Political Differences Must Not Stand In the Way of Economic Security for the Middle Class
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the need for bipartisanship in the Senate. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Welcome back. For the last year, the country has been focused on the difference between Republicans and Democrats.
And for the last two years, this Congress has not accomplished nearly enough.
But as we close the 112th Congress, it is time to focus on our shared goals and our common purpose.
We all agree, I hope, that today – now – great challenges face our country and this Congress.
Those challenges are large – too large to be solved by Democrats alone.
They are too large to be undertaken by Republicans alone.
And they are too grave for us to allow political differences to stand in the way of success.
On the day Gerald Ford became President of the United States, at a time of great national turmoil, this is what he said:
“There is no way we can go forward except together and no way anybody can win except by serving the people’s urgent needs. We cannot stand still or slip backwards. We must go forward now together.”
That is as true today as it was back then.
Today the American people have many urgent needs.
They need more jobs. They need economic certainty. They need opportunity and fairness.
It is within our power as a Congress to quickly address these urgent needs.
It is within our power to forge an agreement that will give economic certainty now to middle-class families who can least afford a tax hike.
It is within our power to forge an agreement that will ask the richest of the rich – the most fortunate among us – to pay a little extra to reduce the deficit and secure our economic future.
It is within our power to forge an agreement that will protect important tax deductions for families and businesses still struggling.
It is within our power to forge an agreement that will take a balanced approach to reduce spending.
In fact, we could avert the fiscal cliff for 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses today. The House must only consider the Senate-passed bill freezing tax rates for those making less than $250,000 a year.
This Congress is but one vote away from avoiding the fiscal cliff for middle class families and small businesses.
As influential conservative Bill Kristol said this week, “Let’s have a serious debate… “It won’t kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won’t.”
Solutions are in our grasp. We only have to make the choice to pull together, instead of pulling apart.
The hands of the Democratic Caucus are reaching toward our Republican colleagues. I urge the Republicans to join us to do the difficult but necessary work ahead.
If there is a message to take away from this year’s election, it is this: Americans are tired of the politics of division.
They are tired of obstruction and distraction.
The American people – Democrats and Republicans – want cooperation and conciliation.
I urge any of my Republican colleagues who are considering the same strategy of obstruction to turn away from the divisions of the past and join in cooperation, compromise and consensus.
Gridlock is not the solution – it is the problem.
How this Congress deals with the challenges ahead will be a test of our character, both as individuals and as a political body – the United States Senate.
As the British playwright, John Osborne, said, “They spend their time mostly looking forward to the past.”
But we cannot look backward.
We must show the American people we are equal to the challenges we now face.
The challenges are here. We know the challenges. We see the challenges. We feel the challenges.
There are many, many reasons why – as we wind down the 112th Congress and embark upon the 113th Congress – we must succeed.
But the best illustration of our duty – our obligation – comes from the words of Medal of Honor recipient Daniel Inouye.
Senator Inouye’s son asked why – after being called “enemy aliens,” after being put in internment camps – why did he and the members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team fight heroically the way they did?
Asked why he fought, Senator Inouye told his son – many years after the battle had ended and Lt. Inouye’s wounds had healed – that he fought “for the children.”
So I say to my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, we must legislate for the children.
They deserve it. We owe them the future.
It is time for Democrats and Republicans to “go forward now together,” and show the American people that we are equal to the challenges we face.