Washington, DC— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate to open the July work period. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I want to welcome back my colleagues. We are now closer to the end of this year than the beginning. We have much to be proud of, but our time is short, and we have much more to do in the coming weeks and months.
“So far this year, we have started to get our country back on track by passing bills that have already started to revive our economy, strengthen our national security, protect our environment, demand accountability, promote equality and ensure progress.
“Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called this Congress ‘as active and productive as any I can remember.’ He went on to say that ‘The number of major bills passed and enacted into law – the serious, sustained activity in areas of broad, complex and critical importance – all are truly impressive.’
“I can assure Republicans that this serious, sustained activity will not stop. I promise them we will finish this year in the same active and productive way in which we started it. And I encourage them to join us.
“I am confident that the steps we’ve taken in the first half of this year – and that we continue to take – will ultimately anchor our recovery. But I also know we must keep going. We must do more.
“One of the most important steps we can take is reforming health care and doing so the right way.
“That is why we will soon bring to the Senate floor a plan that lowers the high costs of health care. We will also make sure every American has access to that quality, affordable care. And we will make sure people can still choose their own doctors, hospitals and health plans.
“We will no longer let insurance companies use a patient’s pre-existing condition as an excuse to deny them the coverage they need. And we will help small businesses so they can give their employees health care while keeping costs as low as possible.
“We are committed to a plan that protects what works, fixes what’s broken and ensures that if you like the coverage you have, you can keep it.
“And we will lower costs even further by preventing disease in the first place, reducing health disparities, and encouraging early detection and effective treatments that save lives and money.
“This is the year we must act. And when we do, we must act as partners, not partisans.
“Rising health care costs – and the risk of losing one’s health care altogether – are worse than ever. The status quo is unacceptable. Doing nothing is not an option because the costs of inaction are too great.
“Millions are paying too much for a health care plan they could lose with just one pink slip, one accident or one illness.
“Every day, more Americans go bankrupt or lose their homes just trying to stay healthy. And every year we don’t act, health care costs increase by the billions. We must – and we will – pass health care reform soon.
“But health care is not the only issue on our agenda. We will also continue working on a number of appropriations bills that keep our government running. With Republican cooperation, we can finish some of those – starting today by funding the legislative branch and tomorrow by doing the same for the Department of Homeland Security.
“We will continue working to confirm President Obama’s many nominees for critical positions – including his outstanding nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Those who have chosen to serve our country must be able to get to work without delay.
“The Independence Day holiday all Americans observed this past weekend reminded us of the debt we owe to the first patriots who stood up for liberty, and the many who have died for it. Brave Americans have never stopped sacrificing so that we can know the self-evident truths and exercise the unalienable rights Jefferson described.
“Keeping the Department of Defense strong is one of the many ways we can support and thank those patriots. In this work period, we will do that, too, by passing the DOD Authorization Bill.
“The revolutionary document Congress adopted on July 4, 1776, declared that power derives from the consent of the governed. In the 233 years since that day, we have also learned that we must govern by consensus.
“Though we will discuss, debate and disagree, I urge my colleagues to remember that finding common ground is in our common interest. I urge them not to forget that the governed – those who sent each of us here – sent with us their hopes that we will work with each other, not against each other.”