Senate Democrats

Reid: Democrats Demand Fiscally Responsible Budget While Republicans Continue To Ignore America’s Priorities

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today regarding the omnibus appropriations bill:

“There is a proverb from the Book of Matthew that says: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’  In the past few weeks, as we have put together the budget that is now before us, Democrats have sought to put our hearts and our treasure where the American people need them most.  President Bush and his Republican allies in Congress have been determined from the start to stand in our way.

“The President picked a top line budget number out of thin air and said he would veto any bill that invested another dime above this total in the needs of the American people – no matter how many children, students, working families, veterans or senior citizens would be harmed.  This from the President who inherited record surpluses when he took office and turned them into record deficits.  This from the President who has spent nearly $500 hundred billion – all of it borrowed – to fight a war of choice in Iraq, while ignoring the desperate needs that we face here at home.  And this from congressional Republicans who have rubber stamped his every irresponsible, wasteful, reckless choice.

“But now, this year, this President and these Bush-Cheney Republicans claim – after years leading our country down a path of fiscal ruin – they have been baptized into the Church of fiscal responsibility.  Under this false pretense, they went about to prevent us from presenting appropriations bills that help America’s working families.  With the power of the President’s veto and a core group of congressional Republicans willing to back it up, this fight has not been easy.  That is an understatement.

“Nevertheless, in the past few weeks, we have worked within the President’s arbitrary top line to make it clear to the American people where our hearts and our fiscal priorities lie.  Every victory in the appropriations bills now before us – every benefit to working families, every investment in our nation’s future – we have had to fight for tooth and nail.

“Bush-Cheney Republicans turned their backs on medical science in this budget.  They tried to cut 800 grants for medical research at the National Institutes of Health – programs that would help find cures for dread diseases.  Our Democratic priorities are different.  We want to spread hope – real scientific hope – that those who suffer from Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s and Diabetes and other maladies will see a brighter, healthier day.  So we restored the Bush-Cheney Republican cuts to the NIH and invested more than $600 million in medical research.  We refused to back down and we won that fight.

“The Bush-Cheney Republican budget would have slashed access to healthcare by $600 million – leaving many of the most vulnerable Americans with nowhere to turn.  But our Democratic priorities are different.  We believe in helping the little girl with asthma, for whom the emergency room is a revolving door because her parents can’t afford a doctor.  Or the uninsured laborer who gets injured on the job.  Or the senior citizen who suffers from arthritis.  We gave these Americans a better chance to live healthy lives with $1 billion above the President’s request for programs like community health centers, high risk insurance pools and rural hospitals – programs on which hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans rely.  We refused to back down on America’s healthcare needs, and we won that fight.

“If the Bush-Cheney Republicans got their way, this budget would have stripped $1.2 billion from education, eliminated major student aid programs and cut vocational education by 50 percent.  But Democrats have different priorities here, too.  We believe that education is the great equalizer in America, and that every American child deserves the right to a quality education and the keys to a better future.  We backed that commitment with major investments in Title 1, special education, teacher quality grants, after school programs, Head Start, student aid grants and technical training – all above the Bush-Cheney Republican request.  Democrats refused to back down and let Republicans rob children the chance to succeed – and we won that fight.

“Bush-Cheney Republicans talk tough on law enforcement, but when it came time to actually give our state and local law enforcement the tools they need to keep us safe, Bush-Cheney Republicans said no.  Their budget cut law enforcement funds by $1.4 billion at the Department of Justice.  Once again, Democrats’ priorities are different.  We invested $1.2 billion more than the President’s request to help our police fight crime.  We refused to back down from our commitment to safer neighborhoods, and we won that fight.

“Bush-Cheney Republicans try hard to scare us with the threat of terrorism.  Did their budget match their rhetoric? No.  They cut more than $1 billion in homeland security grants for police, firefighters and medical personnel.  What are our priorities? Democrats increased our commitment to fighting terrorism by nearly $2 billion.  We refused to believe that at a time we are spending $12 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, we couldn’t spend an additional $2 billion per year to fight terrorism in America.  We won that fight, too, and America will be safer because of it.

“The same year when the Minneapolis bridge collapse tragically reminded us that our roads, bridges and tunnels are crumbling, Bush-Cheney Republicans tried to strip critical infrastructure projects from the budget.  Democrats refused to stand by while the President spends billions to build roads in Iraq, but tells us we can’t do anything about our roads in America.  We can do something and we did.  We refused to back down and we won the fight for American infrastructure.

“When it came time to choose between energy independence and big oil – between a clean environment and the special interests, the Bush-Cheney Republicans chose the special interests.  Our priorities are consumers who are spending more than ever to pay for gas for their cars and heat for their homes.  We take the side of cleaner air and renewable fuels by investing in solar energy, wind energy, biofuels and energy efficiency.  We stood up to Bush-Cheney Republicans, who once again turned their backs on science and cozied up the major polluters.  We won that fight, and America will be safer and cleaner because we did.

“I am so grateful for my Democratic colleagues in the House and Senate.  We have faced a level of arbitrary stubbornness from President Bush and his congressional allies that no Congress has ever faced before.  We turned a horrible budget into a budget that does some good, important things.  And we did it responsibly: without raising taxes or adding anything to President Bush’s epic pile of debt.

“Our country owes enormous gratitude to the senior Senator from West Virginia, Chairman Robert Byrd, for his leadership on this budget.  Chairman Obey also did a tremendous job on this legislation.  I would also like to acknowledge the work of Senator Cochran, who worked with Senator Byrd and others to move this bill through committee and to the floor.

“This budget includes funds to help prevent Western wildfires and better fight the ones that do occur.  It includes vital education funding for Nevada’s universities.  It invests in Nevada’s renewable energy.  It provides funds for vital Nevada water projects.  And it honors our troops and veterans with more than $340 million for the Southern Nevada Veteran’s Hospital.

“But let me be clear: this compromise budget could have been much, much better if not for Bush-Cheney Republicans double standard on fiscal responsibility.  They chose to enforce an arbitrary topline on America’s priorities – even as they continue to borrow billions to fund the endless war in Iraq, to support corporate cronyism, and to look the other way on global warming and pollution.

“Because Republicans have made these choices, the American people will have to keep waiting for the kind of budget they deserve.  But because Democrats refused to back down, this budget is a step forward.  The American people deserve to know that Democrats will keep taking step after step after step — to set the right priorities — and make the progress that our country so desperately needs.”