Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Grover Norquist’s tax pledge and the Rebuild America Jobs Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Tomorrow the Senate will vote on the Rebuild America Jobs Act, a plan to put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work constructing thousands of miles of roads and bridges, runways and train tracks.
The plan is paid for with a small tax — less than a penny — on every dollar a person earns in excess of $1 million a year. The legislation asks millionaires and billionaires to contribute just a little bit more than they do today, knowing there is a price tag associated with getting our economy back on track.
My Republican colleagues say they oppose this plan to hire hundreds of thousands of construction workers and rebuild our nation’s collapsing infrastructure because they believe the wealthiest Americans can’t afford to pay a few pennies more.
But even the majority of the people who would pay this tax say that simply isn’t true. They support our plan.
This tiny fraction of American taxpayers who would pay a tiny fraction more each year are among the one percent of Americans who have done better and better with each passing decade.
Between 1979 and 2007, the annual, after-tax income of the top one percent of American wage earners has increased by 275 percent. That same one percent now makes more than the other 99 percent of Americans combined.
And not all of that one percent of wealthy Americans would even qualify to pay this tax to fund billions in road construction and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.
So, tomorrow my Republican colleagues will face a choice. The choice is not whether to invest in roads or bridges, or whether the richest of the rich can spare a few dollars for the sake of our economy. The choice is about priorities.
Who will Republicans put first — the millions of ordinary Americans struggling to find work and put food on the table? Or the millionaires and billionaires whose biggest problem is that they may have to pay an additional $7,000 on the second million they make each year?
We ought to be able to agree that making enough money to pay even a dollar more under our plan is a wonderful problem to have.
But so far, Republicans have been pretty clear what their priorities are.
They unanimously voted against the American Jobs Act. That legislation would have put 2 million people back to work and cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses.
Then they unanimously voted against Democrats’ plan to put 400,000 teachers and tens of thousands of police officers and firefighters back to work.
Republicans have cost this country millions of jobs in just the last few weeks alone.
And they’ll have another opportunity tomorrow to show America whose side they’re on — millionaires or the middle class.
Seventy-two percent of Americans, including 54 percent of Republicans, want us to pass this plan. And 76 percent of them, including 56 percent of Republicans, want us to pay for it by asking the nation’s wealthiest citizens to contribute their fair share.
Americans know the only way out of the worst recession since the Great Depression is to invest in what makes this country great — its workers. And they believe it is fair to ask those who have profited the most from this country’s successes to help shoulder the burden.
Yet Republicans have obstructed and opposed every Democratic effort to create jobs this year.
Why would they do that? Fear.
Because those job-creation efforts would have cost millionaires and billionaires even one dollar more. And the truth is, they are terrified to violate the infamous Grover Norquist tax pledge, even though they know it’s the right thing to do.
They are in thrall to a man whose singular focus is keeping taxes low for the very wealthy, no matter what the effect on this nation. They fear his political retribution.
But I hope my Republican colleagues will heed this message sent yesterday by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson regarding Grover Norquist and his pledge: The only power Norquist wields is the power you give him.
“He can’t murder you; he can’t burn your house. The only thing he can do is defeat you for re-election, and if that means more to you than your country, you really shouldn’t be in Congress,” Simpson said.
I believe most Senators — and certainly most Americans — know that legislating isn’t as simple as a mindless pledge. But those Senators must also have the courage to act on their convictions.
As British historian Thomas Fuller once said, “Better break your word than do worse in keeping it.”