Washington, DC— Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement on the Senate floor this afternoon regarding Democratic efforts to assist out of work Americans and hold BP accountable for the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“We’ll learn a lot this week about who wants to fix problems, and who wants to make excuses.
“This week will be the seventh week the emergency unemployment insurance bill has been on the Senate floor. It’s another week good families in Nevada and across the country have to struggle to make ends meet after those benefits expired – to simply cover the basics while they look for full-time work. If Republicans have their way, next week will be yet another without a lifeline for the most needy, those willing and wanting to work.
“The other side has slowed and stalled just about every piece of legislation this year – just as they did last year and the year before that. That’s not a secret. The numbers don’t lie, and Republicans make no efforts to hide their strategy of delay.
“But that strategy has consequences.
“The first is unemployment insurance. Years of disastrous Republican policies led to the worst economic disaster in generations, and that in turn led to layoffs in nearly every industry and every state. When millions of Americans lost their jobs, they lost their incomes, their homes, their savings, their gas money, their tuition payments – all through no fault of their own. Democrats aren’t about to turn our backs on out-of-work Americans, which is why we’re trying to help them keep their heads above water in this emergency.
“The second casualty is Medicaid funding, known as FMAP, so the poorest of the poor in our communities can afford to see a doctor when they get sick. Many states, including my own, have budgeted for this money and count on us to deliver it. Nevada is counting on $110 million. Others are waiting on billions.
“If we don’t deliver, we’ll leave huge holes in state budgets that will be filled in with other deep and drastic cuts that would hurt millions. Critical services from coast to coast will bear the burden. We have to pass this bill and the FMAP funding in it to protect those services and the jobs they create.
“Third, this bill will fix an injustice to doctors who treat America’s senior citizens. More than a decade ago, a Republican Congress passed a flawed policy regarding how doctors are reimbursed for seeing patients on Medicare. Tomorrow, these doctors will see those payments drop 21 percent – that’s more than a fifth, overnight. That’s grossly unfair to doctors and it’s dangerous for the seniors, veterans and others they soon might no longer be able to treat.
“But that’s not all. Many HMOs and other providers base their reimbursements on Medicare’s rates. So you don’t have to be a senior citizen or a veteran to be hurt by the sharp cut scheduled to take effect tomorrow.
“Some on the other side are still trying to stand in the way. Like I said, the doctors’ payment problem came out of a Republican Congress. This Democratic Congress is determined to fix it.
“Next week will mark two months since millions of gallons of oil started gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. But this week will tell us a lot about who’s fighting for taxpayers and who’s fighting for corporate America.
“The cost of the BP disaster isn’t limited to the devastated waters and wildlife along our Gulf Coast. The damage extends to the lives and livelihoods of so many in that region – like small businesses that can’t operate at full speed, and the workers whose jobs are threatened when business slows.
“Or the fishermen, shrimpers and tourism businesses whose workplace – the Gulf of Mexico – has been polluted on such a large scale, it would stretch clear across the state of Nevada, from our California border to our Utah border. Or the families forever changed when 11 men died in the explosion that caused the spill.
“Some estimate the price tag for this disaster will climb into the tens of billions. Let’s be honest: Someone’s going to end up paying that bill eventually. Democrats are making sure it’s not going to be the taxpayer. We’re going to send the tab to BP.
“That’s why I sent a letter to Tony Hayward, BP’s CEO. I’m pleased and encouraged that a majority of the U.S. Senate signed their names alongside mine, and we ask Republicans to join us. We told him we’re committed to ensuring BP is held fully responsible, and that we refuse to ask taxpayers to bailout one of the richest companies in the world.
“We’re calling on BP to create a special accountability account – overseen by an independent trustee – to pay for the damages from their historic disaster and the cost of cleaning up their catastrophe.
“We’re making these demands because we don’t have a lot of reason to give BP the benefit of the doubt. Shortly after the explosion, we learned of the shortcuts that led to it. We also recently learned BP vastly understated the extent and rate of its spill. And in past disasters, we’ve seen other oil companies spend millions on lawsuits and public relations campaigns, all designed not to compensate the businesses and families they hurt, but to boost their profits.
“Our message to BP is as simple as this: If you drill, and you spill, we’re going to make sure you pay the bill.”