Senate Democrats


Modern “Do Nothing Congress” has only eight weeks remaining

Washington, DC–Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, urging Bush Republicans to put aside their politically motivated agenda to address the real challenges the American people face every day. With the Senate rapidly running out of legislative days to tackle serious issues like gas prices, health care costs, and the minimum wage, there is no time left to spare.

The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.

The lead story in Roll Call today has the headline “Senate Plans Earlier Recess.” The article reports that the Majority Leader and the Majority Whip have:

“scrapped plans to keep the Senate in session through the beginning of October, and will instead look to wrap up work on as many appropriations bills and other must pass measures before September 27.”

Mr. President, this new adjournment date means the Senate has only 8 more weeks in which it will be session.   

Eight weeks is 40 business days. 

Subtract Labor Day, and there are only 39 days.

Subtract Mondays and Fridays – which aren’t real work days in this Republican Congress – and there are just 23 legislative days left in the 109th Congress.

23 days, and so much work to do!

For months, this “Do Nothing Republican Congress” has wasted time on issues like the nuclear option, the marriage amendment, drilling in the Artic Wildlife Refuge, flag burning, bankruptcy, class action and the Estate tax.

As a result, here we are, with only a handful of weeks remaining, and the Senate hasn’t done a thing to address the priorities of the American people.

I was in Nevada last week, and the concerns I heard from my constituents are the same concerns this Republican Congress has been ignoring for the last 18 months. 

Today in Nevada, the average price of a gallon of gas is $3.02–more than 50 cents above the price a year ago. Families are pouring their savings into their gas tanks. 

But has this Republican Congress done anything to help? No.

While they’ve been quick to address non-issues like Flag Burning, the Majority has rejected efforts by Democrats that would bring down prices at the pump, and opposed efforts to inject billions into the research and development of alternative fuels.  

It’s the same with tough issues like global warming. 

Today in Nevada and across the West, people are talking about this year’s early wildfires.  New research seems to link these to changing climate patterns. 

But has the Administration or the Republican Congress taken steps to reduce the risks of global climate change?  No. 

They’re more than willing to debate the pet-issues of the far-right, like the definition of marriage, but afraid of angering the White House and their political base by investigating and taking action on tough issues like global warming. 

Health care? It’s the same story. Today in Nevada, there are almost 450,000 individuals without health insurance–more than 100,000 of them children.

Has this Republican Congress done anything in the last 18 months to help? No. The Majority instead spent its “health care week” handing favors to their special interests friends. 

And what about the minimum wage? Today in Nevada, there are 56,000 workers who could benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage.

But has this Republican Congress done anything in the last 18 months to help? No. The Majority has so far refused to give workers a meaningful raise.

On this issue, Democrats have decided enough is enough. We’ve decided to block any attempt to raise Congressional pay until the minimum wage is raised. From now on, it’s a raise for America’s workers before a raise for Congress.  Time will tell if this is enough to finally get the Majority’s attention.

Mr. President, with only 23 real legislative days remaining and a list of things we need to accomplish that’s a mile long, we need to get to work. It is my hope the Majority will make time for these important issues before we adjourn.

But this afternoon, I’d like to focus on two issues that must come to the Floor this month–the Voting Rights Act and stem cell.

Really, there is no reason why we haven’t dealt with these issues already. The original timetable for extending the Voting Rights Act was May. The Majority leader’s promise to consider the House-passed stem cell bill (HR810) came nearly a year ago.

But here we are – with only 8 weeks remaining – and there is still no specific date set for debate on either issue.

I understand that we left for recess with a Stem Cell agreement, and the Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark-up the Voting Rights legislation on Thursday. 

It’s progress, but it’s not enough.

We need the Majority Leader to schedule a specific date – in July – for each issue to come to the Floor.

Each day these bills are delayed, the Majority is withholding hope from the American people.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is the most significant pieces of legislation ever passed by Congress. Reauthorizing it will help ensure that every American citizen has the ability to cast their ballot regardless of the language they speak or the color of their skin.

This legislation is above politics and partisanship.  It’s about living up to our founding creed of equality and justice for all.  The Voting Rights Act needs to be extended, and there is no reason for us to wait.

And there’s no reason for us to wait on stem cells either.

Stem cell research holds so much promise for medical breakthroughs, if only we’ll give our scientists the freedom and resources they need.

All of us know someone who suffers from a disease like diabetes, Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s or paralysis. These are afflictions stem cells could possible cure.

On each of these issues, we cannot – we must not – wait another month.

Mr. President, it is time for the Senate to stop stalling on the Voting Rights Act and the House’s Stem Cell legislation.  

I know the Majority Leader considers both of these bills top priorities. Today, I ask him to publicly commit to a date – this month – when he will bring these issues to the floor. 

With only 23 days remaining, we don’t have a single one to waste.