Senate Democrats

Reid: Priorities of the People Should Be the Priorities of the Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks today on the Senate Floor:

“Mr. President, like most Senators, I spent last week’s recess traveling my home state and meeting with constituents.

I met with a wide-range of people, but many conversations came back to the same issues: Rising energy prices…Iraq…. Katrina…And whether or not we’re ready for another disaster like Avian flu.

I’m sure other Senators had a similar experience. Americans from all walks of life are focused on these important issues, and they are looking to us for help.

As Democratic Leader, I was able to assure my constituents that my Democratic colleagues and I are doing everything we can. On Iraq, we continue to press President Bush to answer key questions about how he’s going to change course and achieve military and political success. On energy, Democrats remain committed to energy independence by 2020, and we’ve pushed to help families fill their tanks and heat their homes.

With Katrina, we’ve continued to fight to make sure the needs of displaced families are placed at the top of the Senate’s agenda. And with the Avian flu, we’ve taken the lead in offering solutions to help prepare America and Americans for the next possible disaster.

You see, Democrats understand these issues are the priorities of the American people. That is why they are priorities for us as well.

Mr. President, the same cannot be said for my Republican colleagues. While Democrats are focused on addressing America’s pressing needs, Republicans act like nothing is wrong.

Take energy. The price of gas continues to hover around three dollars, and the Administration’s own Energy Department predicts families will pay hundreds more to heat their homes this winter. Despite these facts, Republicans have refused to help families at the pump, and they blocked our efforts to help working families heat their homes.

Senate Republicans have taken a similar hands-off approach to Iraq, Katrina, Preparedness and Avian flu. The best example is the Defense Authorization bill. Here we have money for our troops – money for pay raises….money for health care…money for new equipment. But the Republicans refuse to bring it to the Floor. This bill reported out of committee over six months ago. It had bi-partisan committee support. In fact, it enjoyed one of the most bipartisan mark-ups in recent memory, but Republicans refuse to give it an open, honest debate.

Mr. President, from Defense Authorization to Katrina relief, the Republican record is clear. Unfortunately, their plans for the future are just as bad. Instead of helping Americans, Republicans have decided to use the months ahead to make problems worse.

For the next five weeks, Republicans have decided we should focus on cutting health care funding for the sick and elderly….On cutting education funding for our students….And on cutting housing and food assistance funding for those who need it most.

Of course, Republicans will be arguing that all of this is justified in the name of fiscal discipline. But these are the same people that have brought us the largest deficits and debt increases in this nation’s history. The same people who have voted for trillions in additional tax cuts and hundreds of billions for Iraq – without batting an eye about the fact that none of this spending was offset. And the same people who would like to move forward on another round of expensive tax breaks.

Mr. President, America can do better.

It’s time for the Congress of the United States to focus on the needs of the United States. The American people have concerns about a number of issues, and we have an obligation to address them.

I know the Republican Majority would like to proceed with business as usual, but that is not what the American people expect or want. They aren’t interested in more tax-breaks for the rich or perks for Big Oil. They want us to come together to focus on them.

We have five weeks before the next recess, and a host of issues to address, including energy prices, Katrina and preparedness for Avian flu and other disasters.

It is my pledge to every American that Democrats will not allow these issues to be swept under the rug. Democrats will do everything in our power to make sure these issues are addressed before we leave.

On energy, we’ll fight to make sure the Senate takes real steps to help millions of families fill their tanks and heat their homes. On the Avian flu, we’ll continue to push the Senate to consider our comprehensive legislation, so that our country has the tools and resources it needs to confront this threat. And with Katrina, we’ll make sure hundreds of thousands of victims are helped, not forgotten. Displaced families may no longer be front page news, but that doesn’t mean their needs are met. Thousands are still without health care and housing, and we have an obligation to help.

These are top priorities for the American people, and Democrats will fight to make sure they are top priorities for the Senate as well.”