Senate Democrats

Reid: We Must Give Obama Every Tool to Fix the Economy

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate before voting against a resolution that would deny the President’s request to release the second half of the TARP funds:

“It is in times of unusual strain and challenge that we are called upon to prove ourselves.  With our economy struggling and the American people suffering, most United States Senators have risen to the challenge.

“But I would particularly like to speak of Chairman Dodd and his staff for the seemingly endless days and nights working on the rescue plan we passed last year – and now to be the face and voice of our response to this financial crisis.  On the Republican side, Senator Gregg deserves enormous credit as well.  And I have been tremendously impressed with President-elect Obama and his team in their efforts to secure the second half of the Trouble Asset Relief, or TARP funding.

“If the actions of the president-elect on TARP are any indication, a new day is dawning in Washington, D.C.  President-elect Obama didn’t have to take the step he did.  This was a test of leadership at a time when leadership is desperately needed.

“In this early test of whether our new president will stand for what is right, not just what is easy, President-elect Obama passed with flying colors.  He and his economic team came to Capitol Hill repeatedly – not just for photo opportunities, but to engage in real negotiations.

“The Obama Administration genuinely sought the involvement of the Republicans – treating them not as adversaries or roadblocks to progress, but as partners in the legislative process.  I appreciate the willingness of Republicans to work with him and us to pass this legislation.

“I understand the legitimate concerns of some members over the way the first half of Troubled Asset Relief Program funds have been spent.  We in Congress must never forget that the funds we allocate to this program belong to the taxpayers, and we must wisely spend and carefully account for every penny just as any family would as they plan their budget to make the current paycheck last until the next.

“We could look to the mistakes of the outgoing administration, throw our hands in the air and say, enough is enough.  But I am convinced that would be unwise.  With our economy battered and further damage possibly still to come, we must give our new president every tool to fix the economy. 

“The president-elect has made it clear that he understands the mistakes of the prior administration and will not repeat them.  President-elect Obama has in person and in written communications agreed to commit substantial resources to foreclosure mitigation.  He has also said that there will be transparency and oversight.  And disbursal of TARP funds will require President Obama’s personal sign-off.

“This vote is likely to be close.  As my colleagues decide how to vote, I ask them to think about the challenges that our frozen financial markets are causing their constituents:

  • Without functional financial markets, families can’t buy a home, borrow to pay for college tuition or replace the family car.
  • Businesses of all sizes can’t make payroll for employees or invest in expansion to create new jobs.
  • Local governments can’t build schools, pave roads or protect the public health of their citizens.

“We should all be angry at the titans of Wall Street for the excesses of the past, but inaction now wouldn’t punish the wrongdoers: it would punish the American people who are already suffering.

“None of us are happy that we must take this vote.  But given the potentially devastating alternative, I trust that my colleagues will act with sound judgment – and for the long-term good of our country — in this moment of crisis.

“I appreciate members agreeing to hold this vote before Senator Biden’s term ends later today.  I urge my colleagues to join with me in voting no.”