“Our deficient roads, bridges, railways and runways are a drag on our economy. But this crisis is also an opportunity – an opportunity to create jobs by rebuilding America.”
“Unless Democrats and Republicans work out a bipartisan solution that replaces the sequester, crucial investments in everything from early childhood education to medical research to military readiness will be in jeopardy.”
“Congress can stop these devastating cuts… But Democrats can’t do it alone. We need Republicans’ help.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of negotiating a budget compromise that replaces the arbitrary cuts of the sequester, and on the need to create jobs by rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Today the Senate will begin work on the transportation and housing appropriations bill, a bipartisan measure that will strengthen our economy by investing in roadways, railways airports and bridges. I applaud Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski and subcommittee Chairwoman Patty Murray for their diligent, bipartisan work on this measure in committee.
The transportation and housing appropriations bill has always been a bipartisan bill. More than 70,000 bridges in this country need major repairs or to be replaced completely. And one of every five miles of American roads is not up to safety standards. It’s easy to see why we need this bipartisan effort to upgrade America’s crumbling infrastructure.
Our deficient roads, bridges, railways and runways are a drag on our economy. But this crisis is also an opportunity – an opportunity to create jobs by rebuilding America. And this bill will make traveling safer and more efficient for American families and businesses.
The Senate transportation and housing bill also makes crucial investments in affordable housing programs that assist low income families in need. This legislation takes important steps toward eliminating homelessness among America’s veterans.
By contrast, the companion measure from the House of Representatives puts affordable housing out of reach for many low-income Americans – many of whom are elderly or disabled. The House bill also slashes investments in new roads and bridges. And it makes deep cuts to the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to modernize our air traffic control system.
The Senate bill is a bipartisan blueprint for investing in modern infrastructure and creating new jobs while maintaining a vital social safety net. House Republicans obviously have a different vision.
On Sunday, John Boehner said Congress should not be judged by how many bills it passes, but by how many laws it has repealed. If that’s true, House Republicans are failing even by their own metric.
But if my Republican colleagues are looking for a law to repeal, they should start with the short-sighted and mean-spirited sequester law. Democrats will be happy to help them roll back these arbitrary cuts, which threaten national security as well as the economy.
Unless Democrats and Republicans work out a bipartisan solution that replaces the sequester, crucial investments in everything from early childhood education to medical research to military readiness will be in jeopardy.
It has been 122 days since the Senate passed its budget. But Senate Republicans still refuse to let Democrats – led by Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray – to negotiate a budget compromise with our House Republican counterparts. Democrats haven’t given up on reversing the sequester and setting sound fiscal policy through the regular order of the budget process. And we know Democrats and Republicans will never find common ground if we never start negotiating.
The sequester will cost us investments in education that keep America competitive. It will cost millions of seniors, children and needy families the safety net that keeps them from descending into poverty. And because of drastic cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the sequester could also cost this country – and humankind – a cure for AIDS or Parkinson’s disease or cancer.
Congress can stop these devastating cuts to crucial medical research and to programs that protect low-income children and homebound seniors. But Democrats can’t do it alone. We need Republicans’ help. And if the cost of reducing the deficit with a meat ax today is missing out on the next polio vaccine tomorrow, then the price is simply too high.