Washington, D.C.—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this afternoon. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I’ve been listening with great interest to the talk coming from the other side of the aisle this morning. A couple of things have become clear to me, and I suspect they have also become clear to the American people who are watching their leaders here in Congress.
“First, let’s be clear where the two sides stand. Democrats are committed to doing something – anything – to keep our broken health insurance system from running off the tracks. We understand there is a wide range of ideas – a range as diverse as the people of this nation – about the best way to do that. I’m confident those details will be appropriately worked out in the legislative process.
“But Democrats all fundamentally agree on one bottom line: we must act, and we must act now to make it easier to live a healthy life in America.,
“M. President, what about the other side? As far as I can tell from listening to this debate, Republicans will do anything they can to make sure that doesn’t happen. They will defend to the end the broken status quo. They will focus every ounce of energy on distracting and distorting this debate, rather than make the hard choices that need to be made.
“I can’t blame the American people for feeling frustrated. For months now, they have read article after article and seen broadcast after broadcast about how whether they can afford to live a healthy life hangs on a delicate partisan balance.
“It shouldn’t be that way. Not when we have a crisis as crystal clear as the sorry state of health care in Amerca.
“But that blind partisanship is what we’ve seen for months. It’s what we saw in rare form this August. And it’s what we continue to see on the Senate floor, especially this week.
“Let’s review, briefly, what have we heard recently from the two sides about health care:
“Democrats talk about the need to strengthen and stabilize health care for those who have it, but fear reckless insurance companies will take it away from them. Republicans make up false rumors about illegal immigrants.
“Democrats talk about the need to ensure those who don’t have health insurance can afford good, quality care. Republicans make up false rumors about the government wanting to kill your grandmother.
“Democrats talk about how wrong it is that those fortunate enough to have health care pay a hidden tax of $1,000 a family to cover those who have none. Republicans make up false rumors about what these good reforms will mean for seniors.
“In short, M. President, we talk about real families feeling real pain. They talk about fake issues.
“We refuse to drown in these distractions and distortions. We believe we have enough real problems in this country already that we don’t need to waste precious time with fake ones. We insist instead on focusing on the reality – and it is a grim one:
“In my state of Nevada, 220 hardworking people lose their health insurance every day.
“I don’t have to tell anyone here, or anyone watching, that this is not an ideal time to be stuck with high medical bills.
“There is not a single state in the nation that has felt the full force of the foreclosure crisis like Nevada. In the nationwide housing crisis that has been both a cause and an effect of the global economic crisis, Nevada has been hit the very hardest.
“On top of that, more than 13 percent of Nevadans are unemployed, and more than 18 percent are uninsured.
“Republicans are upset that we are helping the hardest-hit states in the country. The specific section they have been discussing this week would take a look at all the states in the union and see which are suffering the most in our troubled economy – which citizens are suffering the most from our unhealthy health care system – and make sure these states’ Medicaid programs get the support they need to make people’s lives a little easier. Nevada is one of those states.
“But some have come to the floor of this hallowed chamber lately and said: I don’t care that Nevadans are hurting. They say: I think the status quo is just fine. They refuse to help their fellow citizens who are suffering. They seem to want me to apologize for helping my constituents who are struggling.
“Well, M. President, I’ll say this till the very end: The people of Nevada are hurting, and I make absolutely no apologies for helping those in my state and our nation who are hurting the most.
“Let me repeat that: I make absolutely no apologies for helping those in my state and our nation who are hurting the most.
“M. President, each one of us in this chamber has the unparalleled honor of coming to work every day and being called ‘United States Senator.’ In this country’s capital city, and as we represent the interests of our states, we also have the awesome responsibility of representing the interests of our entire nation.
“In this building, we each serve with Senators from different parts of the country. On this floor, we each sit next to Senators from different states than our own. And we each look out for each other and we each care for each others’ constituents as if they were our own.
“That is why I am so appalled to hear my friends on the other side complain that we are helping the hardest-hit states in the country. States that lead the nation in unemployment – that lead the nation in foreclosures – that lead the nation in economic pain.
“I recently heard Trent Lott – a former Majority Leader and Minority Leader of this body – tell a wonderful story. He said he was down here in the well of the Senate floor during a critical vote – a vote to fund an important project that would help revitalize his state of Mississippi and the Gulf Coast after the terrible damage of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“He watched as New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton – now our distinguished Secretary of State – walked up to the desk and voted ‘aye.’ Senator Clinton is a Democrat, and she sits on the other end of the political spectrum from Senator Lott, but she voted to support Senator Lott’s cause. Senator Lott grabbed Senator Clinton’s arm and said, ‘Hillary, thank you for helping us.’
“Senator Clinton’s response was short and simple, but it told you everything you need to know about the United States Senate. The New York Senator turned to Senator Lott and said, ‘You were with us after 9/11.’
“M. President, we look out for each other, for each other’s states and each other’s constituents.
“Georgia has recently been ravaged by floods, rains that have done great damage to both people and property. Senator Chambliss and Senator Isakson know this body will do everything it can to comfort Georgia during its time of pain.
“It doesn’t rain in Nevada. We never worry about flooding like Georgia has seen in recent days. But that won’t stop me from helping those who are hurting thousands of miles away from Searchlight, Nevada.
“Again, M. President, that is why I am so appalled to hear my friends on the other side – including the junior Senator from Georgia – complain that we are helping the hardest-hit states in the country when it comes to health care.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that Republicans simply don’t have any ideas for helping the American people – even people in their own states – who are suffering so desperately.
“It’s just another excuse. It’s just more of the same.
“It’s just more evidence that for some on the other side, there will never be a good time to reform health care.
“It’s just more proof that they want to defend the status quo, refuse to take care of their suffering and struggling constituents, and ignore the will of the American people – at any cost. And we know that cost is great.”