“I have been troubled to watch these so-called mainstream Republicans be marginalized by members of their own party.”
“Although I deplore the behavior of the extremists who sparked this month’s manufactured crisis… I do not blame only them for holding the government and the full faith and credit of the United States hostage. I also blame their mainstream Republican colleagues, who remained silent even as the anarchists among us committed political malpractice.”
“Democrats are ready to do the difficult work of finding common ground for the good of the country. We don’t expect radical Tea Party Republicans to join us. But we do hope our mainstream Republican colleagues will find their voices, reclaim their party and work with Democrats to govern once again.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the legislative work period ahead. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Welcome back. I hope the presiding officer had a productive week in Vermont, and that all my colleagues enjoyed visiting with constituents in their home states. This work period will go by quickly, and the Senate has a great deal to accomplish in these four weeks.
This week we will say goodbye to a valued colleague and welcome a new member to the United States Senate, the Senator-elect from New Jersey, Cory Booker. Senator-elect Booker – the mayor of Newark, New Jersey – was a Stanford University tight end. After graduating with a degree in political science, he got his Master’s degree in sociology from Stanford. He was a Rhodes Scholar and studied United States history at Oxford. And he received his law degree from Yale before running for Newark City Council and then two terms as mayor. I look forward to welcoming Senator-elect Booker.
This work period, the Senate will consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We will also consider a bipartisan bill to make compounded drugs safer and to track prescription medicines from the factory to the drug store. We’ll consider job-creation legislation that will build on the economic recovery and strengthen middle-class families. And we’ll take up the Defense Authorization bill, which supports our troops and ensures this nation does everything in its power to keep America safe from those who would do us harm.
But before we debate any of these matters, we must consider a number of vital presidential nominations, including several that have been stalled for more than a year by members of the Republican caucus. It is no secret that Republicans have systematically slow-walked or blocked scores of President Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees. Pending executive nominees have waited an average of 5 months for a Senate vote.
Democrats have overcome filibusters of 66 of the President’s nominees and Republicans have blocked or delayed many more with secret holds and procedural hurdles. We reached an agreement earlier this year to consider a number of important nominations that had been stalled for months – and in some cases years. But Republican obstruction has once again caused a backlog to form. It is time to move forward – without delay – and fill these crucial posts.
In the wake of a Republican government shutdown, the nation is watching for a sign that the Senate can function efficiently. It is time to show the American people how well and how quickly the Senate can work when an ounce of cooperation is present.
Likewise, our colleagues in the House of Representatives owe it to the American people to stop wasting time on political show votes and start legislating. On many of the most important issues of the day, Republican leaders have refused to allow the voices of House members to be heard. They have often refused to allow the House of Representatives – the whole House of Representatives – to work its will.
Perhaps the most glaring example is immigration reform. Last June, the Senate passed a common-sense, bipartisan bill to fix the broken legal immigration system, strengthen our borders and require undocumented people to get right with the law. But for four months the House has failed to act on immigration legislation. Even many mainstream Republicans believe House Republican leaders should allow a vote on a comprehensive plan to mend the broken system.
The House has also failed to take up the Senate’s bipartisan agriculture jobs bill, which supports 16 million American jobs and will save $23 billion, or our bipartisan legislation to give brick-and-mortar retailers parity with their online competitors. On these issues and many others it is time for reasonable Republicans to raise their voices.
Over the past three years, I have been troubled to watch these so-called mainstream Republicans be marginalized by members of their own party. And even more troubling, moderate Republicans have been complicit in allowing this disturbing trend to continue.
It was no surprise when Tea Party extremists forced our economy to the brink of disaster this month, or when they shut down the government for the sake of an ideological stunt. But I was surprised that sensible, mainstream Republicans did not speak up sooner – and that many did not speak up at all – in defense of reason and responsibility. As their more radical colleagues drove the nation and the world to the brink of economic collapse, most middle-of-the-road Republicans said nothing and did nothing to stop it.
Although I deplore the behavior of the extremists who sparked this month’s manufactured crisis – and many of the crises of the past three years – I do not blame only them for holding the government and the full faith and credit of the United States hostage. I also blame their mainstream Republican colleagues, who remained silent even as the anarchists among us committed political malpractice.
They should know better. They know the consequences of default. And they know the cost of a government shutdown. Yet they allowed members of their own party to take the country down a dangerous road, doing irreparable harm to the Republican Party in the process.
As a conference committee sits down to negotiate a long-term budget deal that sets a course for fiscal responsibility, reasonable, moderate Republicans – mainstream Republicans – must not absent themselves from the discussion. A significant number of radical Republicans have said they would rather risk default than cooperate or compromise with Democrats. Sensible Republicans must not allow those radicals to rule the day.
Democrats are ready to do the difficult work of finding common ground for the good of the country. We don’t expect radical Tea Party Republicans to join us. But we do hope our mainstream Republican colleagues will find their voices, reclaim their party and work with Democrats to govern once again.