July 5, 2011
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:
T.S. Eliot wrote in a poem “hurry up please it’s time.” He could have been writing to us here in the Senate.
“Yesterday this great nation celebrated its 235th birthday. In those 235 years we have accomplished many admirable things, and we have done it together.
We have landed on the moon, invented new ways to save lives and fought for Democracy and freedom around the world.
But now we stand poised to make a different kind of history. For the first time the United States of America stands at the brink of defaulting on our financial obligations.
The chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said allowing America to default on its debt “would be tantamount to writing a bad check.”
But unless we take action, tarnishing this great nation’s sterling reputation will be the least of our concerns. We also risk the very fate of this country’s economy, and the world economy along with it.
The last time this country was plunged into a major recession – three short years ago – we took the world with us. When Wall Street greed caused the near collapse of our financial system, Americans across the country lost their jobs, their homes and their savings. And so did people across the globe.
This country is only beginning to recover, and the world with us.
But the crisis we face now is one of even greater proportion. Without exception, the most respected economists and business minds of our time have said that if America defaults on its debt it will have dire consequences here and around the globe.
“Catastrophe” they have called it.
That same U.S. Chamber of Commerce economist said a failure to avert this crisis “is not a possibility.” He could not even conceive that Republicans in Congress could shirk their duty.
Defaulting on our debt would risk millions of American jobs. It could halt tax refunds, Social Security checks, Medicare payments and even paychecks for our troops. And the depression it would cause here at home would ripple around the globe.
This default crisis is not a new problem. It has loomed for months.
But we no longer have those months – or even weeks – to avert this catastrophe. We have days.
Yet my Republican colleagues have walked away from the negotiating table when we were nearing a solution and so close to disaster.
Why? To protect oil companies. To protect the owners of yachts and corporate jets. To protect corporations that ship jobs overseas. To protect millionaires and billionaires from paying their fair share.
Twenty percent of all the income earned in this nation is earned by the top 1 percent of its citizens. It is this top 1 percent that Republicans are determined to protect. Republicans walked away from negotiations to protect them.
Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And the middle class Democrats have worked to make stronger is disappearing. Middle-class families are struggling to make ends meet.
That is why I have brought to the floor legislation demanding millionaires and billionaires contribute their fair share to this crucial deficit reduction struggle.
When Republicans talk about shared sacrifice, they mean the sacrifice should be shared by those who can least afford it. Democrats believe the sacrifice should be shared by the richest 1 percent as well. The others have all sacrificed too much already.
As we debate this in the U.S. Senate this week, negotiations with the President and Vice President must continue.
The invitation to Republicans to help prevent a catastrophic default remains open. To become part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, all Republicans have to do is accept that invitation.
The time is here for my Republican colleagues to put politics aside. Simply put, we are out of time.
But Democrats cannot negotiate with ourselves. When one side comes to the table and the other side refuses, it is impossible to negotiate.
So, this week, we will debate the solution to this crisis whether Republicans like it or not.
Democrats will be clear about what is at stake: the fate of the global economy.
We will be clear about our priority: to avert a catastrophic default and protect our fragile economic recovery.
And we will be clear about the middle ground we have already found: we must cut the deficit to get our fiscal house in order.
Democrats are willing to compromise. But compromise does not mean allowing our Republican colleagues to put the wants of a few millionaires and billionaires ahead of the needs of this nation and the world.
I repeat the words of T.S. Eliot: “hurry up please it’s time.”