Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We began this year dedicated to delivering the change the American people demanded in November. We began this Congress committed to making life better for the middle class – for hardworking families who play by the rules.
“But the American people also demanded something more. They said that we, their leaders, should not be so unwilling to work together.
“The challenges we face have left no one unscathed. We are all in this hole together, and the only way we will climb out of it is by doing so together.
“When the American people spoke last year, they gave us – above all – a mandate for bipartisanship.
“It was in that spirit that I wrote our Republican colleagues this spring. In that letter, I said that one of the best ways to lift up our economy is to keep down health care costs.
“Almost 50 million Americans have no health care, and the problem grows worse every day.
“Every day, more Americans go bankrupt or lose their homes just trying to stay healthy.
“And even those fortunate enough to have insurance pay a hidden tax just to cover those who don’t. If your family has health care, you pay $1,000 more for it than you would need to if all other families had health care, too.
“In that letter, I expressed my sincere hope that Republicans would work with us to respond to this emergency. I extended my hand and asked for their help.
“Though I knew we would disagree at times, I told them I looked forward an open and honest dialogue about how to help struggling Americans.
“I especially asked our Republicans colleagues to focus on the concrete and critical crisis that affects children, families and small businesses every single day:
- The parent who cannot take a child to the doctor because insurance is prohibitively expensive.
- The family that lives one accident or one illness away from financial ruin.
- The small business that has to lay off employees because it can’t afford skyrocketing health care premiums.
“I asked in that letter that we use the short and valuable time we have to work together in our common interest, rather than against each other and against the interests of the American people.
“I wish I could say Republicans answered those words with deeds of equal good faith.
“But how have they responded? Have they taken the hand we extended across the aisle? Have they taken the seat we offer at the negotiating table? No.
“Have they engaged in a productive debate about real people and real problems? No.
“Have they shown that they are just as interested as we are in working with each other rather than against each other? No.
“Have they told us a single thing they are for, rather than just what they are against? No.
“In fact, ‘no’ is all we hear from Republicans these days. Instead of debating facts, Republicans have committed themselves to a strategy of misinformation and misrepresentation.
“Democrats have different priorities. We are committed to:
- lowering the high costs of health care;
- ensuring every American has access to that quality, affordable care; and
- letting people choose their own doctors, hospitals and health plans.
“We are committed to protecting existing coverage when it is good, improving it when it is not, and guaranteeing health care for the millions – including nine million children – who have none.
“Doing nothing is not an option because the costs of doing nothing are too great. We must pass health care reform this year.
“As we have said at the start of this year, at the start of this work period and at the start of this debate, we will continue doing our best to work with Republicans and pass a bipartisan bill.
“In spite of the past, I remain optimistic that both Republicans and Democrats recognize how urgent this is. The health of our citizens and our economy are at stake – and neither will be able to recover if we wait.
“But as important as bipartisanship is – and it is important – it is not as critical as helping the nearly 50 million Americans who have nowhere to turn.
“As I said in my letter this April, in order for this bipartisan process to take root, Republicans must demonstrate a sincere interest in legislating.
“I hope they do so. Because one way or another, we’re going to get health care reform done.”