Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding Republican tactics on the housing bill:
“When Democrats and Republicans joined together last month to pass the economic stimulus package, we agreed that it was an important first step toward addressing our country’s economic challenges. But we agreed that it was only a first step, that we must do more to help American struggling to make ends meet.
“Yesterday, Democrats tried to take the next step. We brought to the floor a genuine effort to help families and neighborhoods weather the growing housing crisis. But Republicans in the Senate blocked our legislation to help struggling American families – just as they have done time and time again on other important legislation.
“Why did they choose obstruction over American families at risk to lose their homes? Senator Lamar Alexander and a few others said that all Republicans wanted was the opportunity to offer amendments. Anyone following this debate would know that my Republican colleagues were given some bad information or their staff watched none of the floor deliberation on this issue.
“I have said numerous times, both publicly and privately, that both sides want to offer amendments, and both sides should have that opportunity. I told Senator McConnell a week ago that we intended to allow both Democrats and Republicans to offer amendments. I have made that commitment several times on the floor. My words are available for anyone to review in the Congressional record.
“There is only one reason why Republicans were not able to offer amendments: They refused to let us move procedurally to the legislative posture where amendments could be offered. Republicans’ decision to deny the Senate the ability to even take up this bill deprived both sides the opportunity to offer a single amendment. My Republican colleagues can talk all they want about amendments, but the record betrays their rhetoric.
“Yesterday’s Republican press conference made it clear what is really going on here. Here is what they say: Instead of standing on the side of struggling families and at-risk homeowners, Republicans once again chose the side of Bush, banks and big business. Republicans want us to continue to help those who contributed to the foreclosure debacle in the first place. The Republican alternative to our housing plan calls for tort reform and even more Bush tax cuts. Neither has anything to do with the housing crisis.
“The Republican ‘housing plan’ consists of tired programs form a dusty Bush-Cheney playbook. Tort reform and Bush tax policy – neither have anything to do with housing.
“The housing plan Democrats propose offers real solutions to the crisis that families and neighborhoods are facing all across our country. Our plan helps families keep their homes by increasing pre-foreclosure counseling funds. Our plan expands refinancing opportunities for homeowners stuck in bad loans. It provides funds to help the highest-need communities purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties. It helps families avoid foreclosure in the future by improving loan disclosures and transparency during the original loan and refinancing process. And it amends the bankruptcy code to allow home loans on primary residences to be modified – only in certain circumstances, with very strict guidelines.
“So I say to my Republican colleagues who talk about their desire to help – talk is cheap. The American deserve better than tort reform and extending Bush economic policies. Republicans have been able to hold onto the status quo and block us from moving America forward because our majority is razor-thin.
“In addition to this housing plan, they have blocked the priorities of the American people on:
- Tax incentives for alternative energy
- A better economic stimulus bill that provided an extension of unemployment benefits;
- And of course, time after time, the war in Iraq.
“Our razor-thin majority has allowed Republicans to block legislation with little effort. They should to enjoy it while they can. The American people see what’s going on, and our majority will soon grow.
“But neighborhoods and families who are struggling mightily through the housing crisis can’t wait until then. I urge my republican colleagues to join us in supporting a housing plan that actually addresses housing – and eases the suffering of millions of American families.”