July 6, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor on Republicans’ willingness to risk a default crisis to protect tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Yesterday my Republican counterpart said the debate over how to avert the looming default crisis is really a debate over what kind of country we are going to be. I agree.
So, will we be the kind of country that protects tax breaks and giveaways for the richest people and corporations, while sacrificing seniors and the middle class? That is the America my Republican colleagues have proposed. And those priorities are simply backwards.
Democrats, on the other hand, believe that in a nation where nearly half the country’s wealth is controlled by just 1 percent of its people, that 1 percent should not be exempt from the sacrifices asked of everyone else.
If these negotiations will determine what kind of nation we’re going to be, they will determine the character of the Republican Party as well.
Will they be the party that came to Washington to help govern – to craft solutions to the difficult issues facing this nation in cooperation with patriots from both sides of the aisle? Or will they be the kind of single-issue, ideological party that walks away from reasonable compromise for the sake of politics?
David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, believes they may be the latter. This is what he said yesterday about the illogical and ideological Republican Party that is emerging:
“If the debt ceiling talks fail, independents voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not.”
If we default, he said, it will be the fault of “Republican fanaticism.” That fanaticism is making compromise impossible, no matter how much Democrats are willing to give.
Independent voters, Brooks says, “Will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.”
I repeat: a conservative columnist said this.
The Republican Party has been taken over by ideologues either devoted to or terrified by Grover Norquist and his no-tax pledge.
These Republicans refuse to believe the countless respected voices that have said over and over how serious a crisis we face if we fail to avoid default.
And they have refused a deal Brooks called the “mother of all no-brainers,” because it violates an arbitrary pledge. Never mind that the deal is in the best interests of the country and gives Republicans much of what they say they want. They walked away from the table.
The statesman Dean Acheson said that negotiating “assumes parties more anxious to agree than to disagree.”
It’s no wonder, then, that Republicans have refused to negotiate. They won’t even admit to supporting their own long-held positions if Democrats support those positions, too.
We should all be able to agree we need to reduce the deficit and get our fiscal house in order. Democrats and Republicans alike have said that.
We should all be able to agree we need to avert the global economic disaster an American default would cause. Business leaders and economist alike have said that.
And we should all be able to agree that millionaires, billionaires, oil companies and the owners of yachts and jets don’t need special tax breaks the rest of Americans don’t get.
Yet Republicans have defended those tax breaks again and again. They claim that Democrats want to raise taxes on ship builders and airplane manufacturers. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In fact, Democrats want to end special tax breaks for the millionaires and billionaires who are lucky enough to be able to afford private jets and yachts. And we’re proud of that.
These tax breaks aren’t available to middle-class Americans. You can’t write off the family station wagon or the rowboat you take fishing with the grandkids.
These breaks are available for multimillion-dollar toys only a handful of Americans can afford.
I repeat: I am proud that Democrats are standing up for America’s middle-class families instead of the richest of the rich.
And as my Republican colleagues defend tax breaks for special interests, big donors and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans, I urge them to think once again about what kind of party they want to be.
They must ask themselves whether they want to be the kind of party David Brooks, a conservative, described: a party of unreasonable fanatics that refuses to compromise no matter how sweet the deal for their side and no matter how grave the consequences for our nation.