Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today regarding the natural disaster in Japan, an agreement on a three-week Continuing Resolution and Senate Democrats’ third jobs bill, the Small Business Innovation Research Reauthorization. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“My thoughts and those of the entire United States Senate are with the people of Japan. The earthquake that shook that nation has made the entire world tremble, and the tsunami that swept over its shores has engulfed us all with grief.
“We are heartbroken at the images we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard. We share the agony of the families who have lost loved ones, and the anguish of those still searching for the missing.
“The earthquake, tsunami and subsequent catastrophes have created a humanitarian crisis of the first order, and the United States will do everything we can to ease Japan’s pain and help it heal. As the devastation and rescue efforts both continue, we know Japan and the world will meet this tragedy with tenacity, and will respond to the immense loss with immeasurable hope.
“This dreadful disaster is not stronger than the people of Japan’s resolve to recover and rebuild, and it is no match for America’s determination to help a friend in need.
“It is difficult to think of Senate business at a terrible time like this, after hundreds of thousands of lives have forever been changed in an instant. Every matter seems immaterial in comparison, and our use of the adjective ‘emergency’ when discussing budget concerns seems misplaced.
“But we must focus on the business of our country, too, and that is what the Senate will do this week. I hope both parties and both houses will find the courage to come together before the weekend on a plan to fund the country.
“I remind my Republican colleagues once again that this Friday’s deadline is one that they set. We asked for four weeks to work, and they demanded two weeks. They asked for March 18. March 18 awaits us at the other end of this week, so it’s time to get serious.
“Last week’s budget votes proved what we have been saying throughout this negotiation: We must meet in the middle. The distance between Democrats and Republicans is not measured only in money. I regret to report that so far, we remain far more divided on the willingness to compromise.
“Democrats have made it crystal clear that we’re determined to pass a budget. We recognize the reality that one party alone will not reach a resolution without the other’s cooperation and consent. We’ve accepted and acknowledged that we need to share the sacrifice. Democrats are willing to find reasonable ways to do that, and we have offered necessary cuts that will strengthen our future rather than weaken it.
“But we are still waiting for Republicans to do the same. They are pretending last week’s votes didn’t happen. They are covering their eyes and ears to the reality that their proposal – the short-sighted bill the Tea Party and the Republican House of Representatives continue to support – was roundly rejected here in the Senate.
“We’re still waiting for them to bring something – anything – new to the table. They haven’t done that yet. Listen to the Republicans’ speeches and sound bites and you’ll hear no reasonable cuts, no serious offer, no willingness to compromise, no sense of shared responsibility. You’ll hear no new ideas.
“We can’t afford another week of these games. We cannot negotiate through the media and we cannot negotiate if one side is unwilling to give any ground.
“We can’t keep funding the country a couple of weeks at a time. How many times have we heard our Republican friends decry uncertainty, claiming it hurts job creation and worries the markets? How quickly they’ve forgotten their own advice.
“It’s time to lead. On this point, Democrats have been very clear. I hope a solution is at hand. But if no budget passes – if we cannot keep the country running – it will be just as clear which side will bear that burden.
“This week we will also start debating a jobs bill that helps small businesses do what American businesses do best: imagine, innovate and invent.
“The bill we’ll soon discuss will support a research and development program that has helped tens of thousands of small businesses create jobs and shape the future since President Reagan started the program nearly 30 years ago.
“These investments work. They have helped get great new ideas off the ground – everything from the electric toothbrush to satellite antennae that helped first responders in Haiti to technologies that keep our food safe and our military’s tanks from overheating in the desert.
“One company in Carson City, Nevada, has used this small business-innovation program’s support to create technology that helps firefighters reach people on the highest floors of burning buildings. Another Nevada company, from Henderson, has developed an advanced rechargeable battery that our troops are using in the field. There are success stories like these in every state.
“Small businesses are the laboratories of visionaries who create jobs and cultivate ideas. We, in turn, must help these businesses grow and succeed. That’s what this week’s bill will do.
“Finally, let me say something briefly about gas prices. This budget debate has shown a stark contrast between our nation’s serious challenges and the lack of bipartisan agreement on serious solutions. The same is true when it comes to energy.
“Drivers across the country are watching gas prices go up and up. They are worried about how expensive it is to drive to work every morning, or to pick up their children from school, or just to get to the grocery store.
“It’s a serious challenge. But I am so disappointed Republicans refuse to join us in offering a serious solution.
“We know why gas prices are going up. First, the Middle Eastern nations from which we import the vast majority of our oil are in turmoil. That hurts production and exports. Second, OPEC and greedy investors control a wildly speculative market. And third, Big Oil cannot quench its thirst for record profits, and it will pursue them at any cost to the consumer.
“The Republican reflex is a replay of the same script we’ve seen time and again. The Republican reflex is to demand more drilling, as if that will instantly ease the price at the pump. It’s an easy argument to make. It will nicely line the pockets of their friends in Big Oil. It sounds simple. But as a solution to high gas prices, it’s fiction.
“Here is a little-known fact: the United States produced more oil in 2009 than in any year since 2003. So for all of the right wing’s finger-pointing at the President, it’s worth noting that we’ve drilled more oil since President Obama has been in office.
“In fact, when President Bush was in the White House, field production of crude oil dropped every single year. And in his last year in office, prices and oil-company profits rose to records heights. So let’s retire the tired talking point that President Obama is sitting on the solution.
“In fact, it is those same Big Oil companies that are quite literally sitting on the oil that Republicans demand. Big Oil is sitting on more than 60 million acres of federal land and water. That means nearly 20 percent of our nation’s oil refinery capacity sits idle. They have shown much more interest in making profits than in making oil.
“But let’s pretend for a minute that they did do the drilling. Even if Big Oil drilled on all of its offshore leases, it would have no impact on gasoline prices in the next decade. By 2030, it might lower those prices by three cents a gallon. That’s not my calculation – that comes from the Energy Information Agency.
“Let’s not forget the big picture: The United States consumes nearly 25 percent of the world’s oil, but we have only three percent of the world’s oil reserves. We’re addicted to oil and we’re at the mercy of Big Oil and OPEC for its price.
“Instead of short-sighted straw men, let’s use the alternatives that we have right here at home. Alternatives like solar, wind and geothermal energy, which are abundant in places like Nevada. Let’s encourage these investments – not cut them, like the Republicans’ budget plan proposes.
“These renewable energy sources are cleaner for our environment, wiser for our national security and more stable for our economy. Best of all, they are made in the U.S.A. – and will create jobs here, too.”