Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Visiting with Nevadans, as I did over the past few weeks, it’s impossible not to be motivated to get back to the business of legislating.
“It’s impossible to ignore their grief over growing foreclosures, or the uncertainty of unemployment, or the frustration of fighting insurance companies for your family’s health.
“And it’s just as evident that the people of Nevada and the nation need us to work toward sensible solutions, rather than drown once again in the partisan bickering that consumed much of 2009.
“Some elections go your way, some elections go their way; it’s the nature of democratic politics in a diverse nation. But regardless of their outcomes, as I’ve said many times, the American people demand that we work together as partners, not partisans, to improve their lives. That is as true after Republican victories as it is after Democratic victories.
“In the first half of the 111th Congress, even with the minority’s minimal help, we made significant progress. While last year’s final few months were dominated by debate over a health insurance reforms that will save lives, save money and save Medicare, that historic step was only one of many accomplishments we’re proud to have passed:
· We began this Congress determined to strengthen and stabilize the economy for working families. That’s why we immediately cut taxes for the middle class and small businesses. It’s why we started the process of creating good-paying jobs here at home and investing in our future. Just last week, the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers found that as many as two million Americans have our stimulus to thank for their jobs – as does our growing gross domestic product. But there’s more to do.
· We protected consumers by cracking down on abusive credit card companies, cracking down on mortgage scams and rooting out corporate fraud. But there’s more to do.
· We started to thaw our frozen credit markets so Americans can get the loans they need to buy a car, send a child to college or start a new business. But there’s more to do.
· We’re helping responsible homeowners keep their homes, helped more homeowners keep the equity in those homes, and helped more families buy their first home. But there’s more to do.
· We helped millions of children stay healthy by expanding CHIP – the Children’s Health Insurance Program – making it easier for them to get the care they need, and by making it harder for tobacco companies to prey on them. But there’s more to do.
· We extended unemployment insurance for millions and extended COBRA subsidies so those still struggling to find work can feed their families, fuel our economy, and afford decent medical care. But there’s more to do.
· We supported the travel and tourism industries, which will create tens of thousands of jobs and cut our deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars. But there’s more to do.
· We helped hundreds of thousands of drivers afford more fuel-efficient cars and trucks. But there’s more to do.
· With the national service bill named for Senator Kennedy, we made it easier for more Americans to serve their country like our heroes of generations past. With one of the most important conservation bills in decades, we protected our public lands for generations to come. But there’s more to do.
· We have given our troops, veterans and their families the support they deserve, including better battlefield equipment, better care for our wounded warriors, and a well-earned pay raise. We’ve also cut waste and fraud in the Pentagon’s purchase of military weapons. But there’s more to do.
· This Congress also made history by pursuing justice and ensuring equality for every single American. With a hate crimes bill that bears Emmitt Till’s name, we stood up for those who are victims of violence because of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. With a fair pay bill in Lilly Ledbetter’s name, we stood up for those who are targets of discrimination in the workplace because of their gender or background.
· We passed overdue appropriations bills, new appropriations bills, and an honest, responsible budget that makes sound investments in every part of our country.
· And the Senate confirmed President Obama’s outstanding nominee for the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor.
“It’s a long and impressive list of accomplishments. But I assure the Senate: we are just getting started.
“In the coming year, we will ensure all Americans can access affordable health care, deny insurance companies the ability to deny health care to the sick, and slash our deficit in the process.
“We will help more Americans keep their homes and their jobs, and continue to help our economy not only recover, but prosper once again.
“We will continue to create new jobs, including good-paying clean-energy jobs that can never be outsourced.
“We will tackle our daunting energy and climate challenges, and by doing so will strengthen our national security, our environment and our economy.
“And as we do all these things, we will continue to leave a seat at the table for our Republican colleagues. Whether their caucus comprises 40 or 41 members, each composes this body of 100. We should all be united within the walls of this esteemed chamber, not defined by the aisle that divides its desks.
“Today is the first anniversary of the first time Barack Obama addressed our nation as our President. One year ago today – standing on steps just steps from where we now stand – he reflected that our nation had chosen ‘unity of purpose over conflict and discord.’ He asked us to put aside the differences and dogmas that paralyze our politics.
“We can answer that call this year. Not just because President Obama requested it, but because the American people justly demand it.
“By and large, those in the minority has so far shown far too little interest in working with us – more importantly, they have shown far too little interest in working in the interests of their constituents.
“I hope that in this new year they will resolve to leave their partisan, political motivations behind. I hope they will share our renewed motivation to get to work.”