Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor on Hispanic Heritage Month and Republican obstructionism threatening the jobs of 80,000 aviation and construction workers. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming, died yesterday at the age of 78. I served with him in the Senate until 1995.
His roots in Wyoming stem back to pioneer ancestors in Big Horn, although he was born in New York. He served his country admirably in the Army, and then worked for many years as a cattle rancher and businessman before running for office.
Although we didn’t always agree on the issues, he was a nice man and good friends with Senator Paul Laxalt, from Nevada.
Today we honor his service to this country, both as a soldier and a senator.
In my office I have a painting of a man on horseback, dressed in frontier attire and looking over a beautiful valley in the old West.
His name was Rafael Rivera and the valley would one day come to be known as Las Vegas. Rivera was the first pioneer to enter the valley so many Nevadans today call home.
Today I join more than 50 million Hispanic Americans in the United States in marking the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month.
This celebration of history and culture lasts through October 15. I look forward to the opportunity Hispanic Heritage Month brings each year to honor the contributions of a population that is such an integral part of our national identity.
For hundreds of years, Latinos have helped shape the face of this nation. They have made contributions on the battlefield, in the classroom and in the workplace. They have spurred progress in the laboratory, on the playing field and in our halls of justice. They have shaped the way we farm and the way we do business. And they have influenced our art and literature.
At construction sites and casinos and shopping centers they contribute to the largest industries in my home state of Nevada, where they make up more than a quarter of the population.
Their language even influenced the name of the state, which means “snow covered.” It refers to the snow-capped mountain peaks of our beautiful Sierra Nevada.
Hispanic-Americans have also played an important role in this nation’s armed forces – serving in every conflict since the Revolutionary War. Nearly 30,000 of them have fought for this country in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I thank them for their brave and dedicated service.
And every year Latinos help propel our economy. More than 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses employ millions of Americans and provide crucial goods and services.
So today, the Senate recognizes the commitment of more than 50 million Hispanic Americans to family, community and country.
I want to say on the record how much I appreciate the support of the Republicans in allowing us to be able to get on the FEMA bill.
If we’re not able to work out an agreement on that today, we’ll have a number votes relating to that important legislation, which affects millions of Americans who have been devastated by mother nature.
I’m disappointed, however, in one of our Republican colleagues who at this stage is holding up something so vitally necessary.
The House sent us two pieces of legislation that passed overwhelmingly there. One will keep 1.8 million people working on highway construction projects for another six months.
They also sent to us a fully funded, four-month extension of the Federal Aviation Administration, also vitally important.
Unless my friend, the Junior Senator from Oklahoma, agrees to allow us to move forward on this, one senator will stop 80,000 people from working. I hope he will reconsider.
We have told my friend, the Junior Senator from Oklahoma, that we’ll have a vote on his amendment. He won’t let us have a vote on his own amendment.
We must get these two important pieces of legislation passed so that we can keep almost two million people working. There isn’t a state in the union that won’t be affected by these 80,000 people being laid off.
In Nevada we have a new tower being built at McCarran Airport. Work will stop and construction workers will be laid off if we can’t move forward with this legislation.
And that’s not fair to the Senate or to the country.