Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement early this morning before the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the Department of Defense Appropriations conference report. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“‘We should not cause uncertainty or hardship for our Armed Forces.’ The senior Senator from Mississippi, a Republican, said that.
“‘Playing politics with the critical funding that our troops need now is political theater of the worst kind.’ The junior Senator from Texas, a Republican, said that.
“‘Our obligation to those troops must transcend politics.’ The junior Senator from Arizona, the Republican Whip, said that.
“‘Every day we don’t fund our troops is a day their ability to fight this war is weakened.’ The senior Senator from Kentucky, the Republican leader, said that.
“And yet, not a single one of these Republican Senators – not a single one of the 40 Republicans in this body – have committed to renewing our commitment to our troops before their funding expires later today.
“We are voting at this rare, late hour, but not even the darkness outside can conceal the game Republicans are playing inside this Senate chamber.
“We are here in the middle of the night, but the reason is as clear as day: Senate Republicans so desperately want to turn their backs on Americans who are suffering and dying for want of decent health care, that they are threatening to turn their backs on America’s troops at wartime.
“Rarely has the Senate seen such a sad statement. Rarely have I seen such brazen irresponsibility. And rarely have our nation’s citizens received such little regard from their leaders.
“Our sons and daughters are fighting tonight and every night on our behalf. The least we can do is make sure they have the training and the equipment they need to succeed.
“Our nation’s bravest spend month after month half a world away from their families and children. The least we can do is make sure those military families and children, who have already sacrificed so much, can get the health care they need.
“Our nation’s most selfless men and women volunteer for duty – every single one stepped forward to serve. The least we can do is give them a well-deserved pay raise.
“I received a letter a few hours ago from the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. He let me know that he has no patience for the partisan games that are being played, and no time for the precious hours that are being wasted. He expressed – in his words – ‘serious concern’ that this Senate might cause a ‘serious disruption’ in our military efforts around the world.
“Secretary Gates added the following: ‘It is inconceivable to me that such a situation would be permitted to occur with U.S. forces actively deployed in combat.’ I couldn’t agree more.
“I will vote for this bill in support of every single one of those service members, including the hundreds of Nevadans who at this very moment fight for our nation in other nations around the world. I will vote ‘yes’ because I support the 432 men and women from the 221st Armored Cavalry from Las Vegas, and the 102 from the 152nd Air Guard in Reno, both of which serve in Afghanistan.
“Those on the other side of the aisle have stubbornly said they will not. The Senate Republican Leadership has shamelessly tried to turn this into a purely partisan exercise. I have even had some Republican Senators regretfully and regrettably admit this to me personally: They have told me plainly that while they want to support our troops, they fear retribution from their own Leaders. That’s not exactly what John Kennedy, a war hero who served in this very body, would call a profile in courage.
“But I am confident not a single one of our troops could care less whether the leaders who give them what they need to succeed are progressives or conservatives. I am certain that those men and women on deployment after deployment spend more time counting the days until they can see their loved ones again than they do counting the political points scored by either side.
“My vote in support of them has nothing to do with the party with which I am affiliated, and everything to do with the country for which I took an oath to support and defend.
“Though it is shortly after midnight here, it is late morning in the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. When the sun rises over this city a few hours from now, you will be able to look out the windows on the west side of this Capitol building and see past the great monuments to Washington and Lincoln. You will be able to see over the Potomac River, and see the skyline break for the great lawn of Arlington. Within that consecrated ground, in neat rows that rise and fall with the rolling hills, lie the remains of the men and women, the boys and girls, who fought and fell for our flag.
“Their headstones are simple, and from a distance, identical. No matter how closely you look at the words and symbols etched into that solemn marble, you would never be able to discern whether the warrior beneath was a Democrat or a Republican. We cannot tell for whom he voted in the last election of his life, or what she thought of this policy or that. That is not by accident; it is not an oversight.
“While the demarcations of left and right and red and blue seem as important to our daily lives as air and water, those stones are eternal reminders of such triviality. Dedication to this nation above all else – ‘All For Our Country,’ as Nevada’s motto reads – should also guide us now. On this Hill, on this side of the river, in this early morning hour, we could stand a little more of the selflessness we too often keep at a distance on that sacred lawn at Arlington.”