“Nearly every major bipartisan bill we have passed this year could have been become law in years past if Republicans had not blocked them, obstructed them, filibustered them.”
“I say to my Republican friends – you get no credit for passing legislation now that Republicans blocked then. It doesn’t work that way. If Republicans are intent on claiming credit for moving forward bills that they have blocked in the past, I hope they will change course during this the coming year and finally start to do something for the middle class.”
“Instead of telling all of us how the Senate is working, why not work with Democrats? Instead of telling us how productive this year has been – in spite of all the empirical data that proves otherwise – why not make this coming year productive for America’s working families?”
Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today about Republicans’ attempts to take credit for the passage of legislation they blocked during the previous Congress. Below are his remarks:
Today we are taking a long and overdue step in moving beyond the broken No Child Left Behind law championed by the Bush Administration. The Every Student Succeeds Act will reduce the focus on testing while still ensuring that all students are making progress. This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act also includes new investments for early childhood education, a priority for Democrats. The senior Senator from Washington, Senator Murray, and the Chairman of the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Alexander, did good work in getting this bill passed.
But while we pat ourselves on the back for passing this legislation, we shouldn’t forget that we could have done this a long time ago. It was not long after the bill passed that we knew it was full of flaws and we tried valiantly to change it for a number of years. Why didn’t we change it? Because there were Republican filibusters. We couldn’t bring the bill to the floor. In fact, nearly every major bipartisan bill we have passed this year could have been become law in years past if Republicans had not blocked them, obstructed them, filibustered them.
What are we talking about? We’re talking about the bill that we’re going to vote on at 10:45, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The so-called doc fix, my friend referred to that. For years, because of something the Bush administration had done to make the budget look good, we could not get past that. It was terrible for the Medicare patients and very good for the Medicare physicians. We tried to change it not once, not twice, not three times, numerous times. Every time we couldn’t do it because of Republican obstruction. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act – we passed that. Why didn’t we do it earlier? Because the Republicans filibustered it, blocked it, obstructed it. The Department of Homeland Security funding – that nearly shut down the government. We tried to do it earlier. We couldn’t because of obstruction by Republicans. The Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, called the Clay Hunt Suicide Act. Why didn’t we do that earlier? Because they wouldn’t let us. They filibustered, they blocked it.
The Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill, same thing. The U.S.A. Freedom Act, same thing. Cybersecurity legislation – my friend comes and boasts about all the good things done and includes the cybersecurity. It takes a lot of gall to come here and boast about that when it was filibustered time and time again by the Republicans.
My friend also talks about how great the Senate’s operating.
When he signed up for this job, what he said they would do as Republicans, they would take all bills through the committee of jurisdiction. Absolute falsehood. They have not done that. What am I talking about? Well, S. 534, the Immigration Rule of Law Act of 2015 – directly to the floor. Department of Homeland Security, appropriations, directly here, bypassed the committee. Keystone Pipeline, same thing. Iran Nuclear Agreement, same thing. Vehicle for trade act, same thing. Trade Preference Extension Act, same thing. H.R. 644, Trade Facilitation and Enforcement Act, same thing, directly to the floor – skipped the committee. The Patriot Act extension, same thing, skipped the committee. The highway bill, same thing, skipped the committee. Defund Planned Parenthood, skipped the committee, came right here. Vehicle for the Iran bill, skipped the committee, came directly here. Pain-capable, same thing, skipped the committee, came here. And there are many other instances.
The bills I’ve talked about, with some exception, were good bills last Congress, and they were good bills this Congress. The only difference between then and now is that Republican stopped blocking them. I’m not amused. I know that some may think this is amusing but it’s not. It’s too serious when my Republican colleagues take victory laps on legislation that they filibustered last Congress. I say to my Republican friends – you get no credit for passing legislation now that Republicans blocked then. It doesn’t work that way. If Republicans are intent on claiming credit for moving forward bills that they have blocked in the past, I hope they will change course during this the coming year and finally start to do something for the middle class.
We are half way through the 114th Congress, and the Republican Senate has done little for America’s working families. This Congress has been a failure for middle-class Americans. We have a year to change that. Next year Republicans could work with Democrats to increase the minimum wage. An increase in the minimum wage is good for American workers, businesses, and the economy. Under Senator Murray’s proposal, 38 million Americans stand to benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. In Nevada, almost 400,000 workers would get a raise. That’s almost 1/3 of our state’s workforce.
Next year we could finally address the unfair wage disparity that takes money out of American women’s paychecks. On average, American women make only 77 cents for every dollar that their male colleague makes. And for women of color, that disparity is even worse. African-American women make 64 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make for doing the exact same work. Latina women make 53 cents for every dollar. That’s unconscionable. I encourage the Republican Leader to take up Senator Mikulski’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help close the wage disparity for American women.
Or next year we need could pass legislation to ease the burden of costly student loans. Americans now owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt. Student loans are the second largest source of personal debt in the United States – more than even credit cards or auto loans. Can’t Republicans work with us to do something to address this issue? Americans with student loan debt need our help. Those are just a few of the important matters that I urge Republicans to undertake in the coming year, but there are many things we can be doing for the middle class.
So instead of telling all of us how the Senate is working, why not work with Democrats? Instead of telling us how productive this year has been – in spite of all the empirical data that proves otherwise – why not make this coming year productive for America’s working families? If we do that, then we can honestly tell the American people that the Senate is working again – because it will be working for them.