Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate to open the spring work period. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Our economic troubles can be tallied in statistics, but numbers alone cannot tell their toll. Every American knows this. The people of Nevada know this especially well – they have felt the full force of this recession as intensely as anyone in America.
“I received a letter this month from Bobby Mockbee. Bobby, his wife, Julia, and their two children live in North Las Vegas. Bobby is a stay-at-home dad and a little over a year ago, Julia was laid off from her job.
“Finding themselves near the end of tens of thousands of dollars they had put away, Bobby and Julia recently tried to get a loan. Like many families hurting right now, the Mockbees played by the rules. They’ve never paid a bill late. They have an excellent credit score. And they were no strangers to the ins and outs of the housing market – the job Mrs. Mockbee lost was as a vice president for a large title and escrow company.
“But they were turned down for that loan. Now the Mockbees fear that before long, they will be the latest in a long line of Nevada families who have lost their homes.
“Unemployment in Nevada is now in the double digits, the highest it has been in a quarter-century. But to a worker, like Julia Mockbee, who no longer can collect a paycheck, job loss is more than just an economic indicator. Families in my state lose their homes at the worst rate in the nation. But to someone who has lost a share of the American dream, foreclosure is more than just a cause and effect of the Wall Street collapse.
“I am confident that the steps we have taken this year to address these crises will ultimately anchor our recovery. But as I visited with Nevadans over the past couple of weeks, one message became clear: We must keep going. We must do more. The hole we’ve inherited from George W. Bush is deep, and our long climb back up has just begun.
“We have seen promising progress and are beginning to see a return on the investments we made in our economic recovery plan. But we are still far closer to the starting line than the finish.
“We promised to create or save at least three million jobs – and in states like Texas, Florida and Ohio, thousands of new construction jobs are already on the way. Students are getting better schools and a better education in Illinois and Tennessee. Veterans, children and low-income families in New Mexico and Maryland are getting better health care. And in Nevada, investments in green technology will lead us not only to economic recovery, but to energy independence.
“This Congress faced monumental challenges when we convened just a few short months ago. Our response has been swift and strong:
· We cut taxes for the middle class so they can keep more of their paychecks at a time when they need it most.
· We made sure more children get the care they need to stay healthy.
· We outlawed pay discrimination to ensure women will be treated as equals in the workplace and ensure that hard work is rewarded fairly no matter who you are.
· We passed a responsible budget that, when put into action, will make investments in health care, clean energy and education to help us not only recover, but prosper.
· And we passed one of the most important conservation bills in decades to protect our environment and natural resources for generations to come.
“I wish I could say that we did these things with broad support from our Republican colleagues. It would have been good for the country if we had. Unfortunately, we only had the help of a few courage Senators, and even less help in the House.
“Nevertheless, our progress so far is a healthy down payment. But there is much more to do to address the root of this crisis. That is why in the coming weeks, we will keep going:
· We will give bankruptcy judges the chance to modify existing mortgages so responsible families who played by the rules can make their payments and stay in their homes.
· We will also fight financial fraud in the mortgage business and hold accountable those who game the system on the backs of those who make an honest living. This week we will fix the criminal code to punish lenders who betray the public trust, take advantage of American families and further endanger our economy.
· We will finish work on the budget we passed earlier this month so we can begin to correct the mistakes of the past and invest in our future.
· And we will ensure our troops have the resources they need to more effectively fight extremists in the Middle East and make Americans safer.
“These are not small ambitions. But they are not luxuries we want to pass. They are priorities we must pass because American families are still suffering. They are still worried about losing their jobs and losing their homes.
“No effort to recover can succeed unless Democrats and Republicans work together. I had hoped this year of change would have inaugurated a new era of common purpose. Instead, Democrats’ efforts have met an all-too-familiar wall of reflexive Republican opposition.
“I still hold the hope that we will see the bipartisan cooperation necessary to fulfill the rest of our obligation to the American people. I still believe we can put aside our political differences and put them first.
“The last time America looked up from an economic hole so deep, it resoundingly elected a new leader, Franklin Roosevelt, not with a mandate for reticence or for repeating the mistakes of the past, but with the urgent instruction to lift up our nation, reject fear and recover from financial turmoil.
“Just weeks before that election, Americans who would soon swarm to the polls packed theaters to see a Marx Brothers blockbuster called ‘Horse Feathers.’ The film starts with a song that could just as easily have been written by today’s obstructionists. Groucho Marx sang: ‘I don’t know what they have to say / It makes no difference anyway / Whatever it is, I’m against it!’
“The lyrics were a hit in Hollywood, and that where they should stay. As a legislative strategy, it’s nothing short of reckless. The American people expect more from their leaders, and their serious problems deserve better than a vaudeville act – but that is just what Americans have gotten from Republicans in the Senate.
“Nearly eight decades later, in the face of familiar troubles, we cannot afford to say no because it is easier than doing the hard work of making life better for struggling families. We cannot afford to work against each other because it is more politically convenient than working together. We cannot afford to bet against America’s resilience and recovery because it stirs partisan passions.
“The American people did not send anyone here simply to be against everything. They still want to hear what Republicans support, not just what they oppose.
“Families are too busy trying to make this week’s paycheck last until the next to keep track of who’s scoring political points. They worry about paying the electric bill, the mortgage bill or the tuition bill – not about games and gimmicks. In the history of American government, partisan bickering has never saved a single job or kept one family from losing its home.
“I hope Republicans will join us to confront the crises in our communities and around the world, and I hope they start this afternoon when we vote on moving forward with the nomination of Christopher Hill.
“We have had to file cloture this year on five of the President’s nominees – the Secretary of Labor, the Deputy Attorney General, two members of the Council of Economic Advisors, and, incredibly, America’s Ambassador to Iraq. Republicans are so opposed to everything, they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government.
“Christopher Hill is a strong and skilled negotiator who has tackled some of the most complex diplomatic challenges in the world.
“He didn’t waste any time going overseas to make life better for others. Immediately after graduating from Bowdoin College, he joined the Peace Corps in Africa.
“Ambassador Hill then joined the Foreign Service, served tours in half a dozen countries in Europe and Asia and earned a graduate degree from the Naval War College.
“The man we will send to Iraq is no stranger to dealing with difficult governments and ethnic civil wars. He successfully coordinated multilateral negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program and was a key player in the peace talks that ended conflicts in both Kosovo and Bosnia.
“General Petraeus has always said that the cure to Iraq’s troubles will be prescribed politically, not militarily. General Odierno has called for civilian help to secure what his brave troops have accomplished. Experts from the left and right alike have warned against us taking our eye off the ball in Iraq. And yet our top diplomat in the country where more than 4,000 Americans have given their lives – and each day 143,000 more risk their own – sits and awaits his starting date.
“Each of our three ambassadors to Iraq since the beginning of the war has called on us to urgently fill this gaping hole in our diplomatic lineup, and to fill it with Ambassador Hill. He has spent his entire career in the Foreign Service, and is ready to answer his country’s call once again.
“I hope Republicans will not make us use all 30 hours of procedural time before we can have a final vote on our next Ambassador to Iraq. But if they do, we will hold a final vote as soon as that time expires. We cannot wait any longer for civilian leadership in Iraq.
“Those who stand in the way should stand down so that Ambassador Hill can get to work making America more secure, and so the Senate can move to the important work of getting our economy back on track.
“Democrats and Republicans alike have an interest in stabilizing the Middle East. Democrats and Republicans alike have an interest in stabilizing our economy. But neither security abroad nor prosperity at home can happen unless both Democrats and Republicans work together toward these common goals.
“As we begin our work here anew, I hope my colleagues keep in mind what they saw and heard across the country over the last few weeks – the hardworking people in their communities who struggle against conditions they did not create, the earliest signs of recovery beginning to bloom this spring, and the hope that with much more to be done, their leaders will be up to the task.
“I urge my Republican friends to think twice before they return to the refrain of ‘Whatever Democrats are for, we’re against.’ I remind them that what we are for is the success and the security of the American people. If we’re going to turn the tide, if we’re going change the tone, it’s time we sing a different tune.”