Republicans Have a Choice to Make Between What the Tea Party Wants and What the Country Needs
Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today regarding budget negotiations. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“As the deadline looms, our budget negotiations continue nonstop. The Speaker and I met with the President yesterday morning, and we met with one another yesterday afternoon.
“Like in any ongoing negotiation, the status of those talks is constantly evolving. But I’ll give the Senate a snapshot of where we stand at this moment in time.
“Our bottom line has been the same all along. It is this: We want to avoid a shutdown. We want to pass a budget that makes smart cuts – cuts that save money, but that don’t cost jobs. This has been our bottom line throughout this process.
“So we’ve made tough choices. We’ve made those choices because we know that at this late stage of the game, reality is more important than ideology. We know that sacrifices are the cost of consensus, and we think they’re worth it.
“Our bottom line hasn’t changed because our objective hasn’t changed: We want to keep the country running and keep the momentum of an economic recovery that’s creating jobs.
“I wish I could say the same about those on the other side of the negotiating table. The Republicans’ bottom line has changed at almost every turn.
“First, Republicans refused to negotiate until we tried it their way. We gave the reckless House-passed proposal was a vote. The Senate resoundingly rejected it.
“Then, once talks began, Republicans staked out their position: they asked for $73 billion in cuts. When we said, ‘Let’s meet in the middle,’ they said, ‘No.’ Then we said, ‘In the interest of getting this done, we’ll agree to your number.’ And still they said, ‘No.’ Republicans refused to take yes for an answer.
“Every time we agree to meet in the middle, they move where the middle is. They said no when we met them halfway. Now they say, ‘It’s our way or the highway.’ That’s no way to move forward.
“People ask why this is so difficult. They ask, ‘Can’t you just get it done?’ I understand and share their frustration. But this is why it’s so tough. It’s like trying to kick a field goal through moving goalposts.
“Democrats’ bottom line hasn’t changed. Republicans’ bottom line hasn’t stayed still.
“Our bottom line hasn’t changed because our priorities haven’t changed.
“We all want to lower the deficit. But Democrats will not sacrifice seniors’ retirement security, women’s health, our children’s education or our nation’s veterans. The cuts we make have to be smart cuts, and those aren’t smart. They’re radical. We want an agreement that’s reasonable and responsible.
“I wish I could say the same about those on the other side of the negotiating table. They forget that not one of these people led us into recession – and punishing seniors, women, children and veterans will not lead us to recovery. Their budget would cost 700,000 jobs and slow economic growth. It would take us backward, not forward.
“That’s as counterproductive as it comes. The point of this entire exercise is to help the economy. Democrats won’t stand for a budget that weakens it.
“Our bottom line – our strong desire to reach an agreement – hasn’t changed because our willingness to compromise hasn’t changed.
“We long ago accepted the reality that getting something done means not getting 100 percent of what we want. We long ago accepted the fact that the only way to reach consensus between a Democratic Senate and a Republican House is to compromise.
“I wish I could say the same about those on the other side of the negotiating table. The Republicans have demanded a budget that can pass with only Republican votes. Instead of seeking a bipartisan budget, they are actively seeking the opposite.
“The Republican Leadership has the Tea Party screaming so loudly in its right ear that it can’t hear what the vast majority of the country demands. The country demands we get this done.
“As I’ve said before, the biggest gap in these negotiations isn’t between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between Republicans and Republicans.
“So the Speaker has a choice to make, and not much time to make it: He can do either what the Tea Party wants, or what the country needs.
“I’ll close with two pieces of advice we would we be wise to heed today – one from American history, and one from ancient history.
“Henry Clay served in both houses of Congress. He actually held the same seat the Republican Leader holds – he was a Senator from Kentucky. He also held the same gavel that Speaker Boehner now holds – at three different times, Henry Clay served as Speaker of the House. In his esteemed career he earned the nickname ‘The Great Compromiser.’
“So Henry Clay knew what he was talking about when he said that ‘all legislation is founded upon the principle of mutual concession.’ This legislation – this budget – is no exception.
“But it’s important to remember that the most important word in that quote isn’t ‘concession.’ It’s ‘mutual.’ We all have a responsibility to be reasonable.
“Which brings me to the second piece of advice: To everything, there is a season.
“To paraphrase a passage we all know well – a passage much older than the old statesman Henry Clay: There’s a time to campaign, and a time to govern. There’s a time to be partisans, and a time to be partners.
“We stand here with fewer than 72 hours on the clock. It’s time to get to work. It’s time to get the job done. This is the season for action.”