Key point: "In the new Congress, Democrats will find pragmatic ways to solve the problems facing our country and to revive the economic growth and innovation that have made America the global leader it is today. We will continue to reach out to Republicans as partners in problem solving — in the hope that they will make decisions based on common sense and not on the extremism that has recently gripped their party."
Hoping for a year of pragmatism?
By: Sen. Harry Reid?
January 5, 2011 04:46 AM EST
The new year brings new hope of economic recovery. Over the holidays, consumer spending exceeded expectations — providing the latest indication that our economy is finally turning around.??
But hope is not enough for the hardworking people in Nevada and all across America who continue to struggle. Our job in Congress is to put their interests ahead of ideology and partisanship and work together to get things done.??
In the new Congress, Democrats will find pragmatic ways to solve the problems facing our country and to revive the economic growth and innovation that have made America the global leader it is today. We will continue to reach out to Republicans as partners in problem solving — in the hope that they will make decisions based on common sense and not on the extremism that has recently gripped their party.??
We have many new challenges. Above all, Democrats will focus on creating jobs. There are too many Americans right now who have been doing everything they can to find a job — but jobs just aren’t there. As of November, there were still five unemployed Americans for every job opening.??
To expand our economy, we need to continue supporting small businesses, which create two-thirds of all new private-sector jobs. We also need to focus on creating jobs in growth industries like clean energy. Not only do these industries create jobs, they also spur the technological innovation and entrepreneurial spirit we need to stay ahead of competitors like China and India.??
In the same vein, we need to make sure our education system is providing both young people and adults with the skills they need to compete in the global economy. On the security front, we will continue to provide support to our troops and military leadership as they defeat Al Qaeda and defend our nation from any who wish us harm.??
On these challenges, as on most, Democrats believe that the solutions are usually found somewhere in the middle. That is why I am disturbed at the trend toward extremism in the GOP. Recent proposals from Republicans to eliminate Social Security, roll back important civil rights legislation and eliminate the Department of Education are outside the mainstream.??
We will now find out whether Republicans will be guided by extremist views like these or work with us to find common-sense solutions. Soon, we must face the challenge of meeting our most basic financial obligations and responsibly funding our government so it can continue to operate and provide the critical services that keep us safe and support our economy.??
But there have already been suggestions from extremist elements in the GOP that, instead of working together to find responsible solutions, we should shut down the federal government and allow it, for the first time in history, to default on its existing obligations.
Let me be clear: If extremist Republicans force a default and government shutdown, it will be a disaster for the middle class and threaten our economic recovery. It could trigger a major economic crisis, increase our deficit by leading to a significant increase in interest costs and undermine our nation’s financial standing worldwide.??
It could mean no more Social Security checks for seniors, no salaries for soldiers, no benefits for veterans and no loans for college students. It could weaken our security, including border security and efforts to prevent more terrorist attacks.??
If we listen to the American people and work together, we can reduce our deficit on a bipartisan basis without undermining the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. The extreme step of shutting down the government should not be an option for anyone whose first priority is protecting the middle class and ensuring that the fragile economic turnaround we are seeing grows into a full-blown recovery.??
I have known many of my Republican colleagues for years, and I fully expect that cooler heads will prevail.??In the past few weeks, Democrats and Republicans showed the American people what we can accomplish when we work together. On strong bipartisan votes, we cut taxes for the middle class and small businesses, followed the advice of our military leadership by ending the discriminatory “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, provided the heroes who helped us recover from Sept. 11 with the health care they deserve and ratified a treaty that makes America safer by curtailing the spread of nuclear weapons.??
The challenges we face are too great and the stakes are too high for us to get bogged down in partisanship. Times like these call for common-sense solutions, not extremist ideology. The way to create jobs and keep America competitive is to work together to find practical, mainstream solutions. That is what Democrats are committed to doing in this Congress.??
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the Senate majority leader.