Washington, DC— Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this afternoon. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I want to talk about some remarks I made this morning – especially in light of how they are being irresponsibly mischaracterized by those seeking to score political points.
“Today we learned that 36,000 Americans lost their jobs in February. Those families don’t need today’s Department of Labor report – or anyone else in Washington – to tell them what that means for putting food on the table – or for paying the bills – or affording their health care. It’s undeniably devastating news.
“But if we’re going to discuss the state of our economy and the direction in which it’s going – and if we’re going to talk about it like adults – we have to take a step back and put this number in context.
“Economists thought 75,000 Americans were going to lose their jobs last month. That’s more than double what the actual number turned out to be. But that number is still too high.
“Those economists thought the unemployment rate was going to go up. It did not. But the unemployment rate is still too high.
“Ask the 40,000 Americans who economists thought were in the line of fire – but who still had a job to go to this morning – and they’ll tell you they were relieved that February wasn’t as bad as expected.
“And remember: If you compare where we were last year and where we are today – if you compare where we were before the Recovery Act and where we are after – there is no question we stopped a terrible situation from getting even worse.
“In the three months before the Recovery Act, three-quarters of a million Americans lost their jobs – just in those three months alone. Then the Recovery Act kicked in, and in the last three months, that number is down from 750,000 to 36,000.
“That’s not all: in the quarter before the Recovery Act, the economy shrank by more than 6 percent. In the last quarter, the economy grew by 6 percent.
“Expert after expert has said that as many as 2.5 million people who have jobs today would not have had them if we hadn’t acted.
“Expert after expert has said that our recession would have become another depression if we had done nothing, as some urged.
“Taking our economy from 6-percent contraction to 6-percent growth is not the end, but it’s a step in the right direction. Going from 750,000 job losses to 36,000 is not the end, but it’s a step in the right direction.
“As the President said this morning, it’s still more than we can tolerate.
“We don’t pretend for a minute that it’s enough. I know Nevada’s families and businesses are hurting.
“And it’s why we’re going to do even more to put people back to work.
“It’s why we worked so hard to pass a jobs bill last month – one that rewards businesses with tax cuts for keeping jobs here at home and not sending them overseas.
“But again, let’s put this in context. What was the response from my friends on the other side of the aisle? Even though they agreed with the ideas in the bill, they decided to play politics and voted against it anyway.
“It’s why we fought so hard to extend unemployment and health benefits for those thrown out of work by the Republican recession.
“But what was the response from our Republican colleagues? Even though they agreed with helping those who lost their jobs through no fault of their own, they delayed and delayed – and let those benefits expire. And when thousands were told to go home from their jobs without pay – and with many more at risk – they sat silently.
“It’s why we passed the travel promotion act that the President signed into law yesterday – a bill that will create jobs and cut the deficit. It’s a bill that will bring foreign tourists to the United States so they can spend their money across our country.
“But how did Republicans react? Again, they delayed it for month after month after month – only to vote for it in the end. It passed 78-18.
“We’ll keep going. We’ll pass long-term extensions of unemployment insurance, of health benefits for the unemployed and of tax cuts for small businesses.
“We’ll create incentives for companies to invest in renewable energy – projects that will make states like Nevada the leaders of a new clean-energy economy and create jobs from coast to coast that can never be outsourced.
“And it’s why we’ll finish the job on the health care reform plan that both bodies of Congress have already passed – a plan whose contents my state and the country overwhelmingly support. Fixing our broken health insurance industry will save lives, save money and save Medicare – but it will also save jobs – as many as 4 million over the next decade.
“The reason each of these steps are important:
· the Recovery Act,
· our jobs bills,
· the extension of unemployment and health benefits,
· promoting tourism,
· tax cuts and incentives,
· and health care reform
is because they each add certainty and security to our businesses, our states and our country. They each represent a strong, new brick along the road to recovery that we need to build.
“Yet for some reason, those on the other side simply cannot bring themselves to admit that what we’re doing is working.
“We know we’re not finished with that work – but we also know – and the people of Nevada know – and the American people know – that the emergency steps we took and the ones we’ll soon take have turned us around. We’re now facing in the right direction.
“I encourage my Republican friends to remember this critical context before their political reflexes lead them to make claims they know to be false.
“And I warn them, once again, that this country has no place and no patience for those who root for failure.”