Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate prior to the vote on the Reid-Byrd Economic Recovery Act of 2008, which Senate Republicans then blocked. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We know the focus of Congress and the eyes of our nation are fixed on negotiations to pass financial bailout legislation. Democrats in Congress are committed to acting as quickly as we responsibly can to pass legislation that puts the American people first. Clearly there is still work to be done. We must pass the bailout bill, but it must be passed with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans in both chambers.
“Only with the full confidence of Congress can we ask for confidence from 300 million rightly skeptical Americans. We negotiated long into last night, and our negotiations continue today.
“But the bailout bill is not the only step we can take to help create jobs and help the American people weather the storm of the Bush-McCain economy. With all the talk about whether the Bush bailout plan puts Wall Street ahead of Main Street, we can pass an economic stimulus plan right now that puts Main Street squarely first.
“This economic stimulus plan provides targeted investments that will help working people right now. Not weeks, months or years from now. The dollars we invest in this legislation will come right back into our economy by creating jobs, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and helping small businesses grow:
- With 605,000 jobs lost this year alone, this legislation extends unemployment benefits by seven weeks across our country and by thirteen weeks in states with particularly high unemployment rates.
- With states across America facing budget shortfalls as revenue dries up, this legislation provides funds to prevent state services like health care and education from deteriorating.
- We invest in energy efficiency and clean energy programs to help Americans switch to cleaner energy sources that will cost less as oil prices continue to reach record highs.
- We invest in our crumbling infrastructure, which will not only help small and large businesses but will create nearly 400,000 good jobs.
- We help Americans who are at risk of losing their homes by supporting the Federal Housing Administration, providing tools to stop mortgage fraud, and funding legal assistance for foreclosure prevention.
- This legislation also invests in job training, health care and small businesses to give our working Americans and our economy a desperately-needed boost.
“As I have said before, Members of Congress from both parties will continue working as long as it takes to resolve the bailout legislation. But we don’t have to wait until that bill is passed and implemented to help struggling American families and businesses. I urge all my colleagues to support these wise investments in the places and people that need help the most.”
Bush-McCain Republicans Blocked an Increase in Unemployment Insurance. Given the unemployment rate currently stands at 6.1 percent, the highest rate since September 2003, and the U.S. economy has lost jobs every month this year, a total of 605,000, the economic recovery bill Republicans blocked sought extend unemployment benefits by seven weeks in all states and another thirteen weeks in high unemployment states.[CQ, 9/26/08]
Bush-McCain Republicans Blocked Needed Assistance to States. According to a recent estimate, twenty-nine states are facing a $52 billion shortfall in revenues in their FY 2009 budgets, resulting in cuts in health care, education, and other programs. The Democratic economic recovery bill included $19.6 billion to help states by reducing their share of Medicaid costs. [CQ, 9/26/08]
Bush-McCain Republicans Blocked Initiatives to Make America More Energy Independent. The Democratic economic recovery measure called for major investments in promoting energy independence. The underlying amendment included $7.5 billion to support $25 billion in loans to auto companies to manufacture more energy-efficient vehicles. In addition, $300 million for advanced battery research, $300 million to help local governments improve energy efficiency, $750 million for environmental clean up, and $800 million for urban and rural clean water systems were called for. [CQ, 9/26/08]
Bush-McCain Republicans Blocked Much Needed Law Enforcement Grants. The Democratic economic recovery bill included $490 million for Byrne grants, which go to local law enforcement agencies and $500 million for the competitive COPS hiring grant program, which could have put 6,500 new cops. In addition, the measure called for providing $776 million for border facility construction and other homeland security infrastructure. [CQ, 9/26/08]
Bush-McCain Republicans Blocked Housing Assistance for Families Displaced by Foreclosure. TheDemocratic economic recovery bill called for providing $702 million to promote safety and energy efficiency in public housing, implement provisions of the recent housing bill, give housing assistance to tenants displaced by foreclosure, and fund FBI investigations of fraud in the mortgage market. Over $2 billion in loans and grants were to be made available for rural housing. [CQ, 9/26/08]