Those Who Have Said They Will Never Compromise on Any Terms Should Think About Who Their Stubbornness Will Hurt
July 31, 2011
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding what is at stake with a default. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“As the clock ticks down to August 2, I want to remind everyone within the sound of my voice what is at stake in this debate.
This very moment, millions of Americans seniors worry that their next Social Security check might not come on Wednesday.
Middle-class families wonder whether their retirement accounts will be wiped out by an economic collapse brought on by a default on this nation’s debt.
And active duty military personnel – including many who are risking their lives for our great nation – worry whether they will receive their paychecks.
The Associated Press reported that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited with troops serving in Afghanistan yesterday. And the soldiers Admiral Mullen talked to weren’t asking about military strategy or how a troop drawdown in Afghanistan would affect them.
They asked whether they would get paid if Republicans force the U.S. government to stop paying its bills.
In a region that has been wracked by violence and plagued by suicide bombers this month, they wondered how they would take care of their families if their checks stopped coming next month.
Let me read you a little bit of that Associated Press story.
‘A half a world away from the Capitol Hill deadlock, the economy and debt crisis are weighing heavily on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
‘And the top question on their minds Saturday even as bombings rocked the city around them, was one the top U.S. military officer couldn't answer.
‘Will we get paid?’
Admiral Mullen told them he didn’t know the answer to their question, but that either way those soldiers must continue to work every day.
This is unacceptable.
In a country as rich and powerful as ours, men and women with bombs going off around them shouldn’t worry whether this country will leave them high and dry.
This afternoon, I ask those who have said they will never compromise on any terms to think about who their stubbornness will hurt.
I have spoken to the Vice President this morning. He is hopeful, as I am, that we are close to an agreement with Republican leaders.
The framework of this agreement is based on some new ideas and some old ones. After speaking to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell this morning, I would say we are both cautiously optimistic we will reach a conclusion soon.
There are a number of major issues yet to be resolved in these ongoing discussions. Each of them must be resolved before we will have a final agreement.
But we must get something done as quickly as possible, and I believe all sides are aware of the urgency.
It is unfortunate that the House of Representatives wasted all of last week on legislation they knew would never pass the Senate – and, in fact, barely passed the House with only Republican votes.
Democrats have said all along that we would never agree to a short-term arrangement that would put our economy at risk and force Congress into another debt ceiling showdown in a few weeks.
I have always said the long-term approach taken by the Senate legislation was absolutely necessary. We must give the financial markets confidence this country will not shirk its obligations now or in the future.
There are still elements of the agreement to be resolved, and Democrats are watching the process closely.
I am satisfied the compromise being discussed at the White House adopts the Senate’s long-term approach, which will give the economy the certainty it needs.
It is also crucial the agreement being crafted set on us on the path to fiscal restraint.
I believe the settlement must include thoughtful constraints on spending. The 12-member commission I conceived to recommend additional deficit reduction measures this year will be key to that effort.
Sen. McConnell and I agree Congress owns the responsibility to set this country on the path to fiscal sustainability. This commission will assure we undertake that responsibility.
When I conceived of this commission, I knew it was important that it achieve real results. And it will be essential to choose members with open minds willing to consider every option – even when those options are tough pills to swallow for both parties.
Cooperation is the only way forward. This is what Andrew Carnegie once said about the virtue of compromise:
‘I shall argue that strong men… know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater principle.’
But perhaps President Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said this:
‘Determine that the thing can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way.’”