Senate Democrats


Washington, DCSenator Reid released the following statement to mark the beginning of Black History Month. President Bush and Congressional Republicans have put the interests of the African American community behind the special interests, but February offers the opportunity to change priorities and work to make a better America.

“As we begin Black History Month this February, we first offer our condolences to the King family for the loss of their matriarch and the first lady of the Modern Civil Rights Movement, Coretta Scott King.”

“This month is an opportunity to look back and reflect on the achievements and contributions of African Americans to our nation, but we must also use it to look forward and address how the nation is responding to the critical issues important to African Americans, issues such as educational opportunity, the economy, health care, and relief for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”

“Earlier this week, President Bush delivered his State of the Union address and laid out his vision for the country. While it remains to be seen if the President will keep his promises for the future, I believe that America, and especially African Americans, can do better than what he and the Republican Party have done thus far.”

“Education has opened the door to opportunity for countless Americans, yet President Bush seems intent on closing it. Tuitions and fees at four-year public universities have skyrocketed, but the Pell Grant, one of the primary sources of federal aid for African American college students, has not risen with them and now only covers some 37% of a student’s needs. Even worse, last year the President and the Republican Congress also cut $12.7 billion from student aid.”

“Americans can do better than our current economic condition. President Bush inherited a surplus of $236 billion when he took office. We now have one of the largest deficits in American history. Unemployment has gone up 17% nationally and is nearly twice the national average in the African American community. The President has fueled the crisis by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and charging the shrinking middle class to pay for them. As for his talk of an “ownership society,” President Bush’s last budget eliminated micro-loans and counseling for micro-enterprises, hurting minority small businesses.”

“We can do better than the widespread disparities in our health care system. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44, killing these Americans in their most productive years. We can help ease this tragedy if only Congress will reauthorize and fully fund the Ryan White CARE ACT, which would provide treatment to those infected by the disease. We must also do more to ensure equal access to healthcare. Many African Americans get their coverage through Medicare, but last year the President proposed cutting $60 billion from the program. Republicans in Congress responded with a bill that will severely hamper access to services for the most vulnerable: children, pregnant women, and the elderly.”

“Finally, we must do more for those devastated by Hurricane Katrina. The storm affected Americans regardless of their race, but it revealed the deep racial wounds that still exist in our society. I joined other Democrats in offering legislation within days of the storm to provide immediate relief to all Katrina’s victims, but though we have consistently urged the President to live up to his promise to provide “one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen” and despite Republican claims of support, we have seen very little action.”

“This month is a wonderful opportunity to honor the contributions of African Americans to our nation, but it is also an opportunity to uplift the lives of African Americans, thus improving the lives of all Americans. Together, America can do better.”