Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
“In the summer of 1858, a young state legislator from Illinois accepted his party’s nomination for the United States Senate with a timeless speech that echoed from coast to coast. ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’ he said. ‘I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.’
“One hundred fifty years later, a young United States Senator from the Land of Lincoln stood on the very same steps in Springfield to announce his pursuit of his party’s nomination for president – by calling upon our country to believe not just in his ability to change Washington, but to believe in what we can do together if we set aside what divides us in embrace of common purpose.
“Over the past 21 months, Barack Obama’s message of hope, much like Lincoln’s, spread across our country like a tidal wave. Two weeks ago, Americans waited in lines that stretched for blocks to answer Senator Obama’s call and cast their votes for change. Yesterday, Barack Obama officially ended his service in the United States Senate and traded up to a new title: president-elect.
“It has been a pleasure to know and work with this remarkable man during his short tenure in the Senate. His presence in these halls and on this Senate floor will be missed.
“But the United States Senate’s loss is America’s gain. I look forward to working with President-elect Obama as he concludes one chapter to begin another. But as no one knows better than the president-elect, our joy in his election is tempered by a sober realization of the challenges, great and grave, that lie ahead.
“In the six weeks since Congress recessed, our economic crisis has deepened. We have seen numerous bankruptcies, hundreds of thousands of jobs lost, consumer confidence plummeting, and unemployment up to 6.5 percent nationwide. This morning, we learned that Citigroup intends to cut an additional 50,000 jobs – on top of the 20,000 they announced previously. We are seeing a potential meltdown in the auto industry, with consequences that could directly impact millions of American workers and cause further devastation to our economy.
“If ever there were a time for bipartisan solutions, this is it. Senators have a choice to make: we could wait until January – when we have a new Congress and a new President – or we could start solving this crisis now. If we work together in these coming days, we can begin delivering solutions to the American people.
“Today we will introduce a comprehensive economic stimulus plan, worked out with the Appropriations, Finance and Agriculture Committees. Our plan will:
- Invest in infrastructure to create jobs;
- Extend unemployment insurance for those who are out of work;
- Provide food stamps to help more struggling families make ends meet;
- Provide state fiscal relief to prevent states from being forced to cut services and raise taxes;
- And provide aid to the ailing U.S. auto industry.
- The Treasury Department has acknowledged that they could provide the auto industry with the temporary assistance they need to remain solvent – all it would take is one pen stroke. The Federal Reserve also has the authority to provide funds.
“Thus far, neither the Treasury Department nor the Fed has done so – but this week, the Congress can. If we move forward, we can protect and create American jobs, help working families and prevent our economy from falling even further into recession.
“In the event there are objections to passing this important legislation, we will have the opportunity to vote on a second bill that consists solely of unemployment insurance and relief for the auto industry and its work force.
“So I ask my colleagues to show the American people that in the face of tremendous economic pain and uncertainty, we will not wait until January.
“On another matter, before we left for recess, there was some talk of moving to the lands package. Senator Bennett and I have decided that the best course of action will be to introduce that legislation once we return in January by Rule 14. I hope that this week we will work together, not as partisans but as public servants, all devoted to delivering the change our country needs and these difficult times demand.”