Senate Democrats

Reid: Putting Americans Back To Work Must Be Our Most Important Debt-Reduction Strategy

Washington, D.C.–Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor on Democrats’ efforts to create jobs. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, last Thursday Democrats sat down with the chief executives of three successful corporations. Their companies are responsible for the jobs and livelihoods of almost 100,000 American workers.

One company makes medications that help Americans to live longer, healthier lives. Another invests in entrepreneurship, giving inventors the capital they need to bring their ideas to the production line. Another employs scientists and engineers who make more efficient the things we use every day, from jet engines to home thermostats.

These CEOs understand what it takes to create jobs. So we asked them what Washington can do to help. This is what they told us.

First we must improve and reform our education system – from kindergarten through 12th grade – so it produces the skilled workers of tomorrow. Plus we need to train more scientists, engineers and mathematicians so we don’t risk falling behind China, India and other global competitors.

They all believe we must reform our immigration system to stay competitive. The brightest students from around the globe come to the United States to take advantage of our world-class universities. Unfortunately our broken immigration system forces most of these students to go back to their home countries, where they compete with American companies. We should be keeping the best here, where they were educated, so they can build companies that employ U.S. workers.

Of course, we must simplify and streamline our broken tax system, lowering rates but eliminating loopholes so everyone pays his or her fair share – including corporations.

This is what three successful CEOs told us we should do to create jobs for American workers.

I know these are big issues. They are complicated, and they are politically divisive. We can’t tackle them all at once.

But they’re not the only solution. The three CEOs we met with last week said there are smaller, more manageable issues we can tackle, too. There are things we can do to help create jobs immediately.

Mother Teresa urged us to “be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” Putting Americans back to work can and should start with the small things.

So this is what three very successful CEOs told us we should do now to spur hiring:

First, reauthorize a program that gives grants to the technology companies that are inventing new products, like the electric toothbrush or body armor for soldiers, so these innovators can continue to grow and hire. That’s what we tried to do with the Small Business Innovation Research legislation.

Second, they said we should modernize America’s air travel system, making it safer and more efficient to fly America’s skies. That’s what we tried to do when we reauthorized the Federal Aviation Administration.

Third, we must reform our patent system and clear a three-year backlog of applications. The next laptop computer or iPod could be in that pile, just waiting to be taken from the basement to the boardroom. That’s what we tried to do with the America Invents Act.

These are common-sense steps we can take today. Each will help put people to work across the country. That’s not just what the Senate says – it’s what business leaders say.

But here’s the catch: Congress has already taken up all three of these measures. Not one has become law. Why? Republicans have killed or stalled all three of these important pieces of legislation – legislation business owners say they need to put more than half a million Americans back to work.

Putting Americans back to work must be our most important debt-reduction strategy.

Democrats know it is critical that we reduce the deficit and pay down the national debt. But we will never balance the budget with 14 million people out of work.

Democrats know how to balance a budget. But remember: when Democrats in Congress helped President Clinton balance the budget in 1998, unemployment was 4.5 percent. Unfortunately, today it’s twice that.

That’s why we must do two things at once: reduce the deficit and do whatever it takes to get Americans back to work. The business leaders we spoke with support this two-pronged approach.

Democrats and Republicans don’t have to look hard to find common ground – we only have to be willing to admit it when we see it.

I met with the President today. We had a productive meeting. My Republican counterpart will meet with the president this afternoon. I hope My Republican colleagues will put the economy ahead of politics. I hope they will join us to create jobs, and set aside their desire to please the Tea Party and defeat President Obama. This is the way forward.

Neither party should confront this crisis alone. And no one will be successful unless we confront it together.

We owe the country our commitment to do at least the small things. And again, I repeat Mother Teresa when she said it is in them, that is, the small things, that our strength lies. And they, in turn, will inspire faith that the big things will follow.