Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this evening regarding the accomplishments of the 111th Congress. See below for his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“When we convened this Congress in January 2009, 700,000 Americans were losing their jobs every month.
“Soon after this Congress began, an auto industry nearly imploded and within a year an oil well exploded. It was a tough two years for our nation and for so many families. But it was also a time of remarkable progress.
“When this Congress began, insurance companies were free to deny health care to the sick for any excuse they could come up with. The doughnut hole that sent seniors’ prescription drug costs through the roof was wide open.
“Wall Street firms had just crashed our economy, but they were still free to rip off investors while the nation smoldered.
“When this Congress began, cigarette companies could prey on children, credit card companies could prey on consumers and con artists could prey on families’ mortgages.
“Employers were free to pay women less than men, the safety of our food supply was dangerously inadequate, and the definition of a hate crime was shamefully insufficient. Gay men and women who volunteered to defend and die for our country were asked to fight for values and principles they didn’t have for themselves in America.
“And more than a year has passed since American inspectors were on the ground to monitor the Russian nuclear weapons arsenal.
“We’ve turned each of these around. Because of what we did this Congress, we brought the economy back from the brink of collapse. We cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, we invested in important job-creating projects, and we’ll keep working until everyone who wants to work can find a job.
“Because of what we did, families are safer from health insurance companies. Our economy and its investors are safer from big banks.
“Consumers are safer from credit card companies, homeowners are safer from mortgage fraud and all of us are safer from corporate fraud.
“Parents can know their children are safer from cigarette companies, thanks to legislation we passed that will save lives. Our food-safety protections will save countless more lives.
“We also made historic strides for equality and justice. With a hate crimes bill that bears Emmitt Till’s name, we stood up for those who are victims of violence because of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. With a fair pay bill in Lilly Ledbetter’s name, we stood up for those who are targets of discrimination in the workplace because of their gender or background. And we made right a wrong done long ago to American-American and American Indian farmers.
“Because we repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ our military is stronger and we can better fulfill our nation’s promise. And because we ratified the START Treaty, America and the world are safer from nuclear devastation.
“Those are just the ones that got the biggest headlines. The 111th Congress did so much more:
· We cut taxes for the middle class and small businesses multiple times.
· We made it easier for families to buy their first home.
· We made it easier for students to afford to go to college, and strengthened our commitment to research, math and science education, technological innovation, and maintaining this country’s competitive edge.
· We made sure children can afford to get the health care they need, no matter how much money their parents make, and made sure even more schoolchildren who would otherwise go hungry can get healthier meals.
· We extended unemployment insurance for millions still struggling to find a job and extended COBRA subsidies so those still struggling to find work can feed their families, fuel our economy, and afford decent medical care.
· We strengthened Medicaid and made sure doctors can still afford to treat seniors on Medicare.
· We helped hundreds of thousands of drivers afford more fuel-efficient cars and trucks.
· With a national service bill named for Senator Kennedy, we made it easier for more Americans to serve their country like our heroes of generations past.
· With one of the most important conservation bills in decades, we protected our public lands for generations to come.
· We cut waste and fraud in the way the Pentagon purchases military weapons.
· We made sure our troops have the equipment they need on the battlefield and that our veterans have the care they need when they came home. We gave everyone in the military a well-deserved pay raise.
· We secured our border with guards, fencing and predator drones.
· We imposed sanctions on Iran to deter that regime from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
· We thawed our credit markets so Americans can get the loans they need to buy a car, send a child to college or start a new business.
· We supported the travel and tourism industries, which will create tens of thousands of jobs and cut our deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars.
· And we confirmed many well-qualified nominees for important positions in public service and on the bench, including the third and fourth women – and the first-ever Latina – ever to serve on our Supreme Court.
“We began this Congress with the challenge of keeping our economy from a second Great Depression. We’re not all the way out of the ditch yet, but we’ve come a long way since President Bush’s Treasury Secretary sat down with us and warned of the dire stakes of inaction.
“In 2011, we’ll do even more to put middle-class families first, create jobs and cut taxes. We’ll continue to move America toward energy independence. We’ll continue fighting to fix our broken immigration system. And we’ll continue fighting for fairness – including giving our first responders the same workplace rights everyone else has.
“This was, by far, the most productive Congress in American history. And the lame-duck session we’re finishing was the most productive of its kind. Why? Because we heard the message the American people sent us last month: They don’t want us to sit around and waste their time. They want us to work together and work for them. They want us to get things done.
“We have been productive beyond any historical measure. But we cannot forget the context: We have had to do more with less – passing some of the most major legislation in history with the least bipartisan cooperation in history. I’m sorry the minority party decided to sit on the sidelines. I know the history books will remember who was on the field.
“I thank every Senator and every staffer who has worked so tirelessly over these past two years. The distance we took America from January 2009 to December 2010 is remarkable.
“I’m tremendously proud of the work the 111th Congress did. I sincerely hope that despite a divided Capitol, the 112th will surpass only its records for significant legislation – and not those for endless stalemates.”