“Throughout the course of American history, lawmakers divided by political party have united to pass important legislation. On the issues that matter most – when lives are at stake, when the economy is at stake, when American competitiveness is at stake – lawmakers divided by political party have been drawn together by shared priorities. It is time to renew that tradition.”
“Democrats and Republicans must come together today to build a future where hard work is all it takes to turn opportunity in to prosperity.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding President Obama’s proposals to continue our economic growth. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Eight decades ago, when President Franklin Roosevelt first proposed Social Security as insurance against poverty in old age, the idea was controversial. But, in 1935, 97 Republicans joined Democrats in Congress to create one of the most successful social programs in history.
Two decades later, President Dwight Eisenhower proposed the nation’s first interstate highway system, promising the investment would pave the way for a new era of American growth. And in 1956, Congress approved 47,000 miles of new highways at a cost of $50 billion – more than half a trillion of today’s dollars. The bipartisan vote wasn’t even close. The proposal passed the Senate 89 to 1, and was approved by voice vote in the House.
Then, 20 years after President Harry Truman first envisioned a program that would protect every senior citizen from illness and need, 83 Republicans helped President Lyndon Johnson and Democrats in Congress create Medicare. Since the law was enacted in 1965, poverty among seniors in this country has decreased and life expectancy has increased by a decade.
On each of these occasions – and countless others throughout the course of American history – lawmakers divided by political party have united to pass important legislation. On the issues that matter most – when lives are at stake, when the economy is at stake, when American competitiveness is at stake – lawmakers divided by political party have been drawn together by shared priorities. It is time to renew that tradition.
Over the last five years, this nation dug its way out of the hole created by the Great Recession. Now we have an opportunity to come together again, this time to lay the foundation for a stronger, smarter and more competitive America. As Democrats and Republicans came together to ensure the health and dignity of our nation’s seniors, as Democrats and Republicans came together to pave the way for a mobile and competitive economy, so Democrats and Republicans must come together today to build a future where hard work is all it takes to turn opportunity in to prosperity.
Yesterday, President Obama laid out a roadmap to restore that promise for every American. He laid out a vision to encourage responsible homeownership, to educate a new generation of workers and to create jobs rebuilding Eisenhower-era roadways and bridges.
Every day I am impressed by President Obama’s focus on restoring a vibrant economy. And every day I am encouraged by his optimism that with a little cooperation and the help of a few reasonable Republicans, we will achieve that goal. I look forward to hearing more details of his proposals in the coming days and weeks.
President Eisenhower understood that lawmakers, Republican or Democrat, should be drawn together by shared priorities. We should all play on the same team. This is what he said: “I have one yardstick by which I test every major problem – and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?”
Throughout this nation’s history, Congress has used that same measure. But over the last five years, something has changed. When my Republican counterpart said his number one goal was to defeat President Obama, the words “at any cost” were implied. Since 2009, Republicans have refused to join Democrats in the important work of legislating. And they have refused to join us in leading, preferring instead to stake out ideological territory or score political points.
Republicans have balked at new ideas. But they have also balked at old ideas they once supported, solely because those ideas are now favored by President Obama. This kind of opposition for opposition’s sake has resulted in gridlock and dysfunction. It has resulted in bitter partisanship, hostage taking and standoffs. And it has made it almost impossible for Congress to advance the big ideas, to achieve the big things, to realize the big dreams it once could.
But it’s not too late for reasonable people from both parties and on both sides of the Capitol to change that. It’s not too late for lawmakers divided by political party but sharing the same priorities to unite to pass important legislation.
Like President Obama, I am an optimist. I remain hopeful, despite the disagreements and difficulties of the last five years, that my Republican colleagues are using the same yardstick I am. And I know they are asking themselves – as I am – “Is it good for America?”