Senate Democrats


Condemns GOP for blackmailing working Americans in attempt to repeal estate tax

Washington, DCWith Congressional Republicans ignoring the problems facing the American people, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Republican leaders may think the country should be happy with the performance of the 109th Congress, but Democrats have joined with the American people in fighting for a new direction.

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

“Very difficult thing, to get anything out of this… Congress. They don’t want to do anything for the people. They are awful anxious to do things to the people, and they have done a lot of things to the people… and it’s beginning to hurt.”

These are the words of Harry Truman in 1948. He was referring to the 80th Congress, but he could easy have been referring to the 109th.

Like the “do-nothing-Congress” of 1948, it is “very difficult” to get anything out of this Republican Congress.

And the things they’re doing are “beginning to hurt.”

Look at national security.

The Majority’s rubberstamping of President Bush in Iraq has made America less safe and embolden our enemies, like Iran, North Korea and al-Qaeda. For the third week in a row, Iraq and the Middle-East are plunging further into crisis, and what is the response of this Republican Congress? The Estate Tax.

Look at our economy.

The Majority’s reckless fiscal policies have created a 9 trillion dollar debt, placing a birth tax on our children and our children’s children. In recent years, the poor have gotten poorer, the rich have gotten richer, and the middle-class has been squeezed.

And look at how divided America has become.

The Majority’s focus on issues like marriage and flag desecration has divided our country and distracted this body from more pressing concerns, problems in health care, with global warming, with energy and gas prices, and with the rising costs of middle-class life.

Mr. President, there are just 15 legislative days left this year. Everyone knows that Mondays and Fridays are not real voting days in this Republican Senate, so that leaves us with 3 days this week, and 12 when we return.

15 days ahead of us, and behind us, 19 wasted months.

The truth is, this Republican Congress is actually worse that the famous “do-nothing-Congress” of 1948. That Congress worked almost one month more.

Republicans ought to be ashamed of their dismal record, but it’s clear from press reports they are not. I was appalled yesterday when I read a quote from the House Republican Leader, in which he actually bragged about how little this Congress has done.

From yesterday’s Washington Post:

“Republican leaders shrug off the “do-nothing” charge. “You get used to hearing that nonsense,” said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

“As for beating the 1948 Congress’s record for lethargy, he joked, “Most Americans will be pretty happy with that.”

Happy? I don’t know what country he’s living in.

Americans are not “happy” they’re paying hundreds of dollars more for gas, because this Republican Congress refuses to pass relief measures, won’t investigate the surging profits of their Big Oil friends, and doesn’t have the political will necessary to rapidly make us more energy independent.

Americans are not “happy” our troops are in the middle of a Civil War in Iraq because this Republican Congress won’t demand the President change course. At least four marines were killed in Iraq this week, and dozens of Iraqis fell victim to sectarian violence. Democrats tried last month to offer our military and Iraq a strategy for success, but Republicans, as expected, pulled out their rubber-stamp.

Americans are not “happy” that this President has worn-down, exhausted and overstretched our military. As reported in today’s Washington Times, our military is “showing the wear” of five years of War.

Readiness levels for the Army are at lows not seen since Vietnam, as virtually no active Army non-deployed combat brigade is prepared to perform its wartime mission. The army has asked for $17 billion in emergency funds, but the President has yet to submit that request. It’s more dangerous incompetence from the administration and Congress that have made America less safe.

Americans are not “happy” our borders remain unsecured six years after 9/11 because this Republican Congress can’t pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Americans are not “happy” that this Republican Congress has bowed to the radical right and refused to override a Presidential veto of legislation that would allow our best and brightest scientists to explore the promise of stem cell research.

Americans are not “happy” this Republican Congress has concentrated all its efforts on a well-off, well-connected few, and done nothing to assist America’s middle-class families, which are struggling to pay the rising costs of health care, education and energy with paychecks that are shrinking.

Americans are not “happy” this Republican Congress has virtually ignored the health care crisis – that Republicans have sat on their hands for six years, as the millions more have lost their insurance and companies like Ford and GM–staples of the U.S. economy–have been crippled by rising costs.

Americans are not “happy” this Republican Congress has pushed its investigation into the President’s manipulation of Iraq intelligence until after the election. Nine months after Democrats sent the Senate into closed session over this issue, it’s been announced that the Republican-led Intelligence committee won’t complete its work before November. The only conclusion to draw is that the investigation is too embarrassing for Republicans to make public before the elections.

And Mr. President, Americans are not “happy” with this Republican Congress’s plan to play politics with the minimum wage and pensions bills later this week.

For 10 years, America’s workers have waited for a raise in the minimum wage.

In that time, Congress has given itself a $30,000 pay increase.

In that time, the cost of everything–from gas to housing to heat–has gone up.

But in that time, the federal minimum wage has stayed the same – $5.15 an hour, about $10,000 a year. It’s not nearly enough on which to live.

Republicans understand this issue is about to catch up with them. They understand they’re about to pay the price for ignoring America’s workers. So- in a most cynical, cheap trick – Republicans have offered to give America a raise, IF – AND ONLY IF – their wealthiest friends get billions in tax breaks first.

It’s such an unbelievable ploy, let me say it again. Republicans are threatening to deny a $2.10 raise for 11 million Americans, if they can’t give away billions to 12,000 of their wealthiest friends.

It’s political blackmail, and it reeks of desperation.

Republicans can’t pass a partial repeal of the Estate Tax on its own merits, so they’re holding the minimum wage hostage to do it.

Remember, the Estate Tax has been defeated before in the Senate. It didn’t get cloture when it was here last month. It is not supported by two-thirds of the Senate, but here it is again this week. It’s just more evidence that this Congress will stop at nothing to giveaway the bank to their special interest, well-connected friends.

This is the most contemptuous election year trick I have ever seen. It has NOTHING to do with giving workers a raise, and EVERYTHING to do with providing Republicans political cover.

And to make matters worse, Republicans are willing to put the defense of our nation on the back-burner to move forward with this trick.

Remember, the Senate was supposed to spend its time this week on the Defense Appropriations bill. At a time of war, this is one of the most important bills we can consider. It includes money for our troops, their equipment, their health care and other needs.

But Republicans are willing to push it aside so they can focus on their million dollar friends.

It’s an insult, and the American people can see through it. Just like they can see through the trick s Republicans are playing with pensions bill too.

Conferees have worked for months to reconcile the House and Senate pension reform bills.

They were on the verge of completing that task last Thursday night when the Republican leadership decided to torpedo that bill in a gambit designed to move their estate tax giveaway.

Once again, they chose to put the interests of the wealthy few ahead of the retirement security of millions of working Americans.

It’s just further evidence that America needs a new direction.

Mr. President, try as they might, Republicans can’t escape their record. History will record this as the “do-nothing-Congress of 2006.”

No one is “happy” about this situation.

We have 15 days left.

I would respectfully suggest to the other side that it is time to get to work on the pressing problems facing our country.