Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding a Democratic proposal to cut taxes for 98 percent of American families. He also spoke on cyber security legislation, and commemorated the anniversary of the shooting of two Capitol Police officers. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Republicans claim to share Democrats’ commitment to keeping taxes low for the middle class.
So it’s strange that they have repeatedly blocked votes on our proposal to cut taxes for 98 percent of American families.
Two week ago, Republicans seemed eager to have these votes.
They wanted to vote on our proposal to cut taxes for families making less than $250,000 a year – or 98 percent of Americans.
And they wanted to vote on their competing proposal, which would actually raise taxes for 25 million families while handing out more tax breaks to millionaires.
Democrats have tried to give Republicans what they wanted.
We have offered to skip their usual procedural delays and hold up-or-down, majority votes on both proposals.
So far they have refused. But the offer stands.
I hope Senate Republicans don’t insist on doing this the hard way.
And why are Republicans delaying votes they asked for in the first place?
They know a majority of Senators – and a majority of Americans – supports our plan to help middle-class families.
Our plan gives 114 million taxpayers – 98 percent of American families – certainty their taxes won’t go up.
And it reduces the deficit by almost $1 trillion by ending wasteful tax breaks for the rich.
Senate Republicans’ proposal takes a very different approach.
It extends tax breaks for the top 2 percent of Americans. But it fails to extend tax cuts that help middle-class families.
Their plan would hike taxes by another $1,000 for middle-class families while handing out an extra $160,000 tax break to every millionaire.
Democrats will simply never agree we should hand out more tax breaks to the richest 2 percent of Americans.
But that shouldn’t stop us from protecting the other 98 percent of Americans – and doing it today.
Over the last few days, some of my Republican colleagues have suggested the Senate should delay action on what national security experts have called the most pressing threat facing our nation.
Instead of considering bipartisan cyber security legislation, they say we should first consider the annual Defense Authorization bill.
I argue we need to move rapidly to address the gaping hole in our defenses against cyber attack.
FBI Director Robert Mueller said that cyber threats will soon overtake terrorism as the most significant threat to our national security.
A bipartisan group of national security experts – led by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and former Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell – said cyber threats represent “one of the most serious challenges to our national security since the onset of the nuclear age.”
And the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator McCain, said:
“We must act now and quickly develop and pass comprehensive legislation to protect our electric grid, air traffic control system, water supply, financial networks and defense systems and much more from a cyber attack.”
That was a year ago. The threat has only grown more urgent.
And failing to act on cyber security legislation not only puts our national security at risk, it recklessly endangers members of our Armed Forces and their missions around the world.
Service members themselves have been repeatedly targeted by cyber actors.
In one hack last year, more than 90,000 military email addresses and passwords were stolen, and in another hack of the TRICARE system 4.9 million medical records were stolen.
If we are serious about protecting our troops, we must protect them against cyber attacks.
But acting to secure our critical networks doesn’t mean we won’t also pass a defense bill.
I do, however, have some specific concerns about the Defense Authorization bill.
I will not allow the defense bill to become an end-run around the bipartisan Budget Control Act.
If we are to going to debate the Defense bill, House and Senate Republicans need to make it clear that they are willing to abide by the budget levels set by that law.
We must also ensure the defense bill is not used as a platform to advance irrelevant, partisan agendas.
Remembering Agent Gibson and Officer Chestnut
Last week, this nation was reminded how fragile life is, and how quickly it can be taken away by a random, senseless act of violence.
Fourteen years ago, the Capitol community was similarly reminded that we must never take life for granted.
On this day in 1998, two dedicated U.S. Capitol Police officers – Special Agent John Gibson and Officer Jacob Chestnut – gave their lives while protecting this building and the people in it.
But their lives were not spent in vain. The tragedy of that day made the Capitol a safer place.
It led to the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center, which prevents a madman like the one who shot Agent Gibson and Officer Chestnut from entering the Capitol.
And while nothing can erase the pain of losing a loved one, I hope their families take some measure of comfort in knowing Agent Gibson and Officer Chestnut are not forgotten.
Even 14 years later, those of us who work in the Capitol continue to honor their service and their sacrifice.
And we are grateful to the brave men and women who safeguard ‘the People’s House’ today.