Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding Republicans’ stalling tactics. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I would like to start by letting my colleagues and all the hard-working Senate staff know what brought us to the votes we will be taking this evening. Senators and staff worked late into the night yesterday to reach an agreement to move forward on two important pieces of legislation.
“The first, our housing bill, would help families struggling to keep their homes and communities suffering from the foreclosure crisis. The second, PEPFAR – an initiative introduced by President Bush in 2003 to confront the crisis of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
“Both of these bills rightfully have the support of an overwhelming bipartisan majority of Democrats and Republicans. Both of these bills could have long since been passed and sent to the President’s desk, and we could be on to other important priorities like the energy crisis.
“All Democrats and most Republicans would have preferred us to have passed housing and PEPFAR long ago. But a small handful of Republicans – a small minority of the minority – chose the path of delay, delay and more delay. Because of that Republican obstruction, we worked late last night to reach an agreement to move forward. We appeared to have an agreement for a voice vote to proceed on both bills last night, allowing for votes on Monday. Ninety-nine Senators would have gladly proceeded in this manner.
“But one Senator, Jim DeMint of South Carolina, decided to bring the Senate to a standstill. Because of that, our bipartisan negotiations late into the night were all for nothing, and today we must hold an unnecessary set of votes that could have been agreed to by unanimous consent – and spent our time constructively on other matters.
“It is interesting to note that the Republican from South Carolina and others have been taking to the floor all week, criticizing the Senate for not moving to address the energy crisis. If the American people wonder why Congress has not yet passed legislation to help ease the energy crisis, they need to look no further than more Republican delay tactics. And if anyone wonders why the American people are frustrated with Congress, there lies the answer.
“Despite these setbacks, this has been a productive week in the Senate. With 8,500 American families losing their homes every single day, we will pass a housing bill to aid struggling homeowners and prevent conditions that led to the foreclosure crisis from happening again.
“In one of the great Senate moments I have ever experienced, we passed the Medicare ‘doctor’s fix’ with the return of Senator Kennedy. There are more than enough votes to override a veto in both the House and Senate – 355 in the House, plus at least one Congressman who has already announced that he will now support the bill – and 69 in the Senate. It is now up to President Bush, and I hope he will recognize the pointlessness of a veto and join the side of Democrats, Republicans and Americans across the country and sign the bill into law without delay.
“The Senate also completed work on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a bill that I opposed but the majority of Senators supported.
“And we are moving ahead with PEPFAR, which continues American support for Africa’s fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS. President Bush has worked with Democrats and Republicans to pass this bill, and the objections of no more than a small handful of Senators notwithstanding, I am confident that we will do so.
“I should mention how glad my fellow Democrats and I were to have our nominee for President here to vote on these important bills. Senator Obama has come to work and taken tough stands. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Senator McCain. Perhaps taking tough stands on important issues is not part of Senator McCain’s campaign strategy. Perhaps he’s just too busy on the campaign trail to do his day job.
“The American people should be glad to know that one presidential candidate – Senator Obama – has been here to vote on the critical issues at hand.
“The American people should also know that despite the delay tactics we have seen this week that have kept us off debate on energy, Democrats and most Senators are committed to addressing the energy crisis with both short and long term solutions. Last night, I attended a productive meeting with:
- former Senator Jim Sasser;
- the director of Global Oil Group;
- the CEO of United Airlines;
- the head of global commodities at JP Morgan;
- the portfolio manager of Masters Capital Management;
- the CEO of NYMEX; and
- Professor Michael Greenberg of University of Maryland Law School
“The group strongly agreed that we must take steps to stem speculation in energy prices, which allows speculators to drive oil prices up for their own gain, while the American people are left paying the bill. It was agreed that now is an appropriate time for President Bush to draw oil out of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It was also agreed that we must increase domestic oil production in the 68 million acres of land that oil companies currently lease but aren’t using. And the group agreed that any oil drilled in America should be sold to the American marketplace, not to China, Japan or India, as is currently happening.
“These steps – curtailing energy speculation, tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, increasing supply in the 68 million leased but unused acres in America, and earmarking domestic oil for American consumers – combined with increased and sustained investment in clean, alternative fuel sources – the wind, the sun and geothermal – will lower gas and energy prices in the short term and set us on a path to an affordable, clean and sustainable energy future.
“This will be our roadmap going forward. I hope the Republican leader and his caucus will work with us to reject obstruction and embrace the progress the American people deserve.”