Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks today to the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I commend the members the Congressional Black Caucus and the Foundation for your service to our nation and commitment to addressing issues that uniquely affect African Americans.
“Your recent initiative to provide opportunities and pathways out of poverty are noteworthy; and moreover, many of your goals are reflected in some key legislation that has already been signed into law by President Obama or we will soon be debated by congress.
“For example, The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which many economists argue is helping to grow our economy and end the recession. This bill has helped save and create jobs, provide for worker retraining, increased Pell Grant funding and provided tax cuts for those attending college and provides relief for families by extending the 1st time home buyer tax credit, tax credits for families.
“In addition to The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, we also passed the children’s health insurance program; also know as CHIP, which provides health insurance to children who otherwise, would not receive medical care.
“We passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored civil rights protections for workers who face discrimination based on age, race, gender, national origin, religion or disability
“And, in these struggling times we also increased the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour, a $2.10 increase from where it stood just 2-years ago, and we’ve extended unemployment insurance for those who have lost their jobs.
“Our work is far from over, as we meet here today, the Senate Finance Committee is working to pass a health care reform bill and soon the entire Senate will join the debate. Passing health care reform is good for all families and particularly African-American families.
“When we reform health care, we’ll create a system that prevents illness and disease instead of just treating it when it’s too late. Racial and ethnic minorities often are less likely to receive preventive care.
“By fixing the status quo to lower premiums, we’ll reduce disparities in coverage by improving affordability for working families. African-Americans are roughly twice as likely to be uninsured that the rest of the population.
“With reform, we’ll require any health insurance program to report on race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status in order to better understand health disparities and steer funding towards bridging gaps in coverage.
“Health insurance reform will prevent any insurance company from denying coverage based on someone’s medical history – often a challenge that disproportionately affects minority populations.
“Thank you for your leadership and I am confident that with your support, we can pass health care reform this year”