April 8, 2013
“Every idea should be on the table and every issue should get a vote.”
“I am deeply troubled that a number of my Republican colleagues plan not only to oppose stricter gun violence laws, but to prevent the Senate from even voting on those measures.”
“There is simply no reason for this blatant obstruction except the fear of considering anti-violence proposals in full, public view. Yet now many Senate Republicans seem afraid to even engage in this debate. Shame on them.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding Republican attempts to filibuster gun legislation. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
This month the Senate will deal with a number of important matters, including judicial and cabinet nominations and a water resources measure. The Senate will also consider a package of legislation designed to safeguard Americans from gun violence.
In the wake of last year’s terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut – a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 20 boys and girls and six educators – I promised to bring anti-violence measures to the Senate floor. It is time Congress engaged in a meaningful conversation and a thoughtful debate over how to change the laws and culture that have allowed violence to grow.
I have said every idea should be on the table and every issue should get a vote – from better mental health treatment and more secure schools to stronger background checks for gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons. I know there are strong feelings and deep disagreements about some of these measures. But every one of these measures deserves a vote. And there is no better place than the United States Senate to begin a national conversation about such critical issues – even if they are divisive issues.
We should not stifle debate, run from tough issues or avoid difficult choices. This body – the world’s greatest deliberative body – has a proud tradition of such robust and constructive debate.
So I am deeply troubled that a number of my Republican colleagues plan not only to oppose stricter gun violence laws, but to prevent the Senate from even voting on those measures. This flies in the face of a Senate tradition of spirited discussion that began in the first days of this institution.
There is simply no reason for this blatant obstruction except the fear of considering anti-violence proposals in full, public view. Yet now many Senate Republicans seem afraid to even engage in this debate. Shame on them.
The least Republicans owe the parents of 20 children murdered with guns at Sandy Hook Elementary is a thoughtful debate about whether stronger gun laws could have saved their little girls and boys. The least Republicans owe them is a vote.
The least Republicans owe the families and friends of those gunned down at a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and a shopping mall in Oregon – and every day on the streets of American cities – is a meaningful conversation about how to change America’s culture of violence. The least Republicans owe America is a vote.
The legislation on the floor would keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals and safeguard the most vulnerable Americans – our children. This proposal is supported by nine out of 10 Americans. If Republicans disagree with the measure, they are free to vote against it. But they shouldn’t shut down debate, or prevent us from voting on the many thoughtful proposals to curb violence.
On issue after issue, Republicans have called for a return to so-called regular order. They have asked for an opportunity to offer amendments. They have called for free and open debate on the Senate floor.
But now, when they encounter an issue they are afraid to debate in full, public view, they want to thwart debate altogether. They have threatened to filibuster this legislation, which was passed out of committee under regular order. They have threatened to block debate on this measure, to which they are able to offer amendments.
I am glad to see a few reasonable Republicans are still willing to engage in this important conversation. They have urged their more extreme colleagues not to resort to the same, tired tactics of obstruction. But it will take more than one or two reasonable Republicans to ensure the families of 30,000 Americans killed by guns each year get the respectful debate they deserve.
Unfortunately, the type of Republican obstruction that could prevent that Senate from debating and voting on anti-violence legislation is nothing new. Over the last few years, Republicans have practically ground the work of the Senate to a halt.
Republicans have filibustered countless job-creation measures. And, since President Obama took office, Republicans have systematically slow-walked or blocked scores of his judicial and executive branch nominees – including the President’s nominee for Secretary of Defense. Pending nominees have waited an average of 277 days for a Senate vote.
Republicans have openly filibustered 57 of President Obama’s nominees, and blocked or delayed many more with secret holds and procedural hurdles. Republicans have jammed executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the nominee’s qualifications.
I am concerned about this dysfunction, as every American should be. The nation is watching the Senate to see whether it will ever function efficiently again. I hope my Republican colleagues will work with Democrats going forward to prove the Senate is not completely broken.