Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement today on the budget. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“I’m always moved to hear the Pledge of Allegiance that marks the beginning of a new legislative day in the United States Senate. On the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the words ‘one nation, indivisible,’ mean more today than on most days. Along with Chaplain Black’s inspired invocation, the Pledge motivates us and reminds us of the true purpose of our work.
“Together, they recall our responsibility to our country, to our countrymen and to our conscience.
“I’m particularly pleased to see the Senate open this morning. As we all know, last week at this time – and even as recently as a few evenings ago – whether the government would stay open was a very real question.
“As I said here late on Friday night, I’m pleased we reached an agreement on a budget in time to keep the country running. And I’m pleased that budget will make historic cuts – saving the country money so we can lower our deficit and do a better job of living within our means.
“All indications show that the American people are pleased, as well. A clear majority of the country is glad we reached an agreement, and they approve of the agreement we made.
“At the beginning of this debate, and throughout the last few weeks, I reminded the Senate that in this negotiation – like in any negotiation – neither side would get everything it wanted.
“From the start, I also expressed my firm belief that what we cut will always be more important than how much we cut. That is because our nation’s budget is a representation of our values, and of what we value. It is one of the many ways we demonstrate – as a Congress and as a country – what matters most to us, what is important.
“This concept is not unique to Democrats. As the Republican Speaker of the House and the Chairman of the House Budget Committee have both said, our budget is a moral document.
“But those following the budget debate have noticed something unmistakable: While both parties may agree, in principle, that a budget is more than simply a collection of numbers, our priorities couldn’t be more different.
“We value Americans’ rights to afford a healthy life. That’s why we passed historic health reform last year. But Republicans tried to use the budget to repeal those rights. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“We value women’s health. But Republicans tried to use the budget to make it harder for women to get contraception that reduces abortions. Their budget also tried to make it harder for women to get cancer screenings, and tried to slash funding for cancer research. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“We also value our seniors’ ability to support themselves. But Republicans tried to use the budget to slash the Social Security Administration. That would have meant delays for seniors and disabled Americans who count on the benefits they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work. They also tried to use the budget to re-open the doughnut hole, which would have sent seniors’ prescription drug bills skyrocketing. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“We value our children’s education. But Republicans tried to use the budget to kick boys and girls out of pre-kindergarten programs, and slash the Pell Grants that help so many students afford college. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“We value our environment. But Republicans tried to use the budget to give polluters a free pass to poison the air we breathe and the water we drink. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“We value our economic security. But Republicans tried to repeal the promise we made to taxpayers that they will never again be asked to bail out a big bank when that bank loses its risky bets. They tried to use the budget to reverse the rules we put in place to hold Wall Street accountable. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“Finally, we value our responsibility to create jobs. But Republicans also tried to use the budget to reverse the momentum we’ve seen in recent months. The policies they tried to jam through the budget would have cost us 700,000 jobs, slashed job-training programs and slammed the brakes on our economic growth. We stayed true to our values, and we didn’t let them.
“There are many more examples in this vast budget – examples of programs Republicans wanted to destroy but that Democrats demanded we protect. There are many examples where they wanted to cut recklessly and we insisted on cutting responsibly.
“Throughout this debate, we stayed true to our values. The American people noticed, and they’re glad we did. By clear majorities, our constituents are glad we stood up for health reform, for women’s health, for cleaner air, and on and on.
“This budget battle has once again illustrated for the American people the fundamental differences between the two parties. In some cases, our priorities are poles apart. That’s obvious to the American people – as well it should be. They are the ones who will always decide which of their representatives’ morals most closely match their own.
“As we work toward finalizing this year’s budget, as we start the conversation about next year’s budget, and as we engage in the many other debates before us, Democrats will continue to insist on policies that reflect and respect our values.”