Washington,DC—The Senate Democratic Leadership sent a letter today to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, urging him to work with Senate Democrats as we confront the most severe economic crises in generations. Despite Democrats’ good-faith efforts to include Republican ideas and amendments in the economic recovery package, only three out of 219 Congressional Republicans voted for an urgent and responsible plan to create jobs, cut taxes for the middle class and invest in our future.
In today’s letter – the same day the economy contracted by a staggering 6.2 percent, the fastest rate in a quarter century – the Senate Democratic Leadership urges Leader McConnell and his conference to put political calculations aside and come to the table as we continue to address worsening crises in the housing market, financial sector and broader economy.
“If Congressional Republicans plan to oppose efforts to help Americans weather this crisis simply because President Obama proposes them, you are not simply denying the President a victory,”the Democratic Leaders wrote,“you are denying our nation a path to economic recovery and are betting against our economic future.”
The text of the letter is below.
February 27, 2009
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Dear Leader McConnell:
Every passing day and every new economic indicator underscores the severity of the crises confronting American families. Stricken with the rising costs of living, job loss and foreclosures, hundreds of thousands of families and entire neighborhoods in each of our states suffer profoundly. We know your constituents inKentuckyfeel it as well – the rising unemployment rate in your state outpaces the national average.
Both sides can agree that the economic challenges facing our nation are the most severe in generations, but we would be gravely concerned if you and your Party decide you are unwilling to work with President Obama to effectively address them. While our caucus agrees with the President that we must act quickly and boldly, many in your conference have chosen not to act at all.
Prior to debate of the economic recovery package that will save or create millions of jobs, cut taxes for hardworking Americans and invest in our future, President Obama incorporated into his legislation ideas proposed and embraced by Congressional Republicans. Furthermore, while moving this bill through the Senate, Democrats joined with Republicans to consider a number of your proposals, such as provisions that help Americans buy new homes and cut taxes for millions of Americans. In fact, more than $100 billion was added to the Senate bill at the Republicans’ request.
Despite these efforts to work in a bipartisan manner and incorporate Republican ideas, only three brave Senate Republicans voted to pass this critical plan. Of the 219 Republicans in the House and Senate, 214 voted against this bill and 2 were absent. While Congressional Republicans offered many explanations for their opposition, a majority of the American people have settled on a single reason: In a recentNew York Times/CBS poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans said Republicans opposed the economic recovery plan for political reasons, not policy ones. In the same poll, four in five Americans asked Republicans to start putting bipartisanship over ideology.
It is clear the American people are yearning for their leaders to work together to make their lives better. As they struggle with tightened budgets and mounting bills, they are clearly expecting Democrats and Republicans to set aside efforts to score political points and focus instead on addressing the economic crisis before us. They are telling us that now is not the time for political calculation.
We sincerely hope that Congressional Republicans’ resistance to the economic recovery package is not a preview of things to come. Turning this economy around will demand all hands on deck. The mortgage crisis, the financial crisis and the broader economic crisis are all interconnected, and we cannot successfully address any one of them without bipartisan support.
The economic recovery package was an important first step, but there is much more to do. In the coming weeks and months, Congress must act to help families avoid foreclosures that bring down property values and destroy communities. Congress must act to stabilize and reform our financial system to get credit flowing again and ensure the abuses and lack of oversight that caused this financial crisis never happen again. And Congress must also pass a fiscally responsible budget that reflects the priorities of hard working American families.
However, if Congressional Republicans plan to oppose efforts to help Americans weather this crisis simply because President Obama proposes them, you are not simply denying the President a victory – you are denying our nation a path to economic recovery and are betting against our economic future.
We can accomplish these goals and many more, but only if we work together. We both know that thoughAmericafaces serious economic challenges, its best days lie ahead. We will not only recover, but will once again prosper. We ask you and your conference to put prosperity ahead of political calculations, and join with President Obama and Congressional Democrats on the road to recovery.
Senator Harry Reid Senator Richard J. Durbin
Majority Leader Assistant Majority Leader
Senator Charles E. Schumer Senator Patty Murray
Conference Vice Chairman Conference Secretary