Senate Democrats

Reid: Republicans Willing To Risk Economic Crisis To Protect Tax Breaks For Oil Companies, Corporate Jets

Time for Republicans to Set Aside Politics, Empty Rhetoric for the Sake of the Economy

Washington, D.C.–Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding Republicans’ willingness to risk our economy to protect tax breaks for oil companies and corporate jets. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Yesterday I sat down with the President to talk about how to avoid a default crisis that would be black mark on this country’s reputation.

If we fail to avert this crisis, it would be the first time in our nation’s history that we have defaulted on our financial obligations. And it would send shock waves through the global economy.

I’m not the only one saying that. The most respected voices in the business and financial community are saying the same thing. Default would be awful.

Business leaders, economists, bank executives, credit rating agencies and even a Republican advisor to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush have used some very serious words to describe the kind of crisis defaulting on our debt would cause.

The word many have used is “catastrophe.”

Warren Buffett said allowing the United States to default on its debt would be Congress’ “most asinine act” ever.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said a failure to avert default would have “catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades.”

Failure to avert this crisis would have dire consequences. It would result in the most serious financial crisis this country has ever faced. Millions of Americans could lose their jobs. Social Security checks could stop. So could paychecks to our troops.

So, what could be so important that my Republicans colleagues are willing to put our economy at such dire risk? What could be worth walking away from the negotiating table? Tax breaks for wealthy oil companies and corporate jets.

Republicans have gone to the mat for Big Oil – fighting again and again to preserve wasteful taxpayer-funded giveaways to companies that made $32 billion in profits in the first quarter of this year alone. And Republicans walked away from the negotiating table to save tax breaks for corporate jets.

So, which big industries and special interests will they fight for next? Oil companies? Companies that ship jobs overseas? Corporate jets?

If they were truly serious about reducing the deficit, they would admit this kind of waste must end.

Yet some top Senate Republicans say eliminating these subsidies shouldn’t even be part of the discussion as we find a way to reduce the deficit and avoid a catastrophic default.

Several rank-and-file Senate Republicans have said handouts to oil and gas companies and other wasteful tax breaks should be on the table as we negotiate. And 34 Republicans endorsed the view that ending taxpayer giveaways should be part of the solution when they voted to eliminate subsidies for ethanol.

It seems Republicans can’t even agree among themselves whether subsidies and giveaways are sacrosanct.

The one thing they can agree on: they’re willing to balance the budget on the backs of seniors instead. They’re willing to end Medicare as we know it. They’re willing to slash Medicaid, jeopardizing coverage for 80 percent of American seniors in nursing homes.

Republicans’ priorities are clear. They’re also dead wrong.

Democrats know we need to make difficult spending cuts to reduce our deficit. But to dig ourselves out of this financial hole, we must also create jobs to spur our economy. And we must break the cycle of wasteful giveaways – not break our promise to seniors.

The junior Senator from South Carolina, a Republican, threatened that any Republican who votes to avert a default crisis will be “gone” – voted out in a wave of Tea Party anger. This kind of inflammatory language is irresponsible. There is simply too much at stake.

Also, he didn’t mention that 235 Republicans in the House and 40 in the Senate – including the junior Senator from South Carolina – have already voted to increase our debt this year. Their ideological budget would have increased the debt by more than 60 percent over the next 10 years. That’s nearly $9 trillion in a decade.

And what did Americans get for their $9 trillion? A plan that ends Medicare as we know it. A plan that would slash Medicaid, jeopardizing coverage for 80 percent of American seniors in nursing homes. A plan that protects tax breaks for billionaires and oil companies while putting millions of seniors at risk.

The psychologist Alfred Adler once said that “it is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them.” Republicans shouted loudly and repeatedly about reducing the debt. Then they gave us 9 trillion reasons not to trust their rhetoric.

The time for empty rhetoric is over. Now it is time for my Republican colleagues to put the good of our economy ahead of their own good politics.