May 8, 2013
“Over the last 46 days, Republicans have stunningly and repeatedly blocked our attempts to name budget conferees and start down the path to compromise.”
“It’s time for each side to stand for what it believes. As the Junior Senator from Texas said… we’ve ‘got to go on record and say, this is what we want to do, this is our budget.’”
“Democrats aren’t afraid to debate our principles in the light of day. We aren’t afraid to try to resolve our differences in a conference committee instead of behind closed doors.”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding Republican objections to a budget conference. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
For years, Republicans have been busy singing the praises of regular order. How Republicans missed the days of committee markups. How they longed for an amendment vote-a-rama. How they pined for a budget resolution.
As the Junior Senator from Texas said just before the election, and I quote: “Senate Democrats have not even had a budget in three years. They are not pretending to try to fix these problems. I think that is irresponsible.”
But then Republicans got what they wanted. Forty-six days ago, under regular order, after a thorough committee markup and an all-night vote-a-rama, the Senate passed a budget resolution. Republicans got what they asked for. But now they no longer want what they asked for.
Over the last 46 days, Republicans have stunningly and repeatedly blocked our attempts to name budget conferees and start down the path to compromise. Now it is Republicans who, as Senator Cruz put it, aren’t even pretending to try to fix these problems.
As Republicans often say, the regular order of the budget process is the only way to set sound, long-term fiscal policy. Democrats and Republicans won’t find common ground if we don’t sit down at the negotiating table.
But don’t take my word for it. This is what Speaker Boehner said in March, just a few short weeks ago: “Here is the process. The House passes a bill. The Senate can pass a bill. And if we disagree, we go to conference and work it out.”
Speaker Boehner and Senator Cruz aren’t the only ones who used to love the idea of regular order. This is what my friend, the Minority Leader, said in January in praise of the conference committee: “If the Senate version is different than the one the House sends over, send it off to conference. That's how things are supposed to work around here. We used to call it legislating.”
A few days later, Senator McConnell extolled the virtue of regular order, saying this: “Remember, regular order is how the Senate is supposed to function… The public is supposed to have a chance to scrutinize the proposals before us.”
Democrats agree. And the American public agrees. Democrats passed our budget. Republicans passed theirs. And the next step under regular order is to move to conference to negotiate a compromise.
But I can understand why Republicans don’t want to debate their budget in the light of day. The Ryan Republican budget passed by the House would turn Medicare into a voucher program. The Republican budget would lower taxes for the rich while the middle class foots the bill And the Republican budget would rip the safety net out from under the elderly, the middle class, veterans and the poor.
The Democratic budget, by contrast, would preserve and protect Medicare for our children and grandchildren. The Democratic budget would ask the wealthiest Americans to contribute just a little more to reduce the deficit. And the Democratic budget would balance smart spending cuts with new revenue from closing loopholes.
It’s obvious why Republicans don’t want to compare the sensible Senate budget with the extreme House Republican budget – which was resoundingly rejected by the voters in November.
So now it’s time for each side to stand for what it believes. As the Junior Senator from Texas said late last year, we’ve “got to go on record and say, ‘This is what we want to do, this is our budget.’”
Democrats aren’t afraid to debate our principles in the light of day. We aren’t afraid to try to resolve our differences in a conference committee instead of behind closed doors, as has been the United States Senate’s custom for more than two centuries.
Why are Republicans afraid? Why are they blocking us from continuing this process in public?
We heard from the junior Senator from Texas that Republicans will only go to conference if Democrats agree ahead of time to give in to their every demand. If Republicans can’t rig the game in their favor, he said, there will be no game, no conference, no legislating at all. But the Senate has yet to hear an explanation from the Republican Leader as to why his caucus no longer favors regular order or why his own position has changed so radically.
Democrats want to put deadline-day negotiations and last-minute fixes behind us. Democrats want to engage in a responsible legislative process under the regular order. And we will keep pushing this process forward.
Passing a budget in each chamber is a good step toward restoring regular order. But it’s only the first step. The next move is to sit down and resolve our differences.