Washington, D.C.– Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor on the anniversary of the shooting of two Capitol Police officers and on a proposal to break the debt ceiling impasse. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Every day, people from across this great nation and around the globe come here – to the U.S. Capitol Building – to see the seat of American democracy.
Every day, those of us who are fortunate to have been elected by our home states to serve in Congress also come here to represent this nation and the American people in that democracy.
And every day, a brave and dedicated group of men and women come here to serve on the Capitol Police force, to ensure that whether we’re here to work or to visit we are safe from harm.
In 1998, two of those dedicated police officers gave their lives while protecting the Capitol. They were Special Agent John Gibson and Officer Jacob Chestnut.
Thirteen years ago yesterday, a man entered the House side of the Capitol Building with a gun and shot Officer Chestnut at point blank range. Agent Gibson warned tourists and staff to take cover and then confronted the gunman. Although Agent Gibson was also shot, he prevented anyone else from being killed.
Both officers died that day. They served a combined 36 years on the force protecting their fellow men and women.
When I first came to Washington, D.C., I worked the night shift – the swing shift – as a Capitol Police officer. That’s why I feel a particular closeness to the Capitol Police.
I was never in danger. I was never called upon to put my life on the line. I only hope I would have shown the bravery that Agent Gibson and Officer Chestnut displayed.
I was a member of the Senate when Agent Gibson and Officer Chestnut gave their lives to save the lives of others.
I know nothing can make up for the loss of a cherished loved one, but I hope their families and friends take some comfort knowing that those of us who were here that day hold them in our memories and in our hearts.
And while I know it is little solace to their families, the tragedy of that day made the Capitol a safer place. It led to the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center, which prevents a madman like the one who shot Agent Gibson and Officer Chestnut from entering the Capitol.
We are all grateful for their sacrifice. And we are grateful that every day devoted men and women like them guard these hallowed halls.
Some of those dedicated police officers stood guard Saturday and Sunday as we worked to reach an agreement to avert a default on the national debt. Leaders from both parties were here throughout the weekend.
Differences still separate our two sides, but work toward an agreement continues.
This afternoon I will bring to the floor a proposal I hope can break the impasse. This legislation would put to rest the specter of default. It would cut $2.7 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. It would not raise any new revenue or make any cuts to Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security benefits. All the cuts included in this package have previously been supported by Republicans.
This proposal provides everything House Republicans have said they needed from an agreement to avert default and cut the deficit.
I hope my colleagues on the other side still know a good deal when they see it. I hope they remember how to say “yes.”
Tea Party-led House of Republicans held up a resolution to these negotiations for weeks because they didn’t want oil companies, corporations that ship jobs overseas or millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.
If they now oppose an agreement that meets every one of their demands, it will be because they have put politics first and the good of this nation and its economy last.
I also hope they will not continue to insist on the kind of short-term fix they opposed a few short weeks ago – and that they know Democrats in the Senate will not pass and the President will not sign.
Economists have already said a short-term solution is no solution at all. It will not give the markets the certainty they need. And the credit rating agencies have said a short-term Band-Aid could have many of the same effects as default: a downgrade of U.S. debt, soaring interest rates and an effective tax increase on every American family and business.
The financial markets don’t trust the right wing, Tea Party-led House of Representatives not to hold this process hostage again in six months, or to make the right decision for our nation and the economy a second time.
This is what one market analyst said about a plan to avert default for only a few months:
“From the markets’ point of view, a two-stage plan is a non-starter because we now know it is amateur hour on Capitol Hill and we don’t want to be painted in this corner again.”
The markets need certainty. America needs certainty. The world needs certainty. And an agreement that provides that certainty is within our grasp.
Democrats have done more than meet Republicans in the middle – we’ve met them all the way. Now we’ll see whether Republicans are against any agreement at all, or whether they remember how to say “yes” when the compromise on the table gives them everything they’ve demanded.