work period, which will be most remembered for Republican obstruction, we can find examples of significant bipartisan accomplishments.
“We passed a comprehensive housing bill into law. The housing crisis has been uprooting families and wreaking havoc upon neighborhoods across our country for far too long. Finally, because the Senate passed a housing bill, the 8,500 families who receive foreclosure notices each day will have a new reason for hope.
“This work period, we passed the Medicare “doctor’s fix” legislation and overrode the President’s senseless veto. It took the courage of Ted Kennedy rising from his sick bed against doctor’s orders to cast the deciding vote. But because he did – and enough Republican joined with us – we renewed the long-held American promise that the elderly will receive the health care they need.
“We also passed this work period a bill that attests to America’s charity and moral authority in the world – the PEPFAR bill. PEPFAR provides an unprecedented level of support for the fight against AIDS in Africa. It is not often that I have occasion to praise President Bush, but he was a champion for PEPFAR. I am so pleased that Senate Republicans eventually chose to end their obstruction and we passed the PEPFAR legislation.
“Late yesterday, we wrapped up the work period by passing two more important initiatives – Consumer Product Safety and the Higher Education Opportunity Act. At a time when parents are rightly more concerned than ever about the safety of the toys they buy for their children, the Consumer Product Safety bill gives parents and all consumers new assurance that the goods we buy have been fully tested and approved for safe use.
“The Higher Education Act had not been reauthorized in 10 years until last night, so it was long overdue. Because we passed it, millions of bright young American minds will have the opportunity to unlock the doors of opportunity that a college education provides.
“Our country will be stronger for every one of the bills we passed this work period. Yet I feel far more disappointment than satisfaction. I think back upon this work period and wonder what might have been – what might we have accomplished if our Republican colleagues had decided to dance with us more often.
“We could have gone a long way toward solving America’s energy crisis. Yesterday was a microcosm for why the Senate failed to do so. Democrats came to the floor to offer seven different energy initiatives. Our plan would tackle every piece of the energy puzzle: increasing supply with more domestic production; reducing demand by investing in clean renewable alternatives; going after those who keep oil prices artificially high for their own financial gain; and helping those in need pay their skyrocketing heating bills.
“Republicans said no to every one of those ideas. Because they did, the American people will have to wait for short and long-term solutions to the energy crisis, and that is unfortunate.
“With more Republican cooperation, we could have passed mental health parity legislation – a bipartisan bill to ensure equal access to health care for people with mental illness. With more Republican cooperation, we could have passed a package of 35 bipartisan bills that Republicans blocked. That package includes:
- The Emmitt Till Unsolved Crimes bill, which would help heal old wounds and provide the Department of Justice and the FBI tools needed to effectively investigate and prosecute unsolved civil rights era-murders;
- The Runaway and Homeless Youth bill, which would provide grants for health care, education and workforce programs, and housing programs for runaways and homeless youth.
- The Combating Child Exploitation bill, which would provide grants to train law enforcement to use technology to track individuals who trade child pornography and establish an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
- And the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, which would enhance cooperation in research, rehabilitation and quality of life for people who suffer from paralysis.
“We were amazed that Republicans said no to those bills, but they did, and that is unfortunate.
“The list of critical priorities we could have done something about with even a small degree of Republican cooperation is far longer than I will recite today. But I will say that because Republicans chose the path of obstruction, the good we did is far outweighed by the good that could have been. I am not mad about that, but I am deeply disappointed.
“When we return in September, we will get right back to work. Perhaps by then, the political winds will blow in a different direction, and Republicans will return with a new willingness to work together. If they do, we can work out a bipartisan plan on energy that meets our country’s near- and long-term needs.
“We can send the American people a new economic stimulus bill to help families make ends meet and strengthen an economy that has now lost jobs every month this year.
“We can pass a defense authorization bill that provides our military with the funds they need to keep our country safe, and takes care of those who serve us bravely with an across-the-board 3.9 percent military pay raise and major investments in the physical safety and mental health of our troops.
“We can pass a military construction/veterans affairs appropriations bill to maintain and upgrade our military facilities, build better military family housing, and ensures the care that our veterans deserve.
“And we can pass a defense appropriations bill to keep our Armed Forces prepared for combat and peace time missions, relieve the strain of constant 15 month deployments, and support highly classified initiatives in the fight against terrorism.
“With the presidential election drawing near, our time will be short. But with new cooperation from our Republican colleagues, we can do all this – and pass several other important, bipartisan bills already passed by the House of Representatives.
“So I would like to wish all my colleagues well in their August travels. I know that we are all weary from a long and difficult work period. I also know that the fights that await our return won’t be easy. I hope a month back home will give our Republican colleagues a new appreciation for how badly America needs the change that they have blocked.
“Our hands remain outstretched. Our eagerness to seek common ground remains as strong as ever. We will fight if we must, but we would much rather dance.”