Senate Democrats

Reid Asks for Consent Agreement on TANF

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor:

“Four months ago, the Senate Finance Committee reported S. 667, The Personal Responsibility and Individual Development for Everyone Act.

“The PRIDE Act would reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which was due for reauthorization in 2002.

“It is a bipartisan bill, and received virtually unanimous support in the Committee, a compromise that demonstrates how things are supposed to work around here.

“The PRIDE Act contains increased funding to help parents cover the costs of child care so they can join the work force. It contains critical transitional medical assistance so that parents who work do not immediately lose their health care. In short, it will help tens of thousands of Americans who are simply trying to do the right thing by their families and their communities.

“That is why our Governors and State Legislatures – both Democrats and Republicans – have asked that we reauthorize the program and pass the PRIDE Act.

“Unfortunately, instead of helping working families and listening to our Governors and legislatures by immediately taking up this important bipartisan legislation, Senate Republicans have spent the past several months fighting amongst themselves and delaying its consideration.

“In the meantime, working families and our states have had to live with uncertainty about whether this program will continue and, if so, in what form and at what cost.

“While we’ve been forced to wait several months for Senate Republicans to work out their intra-party squabble, the Congress has had to pass a series of stop-gap extensions to keep the program going. Just before the last recess, we passed what was the tenth extension of the TANF program.

“However, that extension will expire at the end of September if we don’t act on permanent legislation before then.

“Even more threatening, some of our Republican colleagues are interested in including TANF in reconciliation, which will mean cuts not increases to many of the important programs contained in the bipartisan legislation reported out by the Finance Committee.

“I want to commend Sens. Baucus and Grassley for their efforts on behalf of this legislation. The Chairman and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee have been working together for months in an effort to bring the committee-reported bill to the floor.

“But we must consider this bipartisan bill soon.

“The Majority Leader will note that we have a busy schedule. And we do. But the Majority Leader has also acknowledged the importance of addressing the needs of working families who play by the rules and that’s precisely what this legislation does.

“We can’t afford to delay any further. The Committee has done its job, and now those of us in leadership must do the same by bringing this bill to the floor, so we can pass it and send it to the House before we are faced with cuts to another vital component of our safety net.

“If we fail to do so, we stand to lose the opportunity to improve this critical safety net program.