December 5, 2012
“It’s difficult to engage in rational negotiation when one side holds well-known facts and proven truths in such low esteem”
“The few reasonable Republicans left in Congress agree we need to give certainty to middle-class families now.”
“I still believe there are 26 reasonable Republicans willing to put their promise to serve constituents ahead of their pledge to Grover Norquist.”
Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the failure of the disabilities treaty and ongoing tax and budget negotiations. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Across the country, Americans are lamenting the lack of progress in negotiations to avoid a massive tax increase on middle-class families. I share their frustration.
But for insight into why negotiations have been difficult, consider yesterday’s failure of the Disabilities Convention at the hands of the Tea Party.
This shouldn’t have been a battle. But extreme elements of the Republican Party picked a fight where there was none.
Thirty-eight Republicans voted against the Convention, including several who were on the record supporting it.
This treaty, already ratified by 125 countries, would hold foreign nations to the same high standard of treatment the U.S. already maintains for people with disabilities.
And it would safeguard American citizens traveling, working and serving abroad.
The treaty has the support of veterans groups and disability groups from around the country.
It wouldn’t cost taxpayers a penny. It wouldn’t require any changes to existing U.S. law. And the issue is as bipartisan as they come. This is what one Senator said about the treaty:
“Protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, ANY person, is not a political issue. It is a human issue, regardless of where in the world a disabled person strives to live a normal, independent life where basic rights and accessibilities are available. Disability rights and protections have always been a bipartisan issue and ratifying this treaty should be no different.”
That wasn’t some ultra-liberal. That was Senator John McCain, a veteran, who broke with the extremists and Tea Partiers in his party and voted to ratify the treaty.
The Convention also had strong support from a number of other leading Republicans, including President George H.W. Bush and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole.
Senator Dole, a disabled veteran of World War II who led the fight to pass the treaty, was here yesterday urging Republicans to support it.
One by one, those Republicans greeted the 89-year-old war hero and patriot, who just last week was in Walter Reed hospital.
And then, one by one, all but a handful of them voted against the treaty – ensuring its failure.
But their professed reasons for opposing it had no basis in fact. Even many Republicans acknowledge that.
There is no justification for sending a message / that every individual around the world / who strives to lead a full and productive life / in spite of a disability / does not deserve the same just treatment.
There is no justification for telling disabled Americans – especially those who have sacrificed their very bodies for our freedom – that they do not deserve the same protections abroad / that they do at home.
Yet that is the message 38 of my Republican colleagues sent yesterday.
And these are the same Republicans with whom Democrats are supposed to reach an agreement to protect middle-class families from a tax increase.
It’s difficult to engage in rational negotiation when one side holds well-known facts and proven truths in such low esteem.
That doesn’t mean compromise is out of reach.
But as negotiations continue, I hope my Republican colleagues will keep in mind the oft-repeated words of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan:
“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.”
The stakes are high. The days run short. But there is still a quick, easy way out of this predicament.
The House must take up the Senate-passed, middle-class tax cut. The few reasonable Republicans left in Congress agree we need to give certainty to middle-class families now.
Yesterday, Senator Olympia Snowe, the Senior Senator from Maine, who is retiring, said Congress should fight about tax rates for the top 2 percent after we’ve reassured the middle class.
Americans, “should not even be questioning that we will ultimately raise taxes on low- to middle-income people.”
If House Republican leaders allow a vote on our legislation, it will pass. Every Democrat will vote for it.
It will only take 26 Republican votes to push the legislation across the finish line.
And I still believe there are 26 reasonable Republicans willing to put their promise to serve constituents ahead of their pledge to Grover Norquist.