Reid Remarks On Nomination Of Senator Max Baucus To Be Ambassador To China And On The Need To Extend Unemployment Insurance

“Senator Baucus’s independent spirit… as well as his decades of experience in Congress make him an excellent choice to represent America’s interests in China, a growing power in a global economy.”

“Republicans have refused every reasonable offer to move forward on this legislation… With the exception of a few reasonable Republicans who have taken the human toll of obstruction into consideration, Republicans simply don’t want to extend emergency unemployment insurance.”

“[Republican] obstruction has already cost the nation $2.2 billion in economic activity – a body blow to small businesses around the country. And every week they delay, another 73,000 Americans lose these crucial benefits – benefits that help them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while they search for a job.”

Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the nomination of Senator Max Baucus to be ambassador to China, and on the need to restore emergency unemployment benefits. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

I’ve had the good fortune of serving in Congress for three decades with the Senior Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, who is nominated to be our nation’s next ambassador to China. For 36 years Senator Baucus has served the people of Montana in the United States Senate. But even before his election to the Senate, Max served the people of Montana in the state legislature and the House of Representatives.

Max was born in Helena, Montana. And although he spent several years of his childhood in California, he returned to Helena for high school. Senator Baucus received his undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford University, where he also attended law school. After receiving his law degree, he worked as an attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission before returning to Montana to enter private practice in Missoula.

Max served two years in the Montana State Legislature before he was elected in 1974 to represent Montana’s 1st District in Congress. He served in the House for four years before he was elected to the Senate. Since then, Montanans have reelected Max five times, making him the longest serving Senator in Montana’s history.

In addition to his distinguished service as Chair of the Finance Committee, Senator Baucus also serves on the Agriculture Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee, of which he is a former chairman.  As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Baucus was instrumental in developing and passing landmark health care reform – the Affordable Care Act – that is already saving money and lives.

Senator Baucus has long been an advocate for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. But while Senator Baucus is well known nationally for his tireless work on health care and tax reform, his constituents will remember how he always puts the needs of Montanans first.

Max – who is an avid hunter and fisher – authored one of the largest public land grant bills in American history, which preserved more than 310,000 acres of forestland in northwestern Montana. It is a testament to his love of the outdoors that Max walked 820 miles across Montana in 1995 and 1996, and completed a 50-mile race in less than 12 hours in 2003.

Senator Baucus’ independent spirit have made him a powerful advocate for his home state and for the issues he cares deeply about. It has also made him a respected member of the Democratic caucus. And his passion, as well as his decades of experience in Congress, make him an excellent choice to represent America’s interests in China, a growing power in a global economy. Senator Baucus has never shied away from the difficult issues of the day, and I have no doubt that his fearlessness will serve him well in his new role.

And although Senator Baucus will be missed by me, by the Democratic Caucus and by the entire Senate family, our loss will be the nation’s gain. Max, I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavor.

The Senate will vote this afternoon on Senator Baucus’ nomination to be ambassador to China. This body will also vote to advance a three-month extension of emergency unemployment insurance that won’t add a penny to the deficit.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans appear poised to filibuster this important legislation for a second time – despite the fact that Democrats have compromised on their every demand.

Republicans complained that the bill wasn’t paid for. So Democrats proposed an offset that was amenable to our Republican colleagues. Then Republicans complained they could not vote for an extension of unemployment insurance without reforms to the program. So Democrats accepted reforms proposed by Republicans. Then Republicans complained that they weren’t allowed to offer amendments. So Democrats offered to vote on 20 relevant amendments – 10 from each side.

Republicans have refused every reasonable offer to move forward on this legislation. I’m beginning to believe there is nothing that will get Republicans to yes. With the exception of a few reasonable Republicans who have taken the human toll of obstruction into consideration, Republicans simply don’t want to extend emergency unemployment insurance.

Their obstruction has already cost the nation $2.2 billion in economic activity – a body blow to small businesses around the country. And every week they delay, another 73,000 Americans lose these crucial benefits – benefits that help them keep food on the table and a roof over their heads while they search for a job.

Last week I shared the story of a 57-year-old Nevada woman who is couch surfing – sleeping on friends’ couches – because she lost her home. She sold all her belongings so she could put gas in her car if she gets a job interview. This woman has worked all her life. She doesn’t want a handout. She wants a job. As we vote today, I hope my Republican colleagues will keep in mind this Nevada woman – and 1.7 million Americans just like her, who have lost their unemployment benefits since December 31. And I hope they will work with us to advance this bill and protect unemployed Americans.