Senate Democrats

Reid: Democrats Will Fight This Work Period To Make Energy, Housing And Health Care More Affordable

Washington, DCSenate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Just as the American people are recovering from a holiday weekend marked by record gas prices of $4.11 a gallon nationally – $4.25 in Nevada – another report in the news this morning suggested that oil might reach $200 before the end of the year.

“It was only a couple of months ago when President Bush seemed shocked and confused when a reporter suggested that some analysts were predicting that gas would reach $4 a gallon.  Now some economists consider $6 a gallon a very real possibility.

“So while most Americans enjoyed a day off from work on Friday to celebrate the Fourth of July, no one gets a day off from paying record gas prices, record oil prices, and record grocery prices.  With 8,500 new home foreclosures every day, Americans at risk of losing their homes do not get a day off from worry.

“As the American people endure sleepless nights trying to figure out how to make ends meet and provide for their families, they deserve to know that their Congress is working hard to help.  Instead, they are seeing Senate Republican leaders simply refusing to work with Democrats on legislation essential to our country in this economic recession.

“My friend Senator McConnell, the Republican Leader, has said time and time again that the way to get things done in the Senate is through bipartisanship.  I could not agree more with those words.  That’s why, in the waning days and hours of the last work period, I brought to the Senate floor legislation that was bipartisan in the truest sense:

  • The emergency supplemental appropriations bill that finally gives our troops the care and benefits they have earned with tremendous valor.
  • A housing bill to stem the tide of foreclosures and correct flaws in lending laws to prevent future homeowners from facing a similar fate.
  • The Medicare ‘doctor’s fix’ to prevent payment cuts for doctors and to improve care for patients.
  • And a bill cutting taxes for innovators and entrepreneurs who are developing the clean alternative fuels that will help end our addiction to foreign oil.

“Yet despite the Republican leader’s words embracing bipartisanship, Senate Republicans blocked all of these strongly bipartisan bills except for the supplemental appropriations bill.  The housing bill is supported by a strong bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans.  Cloture was invoked by a vote of 83-9, and the Dodd-Shelby, Baucus-Grassley substitute amendment was agreed to by a vote of 79-16.  We could have finished the bill last work period, but Senate Republican leaders blocked Housing – and since then, another 85,000 families have lost their homes.

“The Medicare doctor’s fix passed the House by a stunning 355-59 vote.  Virtually every House Democrat and two-thirds of House Republicans supported it.  Yet Senate Republican leaders blocked the Medicare fix – and chose to protect health insurance companies at the expense of elderly patients and their doctors.

“The alternative energy tax extenders bill also enjoys strong bipartisan support.  Yet Senate Republican leaders blocked this legislation to cut taxes.

“It seems that the Republican definition of ‘bipartisan’ changes all the time.  If even a small handful of Republicans oppose legislation that all the rest support, the Republican leadership does not consider it to be ‘bipartisan.’

“I understand the frustration that Republicans feel as the minority party, with the future looking no brighter for their party than the present.  But the stakes are far too high for inaction.  If they truly seek bipartisanship – as is their claim – our Republican friends will end their pointless, harmful obstruction, and work with us to pass these bills that all enjoy strong, and in many cases overwhelming bipartisan support.

“We have a list of priorities for this work period.  We will complete work on housing and provide another opportunity for Republicans to join us to pass the Medicare doctor’s fix.  Before recess, 59 Senators voted for cloture on Medicare.  We need just one more Republican to join us.  We will pass FISA – a bill I oppose because of its immunity provisions, but which a bipartisan majority of Senators is likely to support.

“We must also address:

  • Gas prices bill
  • AIDS in Africa
  • Energy tax extenders
  • Consumer Product Safety conference report
  • Media Shield
  • DOD Authorization
  • DOD Appropriations

“This is not a list of Democratic priorities or pet issues.  It is not a platform for the 2008 campaign.  These are the critical priorities of the American people.

“The next several weeks could be easy, or they could be difficult.  If Republicans are willing, we could pass this legislation swiftly and with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans.

“But if past is prologue, Republicans are likely to drag their heels.  The Republican leadership and the vast majority of Republican Senators may continue to stand behind a small handful of their Republican colleagues who – for reasons that are hard to understand – would rather we accomplish nothing at all.

“But I would remind my Republican colleagues that the route of continued obstruction is not without cost.  Most importantly, it comes at a cost to the American people who are facing Medicare cuts, increasing home foreclosure and ever- higher gas prices because Republicans refused to work with us last work period.

“But continued obstruction comes at a cost to our Republican colleagues themselves as well.  The American people see with clear eyes that as our country’s economic crisis continues to grow worse, Republicans have only dragged their heels.  There is good reason why polls show that Americans favor Democratic control of Congress by the widest margin in the history of polling.

“Perhaps after a week back home among family, friends and constituents, Republicans are ready to walk away from the small handful of their colleagues who insist upon inaction.  Maybe enough voters back home explained to them exactly how urgently they need help.  If so, I say to my Republican colleagues, it’s not too late.  It’s not too late to be the 60th vote on Medicare, or to join us on housing and alternative fuels.

“I hope that the July 4th recess will be remembered as a turning point for this Congress, and that we can now move forward with the same urgency that the American people feel to find common ground and the change our country desperately needs.  That turning point can begin right now, if Republicans will allow us to move forward to debate legislation to lower gas prices and invest in clean, renewable alternative fuels.

“But Senate Republicans are apparently not ready to respond to the deafening calls from their constituents to take action.  Instead of working with us on legislation to lower gas prices, Republicans propose that we lease more land to the oil companies.  Democrats are open to considering any reasonable solution that will lower gas prices.  But let’s remember that the oil industry already leases 68 million acres in America that they are not even using.  Sixty-eight million acres is about the size of Nevada – the seventh largest state in the Union.  If they are not even using 68 million acres they currently have under lease, what good would it do to lease them even more land?

“And even if the Republican proposal were enacted, it would take years – even decades – to conduct exploration and begin drilling.  And even then, the Republican plan wouldn’t lower gas prices.

“Instead of proposing legislation that will just add more to the 68 million unused acres – and do nothing to reduce gas prices – Republicans should join Democrats to find solutions that work.  We have done so in the past and we can do it again.  In 2006, we passed a bipartisan plan for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Republicans can work with us to end speculation in the oil markets that contribute tangibly to higher prices at the pump.  Democrats will soon introduce legislation on speculation that Republicans should have no problem supporting.  Republicans can work with us to have oil companies make use of the 68 million acres of American land that they currently lease but do not use.  And Republicans can work with us to begin to make America – a country that contains 3 percent of the world’s supply but uses 25 percent of the world’s oil – energy independent by investing in clean renewables.

“These steps would lower gas prices in the short term and steer us away from oil in the long term.  Despite the continued obstruction we have seen this morning, I hope Republicans will work with Democrats to achieve this critical goals.”