Senate Democrats

Reid Pledges To Put People’s Business First

If Republicans Go Nuclear, Democratic Leader Says Democrats Will Use the Rules to Restore the Agenda of the American People

Remarks of Senator Harry Reid
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Sperling Breakfast
Monday, April 25, 2005
Washington, DC

Americans across the country are worried about a lot of things right now. Gas prices…The heath of their loved ones…Their kids’ performance in school. But I don’t think any of them are worried about the filibuster rule in the United States Senate.

So I continually wonder why is that priority number one for Senate Republicans?

My guess is they are so focused on power. They don’t care what issues they have to ignore…what rules they have to break…what judge they have to attack. They will not rest until the separation of powers are gone and Republicans have total control.

At the end of last week, we saw Vice President Cheney join the fray. In the span of three minutes, the vice president managed to reinvent 200 years of Senate history and ignore the fact that Congress has already approved 205 of this administration’s nominees, rejecting only 10.

Apparently, that 95 percent confirmation rate – better than the last three presidents – is not enough for George Bush. They want more…even if it means shattering the checks and balances in our government in order to put radical, right-wing judges on the bench.

We don’t have a judicial crisis in this country. We recently saw the lowest vacancy rate on our courts in 14 years. What we have is a Republican party abusing its power in an attempt to stack the courts.

And we certainly have never seen precedent for the nuclear option in the Senate, as Republican Senators would like to suggest. Similar attempts to break the rules to change the rules have been tried before, and rejected every time.

Two weeks ago, I met with the president. I was encouraged when he told me he would not become involved in Republican efforts to break the Senate rules. After Friday’s speech, it appears he was not being honest, and that the White House is encouraging this raw abuse of power.

It is disturbing that Republicans have so little respect for the separation of powers established by our founding fathers. And it’s just as disturbing that they are putting their own political fortunes ahead of the work of the American people.

I had hoped that the president was prepared to join Democrats in working for Americans. It is clear this is no longer the case. If the White House and Congress insist on proceeding down this road, Democrats will do all we can to ensure that Congress pursues an agenda the American people can be proud of.

If Republicans go ahead and break the rules, Democrats are going to use the rules to fight for relief at the gas pump, stronger schools, lower health care costs and a range of other issues important to the American people.