Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“This weekend, Americans spent another $800 million in Iraq. $400 million Saturday. $400 million Sunday. Another $400 million today. The month of February came to a close – another $12 billion spent in Iraq, another $12 billion, all borrowed. Yet for the hundreds of billions we’ve borrowed and spent on Iraq already, violence continues. This morning brought news of two car bombs in Baghdad killing at least two dozen Iraqis.
“Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz said this weekend that these billions upon billions spent in Iraq are largely responsible for our economic troubles here at home. Last week, Democrats in Congress attempted to help families impacted by the eye of the economic storm: the housing crisis.
“Yet as we watched the Dow tumble and oil close above $100 a barrel, Republicans blocked our bill. They could have chosen the side of families at risk to lose their homes to foreclosure and all Americans adversely affected by the housing crisis. Instead, they chose the side of Bush. The side of big business.
“As Republicans block and stall, people continue to suffer. We need to help them, and Democrats remain ready to do so. I urge my Republican colleagues to join Democrats in a bipartisan effort to help get people the help they need and get our economy working again.
“Less than two weeks ago, Congress sent the intelligence authorization bill to the President’s desk with overwhelming bipartisan support. Our country has been without an intelligence authorization bill for three years. That is long enough.
“Our bipartisan bill will strengthen intelligence capabilities to fight terrorism more effectively and keep our cities and towns safe. Our bill includes provisions to restore proper Congressional oversight to the work of our intelligence community. And it includes another simple, yet crucial provision: that all intelligence professionals across all agencies of the United States government must adhere to one standard of interrogation.
“Torture techniques including sexual humiliation, electric shocks and burns, mock executions, deprivation of food and medical care, and of course, waterboarding, are un-American – no ifs, ands or buts. There is little more precious to America than our moral authority. With moral authority, we have negotiated peace treaties, ended wars, and kept the American people out of harm’s way. Our lost moral authority may be remembered as the most damaging aspect of the Bush years.
“The outrages at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo led the world to question America’s commitment to human rights. President Bush should have made it clear then and there that America does not torture. Instead, he says that we can’t be telling our enemies our interrogation techniques.
“I strongly disagree. We should be telling those who seek to harm us that no matter what they do, they will never make us sacrifice the values that lie at our core. There is no grey area when it comes to torture. It is a moral absolute – and our answer must be absolutely not.
“When Republicans and Democrats joined together to overwhelmingly pass the torture ban in the intelligence authorization bill, our message was clear: The damage this President has done to our moral standing in the world is not irreversible. It can be restored – and we can’t wait for a new President to begin.
“The bill now rests on the President’s desk. The decision is in his hands. Will he continue to assert our country’s right to do wrong? Or will he join the overwhelming bipartisan majority of Congress and the American people by signing the torture ban?
“Reports indicate that we should expect a veto. But as the President makes this decision, perhaps he should listen to what’s written in the military’s interrogation guidelines: ‘Use of torture by U.S. personnel would bring discredit upon the U.S. and its armed forces while undermining domestic and international support for the war effort. It could also place U.S. and allied personnel in enemy hands at greater risk of abuse.’
“Every time President Bush has sought to continue his failed strategy in Iraq, he has said that generals on the ground, not politicians, should be making war decisions. He has called on us, time and time again, to heed the words of General Petraeus. What has General Petraeus said on the question of torture? ‘Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. They would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary.’
“We now call upon President Bush to heed the words of General Petraeus – along with dozens and dozens of retired generals, bipartisan military experts, and the will of the American people — by signing the torture ban.
CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY
“This week we turn to another important American priority: reforming the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure that the toys and other products our families use are safe. Last year, more than 20 million dangerous toys were recalled.
“We all heard the terrible news of toys tainted with lead paint reaching our children from overseas, or of children having their intestines torn due to unsafe magnets in toys. Every parent has a right to know that the toys they give their children won’t cause them harm.
Yet the government agency responsible for ensuring toy safety – the Consumer Product Safety Commission – was employing just one person, working in a dilapidated facility, to test toys before they were sold across the country. That is outrageous – and the tragic consequences are plain to see.
“At least one child died from ingesting toxins found in imported toys. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 27,000 deaths and 33.1 million injuries per year stem from the consumer products under its review and regulation. We can’t prevent every injury, but we can do far better.
“The Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act provides comprehensive reforms to restore confidence that the government is doing its most basic task – helping to ensure that the American people are shielded from avoidable harm. The bill requires third-party safety testing and a comprehensive ban of lead in children’s products. The legislation helps prevent deadly imports from entering our nation’s borders and increases the Commission’s resources, staff and facilities. The legislation helps ensure that information on unsafe products is made available more widely and quickly, and that when an unsafe product is recalled, it is actually pulled from the shelves and not sold to unsuspecting families.
“These provisions will help give parents the confidence to know that their children and safe – and reduce the risk of injury and death for all Americans. That is why every major consumer advocacy organization in the country supports this bill. I hope that all my colleagues will follow suit by quickly debating this bill, passing it and sending it to the President.”