Washington, D.C.—Nevada Senator Harry Reid delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor this morning on Senate Republicans continuing to hold middle class tax cuts hostage to giveaways for millionaires and CEOs:
“Mr. President, There’s a recurring gag in the comic strip Peanuts that we’re all familiar with. Charlie Brown is getting ready to kick a field goal. Lucy is holding the ball while Charlie runs up to it. But at the last second, Lucy pulls the ball away and Charlie Brown flies up into the air, comes crashing back down and lands flat on his back.
“What made this gag funny is what made it famous. It wasn’t so much that Lucy was tricking Charlie Brown. It was that it kept happening over and over again.
“It’s obvious by now that our Republican friends have drawn their political strategy from this cartoon.
“We’ve all heard Republicans weep for the deficit they say they fear. Democrats agree that we need to do something about it.
“So we have said: OK, how about cutting the deficit by admitting we can’t afford a tax break for millionaires and billionaires? A tax break that would add $4 trillion to the deficit. It’s a tax cut many admit they don’t need – a tax cut billionaires like Warren Buffett say they don’t even want. M. President, when was the last time you heard an investor ask for less money?
“But what did Republicans do? They pulled away the football and said: Rather than reduce the deficit, we’d really rather give an unnecessary, unwanted and unaffordable handout to the richest of the rich.
“Then they went a step further. They pretend the real victims here are small businesses, conveniently bending the rules so that multi-billion-dollar Wall Street firms, companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers and enormous conglomerates like the Tribune Company count as small businesses. It’s a sham.
“In fact, the way Republicans count, President Obama himself and most movie stars and professional athletes count as small businesses, too. If that’s the way they count, perhaps that explains why Republicans’ economic policies nearly led us into a depression. And it’s why this time around, perhaps we shouldn’t count on their ideas to help us recover.
“This week, every Republican Senator sent me a letter saying they wouldn’t let legislators legislate – that they wouldn’t let the Senate operate – until we addressed these tax rates.
“So Democrats called their bluff. We said: OK, let’s talk about the tax cuts. Let’s vote. The other body has already passed a middle-class tax cut and we can do the same. A majority in the Senate, like the majority of the country, thinks the middle-class deserves this tax cut.
“The minority in the Senate believes – against all evidence to the contrary – that millionaires, billionaires and CEOs who ship jobs overseas deserve this giveaway. We disagree, but that’s why the Founders created this body – to debate and settle those disagreements. So we said: Let’s vote.
“And what did Republicans do? They pulled away the football and said: No deal. Then they sat on the ball while we all watched the clock count down. That’s why we’re here on a Saturday morning, when we could have resolved this days ago.
“In that same letter, Republicans claimed their top priority is putting people back to work. It’s a priority Democrats agree with. The difference is, we mean it. My state has the highest unemployment rate in the country. I know my most important job is to create jobs.
“So Democrats again gave them the chance to walk the walk. We tried to pass a bill that would extend unemployment insurance for so many Americans who lost their jobs in the recession and are still trying hard to find work.
“Economists tell us unemployment insurance is one of the best ways to energize the economy and create jobs. We know that for every dollar of unemployment insurance that goes out, $1.61 comes back into the economy. It’s a good investment. And the Council of Economic Advisers said this week that failing to extend this lifeline would cost the country another 600,000 jobs.
“What do you think Republicans did? Once again, they did their best Lucy impression, pulling away the football and saying: ‘I object.’ They stopped us from creating jobs. Like the football Charlie Brown can’t kick, the money that would immediately go back into our economy remains out of reach from those who would spend it the fastest.
“Finally, Mr. President, Republicans like the Senator from Arizona – his party’s nominee for President last election – has given a dizzying defense of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ an obsolete, embarrassing, discriminatory policy that weakens our military and offends our values.
“First Senator McCain said he’d seriously consider repealing it if the military leadership thought we should. When the military leadership said it thought we should repeal it, he pulled away the football.
“Then Senator McCain said he’d need to see a study from the Pentagon. When the Pentagon produced a study saying repeal would have no negative effect, he pulled away the football again.
“And for his latest trick, Senator McCain said yesterday said he opposed repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – a proposal that would be a great stride forward for both equality and military readiness – on account of the economy. I have no idea what he’s talking about.
“Yesterday we also heard the Republican Leader say this: “Americans don’t want to see meaningless theatrics in Congress. They want us to do something about the economy.”
“Well, Mr. President, he’s right. These theatrics need to end. The time to do something about our economy needs to begin again. And what better way to demonstrate that than by doing what the American people and economists of every political position know is the right thing to do? That is, protect the middle-class from higher taxes and reject a $700 billion bailout for billionaires.
“Mr. President, Our economy isn’t a cartoon. The jobs of hardworking Americans aren’t political footballs. And instead of taking their ball and going home when they don’t get their way, it’s time Republicans realize that we’re not here to embarrass one another. We’re here to get things done. We’re here to help our economy grow once again.
“It’s time Republicans recognize that, like Charlie Brown and Lucy, we’re on the same team.