Washington, DC— Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding Wall Street reform and the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We all know how Wall Street brought our economy to the brink of collapse nearly two years ago: Our financial system let traders gamble away other people’s money with little risk and large reward.
“The system said to big bankers: If you win, enjoy your jackpot. And if you lose, don’t worry; taxpayers will bail you out. It’s a pretty rewarding deal for Wall Street, but a pretty raw deal for everyone else.
“We’ve seen first-hand the dangers of that arrangement. When the bottom collapsed, eight million Americans lost their jobs. The typical family lost $100,000 in savings and home equity.
“The problem is that it’s still the way the system works today. And every new day we don’t act, we take the chance it will happen all over again.
“This bill empowers consumers and holds Wall Street accountable to make sure this history never repeats itself. Ours is a strong bill the American people not only overwhelmingly support, but one they loudly demand. But it won’t do anyone any good until we can send it to the President for his signature.
“If our Republican colleagues stick to their strategy of indefinite delay, I will – like I said last week – file cloture as soon as tonight so we can hold a final vote this week.
“I appreciate the good work of so many Senators to make a tough Wall Street reform bill even tougher. So far the Senate has voted for amendments to strengthen the bill, and has voted against efforts to weaken it.
“The Senate has voted to reject loopholes for Wall Street lobbyists and denied carve-outs for those who game the system for their own financial gain.
“The message is clear: We must guarantee taxpayers that they will never again be asked to bail out a big bank. We must protect families’ life savings and seniors’ pensions. We must ensure no bank can become too big to fail. And we must make the system more transparent, which will let us rein in risky bets before it’s too late.
“I remind all of my colleagues that the amendment process does not end when cloture is filed, or after it is invoked. I hope the two managers of this bill – Chairman Dodd and Ranking Member Shelby – can continue working on amendments that will strengthen these urgent and overdue reforms.
“Another reason we have to finish sooner rather than later is that we have much more work to do this month. At the top of that list is a new jobs bill that cuts taxes for middle class families and small businesses. We also have to finish a combined supplemental appropriations bill and vote on scores of nominees awaiting confirmation so they can get to work. I hope both sides can find a way to work together to get these done before Memorial Day.
“Wall Street isn’t the only place where a reckless pursuit of profits has proved destructive. In the weeks since the Deepwater Horizon explosion, as much as 20 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico.
“Last night’s edition of ‘60 Minutes’ reported damning evidence that the roots of this tragedy are in BP executives’ efforts to pad their own wallets.
“Their greed led to 11 horrific and unnecessary deaths. It has harmed an enormous tourism industry, threatened business at countless fisheries and disrupted life for many along the Gulf Coast. As the pollution grows worse, those consequences will only compound.
“It is the responsibility of Congress and the Administration to investigate this disaster. And it is the responsibility of BP and anyone else found culpable to pay the price for their damages.
“By law, oil companies are liable for only $75 million in incidents like this. That is clearly insufficient.
“One way Congress can act right now is by raising that limit. Some believe it should be raised to $10 billion. I know others support no cap at all. Whatever the final figure, the catastrophe that continues to poison our Gulf Coast is a wake-up call.
“We must make sure oil companies learn their lesson: while they spend record profits on finding more oil, they also must find safer ways to drill for it and handle it. And they must invest in rapidly developing clean domestic alternatives to protect our environment and strengthen our energy security.
“Interior Secretary Salazar and the President deserve credit for their continued efforts to clean up the previous administration’s efforts to put oil company profits before people.
“In the meantime, we in the Senate must also learn from the mistakes on Wall Street to the Gulf of Mexico. And we have to work as quickly as possible to protect against them ever happening again.”