Washington, D.C.—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this morning regarding Republican delay of critical assistance to millions of unemployed Americans. Below are his remarks as delivered:
“The promise of our democratic system is that everyone has a voice. The responsibility of that same system is that once the votes are cast and counted, everyone must then accept and abide by the outcome.
“I deeply regret that too many of my Republican colleagues have yet to learn this lesson.
“I want to explain as clearly as I can what happened in the Senate yesterday, and what is continuing to happen this morning. I want to explain it especially for the tens of thousands of Nevadans and two-and-a-half million Americans waiting for the emergency unemployment assistance they’ve been told is on the way.
“Yesterday afternoon, the Senate moved, at long last, to within one step – one simple-majority vote – of passing long-overdue help for the unemployed. This is emergency help for those who have exhausted their insurance benefits because these days, it takes longer than ever before in recent memory to find a job.
“This is help for people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. And though they are still out of work, it is not for lack of trying.
“These are people who have tried and tried to find work, who scour job listings, who send out résumés, who fill out applications, who go to interviews – but who haven’t had any luck for weeks and months and, in some cases, years. At last count, there is only one open job for every five Americans desperate to fill it.
“So after several tries, and with the help of two courageous Republicans from Maine, yesterday we moved closer to that last step by an overwhelming vote – a vote of 60 to 40. In the unique world of the United States Senate, 60 to 40 can be a razor-thin margin. But by any reasonable measure, that is a landslide.
“That vote, by the way, was entirely in line with the wishes of the people we represent, who overwhelmingly demand that we pass this aid. The support for this bill comes from all over the country, both from those fortunate enough to collect paychecks and those desperate just to get unemployment checks.
“Now, by Senate rules, a maximum of 30 hours can elapse between that second-to-last vote and the final vote, which requires just a simple majority of 51 to pass.
“During those 30 hours, not a single letter or a single number in the bill will change. In other words, we have to wait more than a day before we can see if half of the Senate supports the exact same bill more than half of the Senate supported the day before.
“That might not make much sense to those who don’t follow the Senate every day. I understand that. In fact, historically both sides have been able to come together and reasonably say: 60 is more than 51, so let’s just move on. They’ve said: it’s not our time to waste – it’s the American people’s time.
“But that’s just not how things work in the new Senate, and not with this Republican Leadership.
“The minority – which, it is worth repeating, has already lost the debate and the vote on this issue – has decided to squeeze out every last second of that time, until they have no more tools at their disposal – until they have no more procedural tricks up their sleeves – until they can no longer forcibly keep emergency unemployment checks out of the hands of the unemployed.
“The Republican Leadership, supported by the overwhelming majority of its caucus, has stood in front of the burning house and said: Everyone wants us to put out the fire, but we’re going to sit back and wait a while before we turn on the hoses.
“This is a dark day in the United States Senate, and some feel it brings shame to this institution. But more than that, it hurts the very people we were sent here to help.
“Why would someone in public service do such a thing? Why would they be so callous? M. President, I simply don’t know. I am at a loss.
“Perhaps the overwhelming majority of Republicans think that since they’ve turned their backs on the unemployed for so many months, what’s another few days?
“Perhaps they think that when unemployment goes up, their poll numbers do too.
“Perhaps they look at such pervasive misfortune and see an opening for their political fortunes.
“Or perhaps they’ve convinced themselves that the longer the unemployed suffer, the less likely they are to notice who is holding back the relief they need.
“It has long since been established that the unnecessary delays Senate Republicans have forced surpass every known historical record and defy every historical precedent. They defy both fairness and logic.
“But when we look back at the unparalleled abuses of this new Senate, this will be among the lowest points.
“It is abundantly clear that there are differences of opinion in this chamber on who is worthy of unemployment insurance, what constitutes an emergency and how to fund emergency assistance. Differences of opinions are why we’re here.
“But that is no longer the debate. We already fought that fight – in fact, we fought it over and over again over the past weeks. Now it’s over. Whether by 60 to 40 or 100 to 0, it’s done.
“So this is where we stand: The votes have been cast and counted. The House has overwhelmingly voted to extend emergency aid. The Senate has overwhelmingly voted to extend emergency aid. The President sits, pen in hand, ready to sign this bill into law the minute it lands on his desk. As soon as he does, the checks will start to go out, and so will the fire.
“Millions of Americans are waiting, but not for spoils that will make them rich, or jackpots that will help them buy luxuries they don’t need.
“No, millions are waiting for a fraction of their old income in checks that will help them keep food on the table this week, and keep a roof over their heads this month and keep the air conditioning on this summer.
“But the clock continues to tick. The unemployed continue to suffer. And too many of our Republican colleagues – who for years have proven they’ve never seen an economic crisis they couldn’t turn into a political opportunity – continue to prove they’ve never seen an opportunity they can’t turn into a crisis.”