Senate Democrats

Reid: Democrats Continue To Pursue Critical Immigration, Energy Reforms

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the following remarks today on the floor of the U.S. Senate:

After listening to hour after hour of floor debate, I do not believe there is a single Senator who does not see the urgent need to fix our badly broken immigration system.

Every one of us agrees that we need a bill.  Yet when it came time vote on the bipartisan compromise last Thursday night, only seven Republicans joined with 38 Democrats to invoke cloture.

Today I will send a letter to President Bush to lay out my hope that we can still move forward. But I will let him know that further progress will require active support from him and more Republicans. 

I will tell the President: “A strong spirit of bipartisanship has held together the coalition of Democrats and Republicans who negotiated the compromise and has sustained the Senate through two full weeks of debate on the bill.  Unfortunately, that bipartisanship was largely absent in a crucial vote last Thursday.  Only seven Republicans joined 38 Democrats in voting to bring debate on the bill to a close in a timely manner.  Put another way, almost 80 percent of the Democratic caucus voted to move the bill forward, while only 14 percent of the Republican caucus did so.

“We appreciate the efforts of you and other Republicans who have worked with us to get the bill this far.  But we believe it will take stronger leadership by you to ensure that opponents of the bill do not block the path to final passage.  Simply put, we need many more than seven Republicans to vote for cloture and final passage of this bill.”

I want to get this bill done.  The overwhelming majority of the Democratic caucus has already voted for cloture.  The American people are certainly looking to Congress for leadership.  We hope that President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress will find their way to work with us to deliver this bill to the immigrants, businesses, and all Americans who demand and deserve it.

If we see new cooperation and a clear way forward from the Republican caucus, we will do everything possible to re-address the immigration issue after debate on the energy bill. 

This week we turn our focus to one of the great challenges our time: re-imagining our national energy policy.

In 1931, Thomas Edison had a meeting with Henry Ford, whose cars were driving up consumer demand for gasoline.

Edison told Ford: “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!  I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” 

But 76 years later, we haven’t tackled our addiction to oil, and it has grown into a three-pronged crisis – threatening our economy, threatening our national security and threatening our environment.

Today America consumes 21 million barrels of oil every single day, enough to fill a swimming pool 10 feet deep and 11 miles long – the length of 200 football fields.

The bill we begin debate on today – the Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007 – takes several major steps toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil, promoting renewable energy produced right here in America, and protecting our environment from global warming.

This bill is a substitute amendment to H.R. 6.  It is a package of bipartisan bills that were reported from committees by overwhelming majorities from both parties.

I can’t emphasize that point enough: the components of this bill have already earned overwhelming bipartisan support.

Our bill takes several important steps: For the first time in 30 years, our bill raises CAFE standards for new cars and trucks – to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, with another 4 percent improvement every year thereafter.

Our bill reduces crude oil consumption by more than 10 percent over the next 15 years by producing more renewable fuels right here in America – which will also create tens of thousands of new American jobs.

Our bill sets new energy-efficiency standards for lighting, appliances and water use, which will save half a trillion gallons of water every year.

Because government should lead by example, our bill dramatically improves the energy efficiency of federal buildings and vehicles, which will save billions of tax dollars.

Our bill protects consumers by punishing companies that price gouge or manipulate supply to pad their profits.

Our bill invests in “carbon capture and storage,” a new technology that will prevent carbon emissions from existing power sources from ever reaching the air.

And for the first time, our bill directs the President and his cabinet to improve diplomatic relations with our energy partners in order to give us more leverage in the global energy market.

Altogether, our bill will save American consumers tens of billions of dollars annually, cut our oil consumption by more than 4 million barrels per day and reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources right away.  And by the way, we might just save the planet while we’re at it.  This is a good bill and a very important first step in our continuing effort to make America energy independent.

Let me mention one final point – many colleagues will be tempted to offer tax amendments right away.  I ask that we wait until the Finance Committee has had an opportunity to make recommendations on an energy tax amendment before additional ones are offered.

I hope all my colleagues will vote in favor of the motion to proceed.  This package out of committee is reasonable, achievable, and represents the kind of forward progress we need.