Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“As the health care debate has heated up this week, Republicans have once again rolled out one of their standard, stale talking points: They question the efficiency of our government.
“But if Republicans want to have an honest debate about how our government operates, I suggest they start by looking in the mirror.
“Today Republicans are wasting more taxpayer time and more taxpayer dollars for no good reason.
“The tobacco bill on the floor right now is both responsible and overdue. But after making us wait out all of the 30 hours of procedural time before even moving to the bill, Republicans are now making us wait out another 30 hours before we can vote on it.
“Let me reiterate how important this bill is. Every day, 3,500 kids try their first cigarette. Nationwide, 3.5 million high schoolers smoke. Tobacco companies make money hand over fist by marketing and selling their poisonous products to our children.
“This bill takes smart steps to keep our children and families healthier and keep the tobacco companies honest.
- it will make it harder for those companies to sell tobacco to children;
- it will help those who smoke overcome their addictions; and
- it will make tobacco products less toxic for those who cannot or do not want to stop.
“We have tried in good faith since last week to reach an agreement with Republicans on amendments to this bill. Our floor staff has given the Republicans’ floor staff a finite list of both Democratic and Republican amendments that we wanted to vote on as we consider this bill.
“These amendments included: three from Senator Hagan, and one each from Senators Coburn, Enzi, Bunning and Lieberman.
“Unfortunately, despite repeated efforts to move forward, our Republicans colleagues have said no every time.
“Republicans are also slowing down our government in another way. In the few short months since President Obama took office, Republicans have held up many of his nominees for critical positions.
“This year, we have had to file cloture on:
- the Secretary of Labor;
- the Deputy Attorney General;
- the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior;
- two members of the Council of Economic Advisors;
- and, incredibly, America’s Ambassador to Iraq.
“Today they are holding up even more qualified and noncontroversial nominees, including:
- Rand Beers, nominated to be the Under Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security;
- Cass Sunstein, nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget’s Information and Regulatory Affairs divison;
- Hilary Chandler Tompkins, nominated to be the Solicitor of the Department of the Interior;
- William Sessions, nominated to be the Chair of the United States Sentencing Commission;
- Harold Koh, nominated to be the State Department’s Legal Adviser; and
- Robert Groves, nominated to be the Director of the Census
“But that’s not all. Just as Republicans recklessly refused to confirm our new Ambassador to Iraq, they now are holding up Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal – an eminently qualified soldier whom President Obama has chosen to be our new commander in Afghanistan.
“Republicans are so opposed to everything, they even oppose putting people in some of the most important positions in our government.
“Democrats believe that those who have chosen to serve our country must be able to get to work without delay.
“Perhaps those watching and listening think this is how the Senate always operates. It is not. Allow me to put these delays in context:
“In the first four months of the Bush Administration, when the Senate was controlled by the President’s party and we were in the minority, there wasn’t a single filibuster of a Bush nominee. Not one.
“But in the first four months of the Obama Administration, Republicans have filibustered eight of his nominees. Those eight filibusters in the first four months of President Obama’s Administration are twice as many as President Bush faced in his first four years.
“Last year, after Senate Republicans held up the work of Congress more than any other time in history, the American people rejected the Republican status quo. They said ‘no’ to Republicans’ just-say-no strategy.
“There is no question the American people are taking notice. There is no question they are fed up with these petty, partisan games. And there is no question that these reckless tactics have consequences.
“I would say that Republicans delay and delay and delay at their own peril – but the truth is, all Americans suffer. It’s time Republicans let us get to work.”