Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on Democrats’ efforts to cut the deficit and avert a catastrophic default crisis. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Sometimes it can be hard to find common ground in Washington. But there is one thing on which Republicans and Democrats agree: it is absolutely necessary that Congress prevent a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt that would put our economy in grave danger.
I have said it. So have many of my Republican colleagues. And now the business community is shouting it.
This week, business leaders wrote to Congress and the White House to ask us, please, to put our differences aside and avert a default crisis before it’s too late. Literally hundreds of CEOs – including executives from some of the nation’s largest companies and most respected business groups – signed the letter.
“This is a risk our country must not take,” they wrote.
They said if we don’t reach a deal soon, the stock market will be in “disarray.” We all know we can’t afford that right now. Our economy is already struggling to stay on a course to recovery.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donahue, who signed the letter, also said this week that a default would have “dire consequences for our economy, our markets, and Main Street Americans.”
Business leaders are begging us to do the right thing, and do it quickly.
That’s why I was shocked to hear the Speaker of the House say yesterday that averting a default crisis was President Obama’s problem.
That’s not what he said a few months ago when he urged us to “deal with this like adults.” And it wasn’t what he said when President George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling seven times, increasing the limit by $4 trillion.
In fact, when the Speaker voted to increase the debt limit by nearly $1 trillion in 2003, he didn’t demand it be accompanied by massive spending cuts. Instead, a Republican Congress approved hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy. They were paid for with borrowed money and contributed to our massive debt.
Congress has raised the debt limit 89 times since it was created in 1939, two-thirds of those times under Republican presidents.
Ronald Reagan asked Congress to raise the limit 18 times, twice as many as any other president. Republicans never claimed then that the issue was the President’s problem alone.
For Republicans to claim now that the deficit is a problem only for the President or Democrats in Congress is just plain irresponsible.
It’s even more irresponsible considering Bush, with the help of Republicans in Congress, nearly doubled the debt while he was President. That’s more than any other president in history.
This problem belongs to all of us in Congress. And it will take all of us working together – political party aside – to make a deal possible.
Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame for 35 years, said this about making difficult decisions: “You don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.”
It is time for Republicans and Democrats to get together and do what’s right for this nation.
I am glad to hear that the Republican Leader has come forward with a backstop proposal to address the debt limit. I am still studying it and discussing it with Senators.
But I am heartened by what I read. This is a serious proposal. And I commend the Republican Leader for coming forward.
I believe that the Republican Leader’s proposal, combined with ideas he and I have been discussing to force a vote on deficit reduction proposals, could go a long way toward resolving the impasse in which we find ourselves.
In the meantime, this afternoon, Congressional Leadership will again meet with the President and his senior advisors to try to advance our discussions.
Democrats realize finding common ground isn’t always easy. If it were, we would have hammered out an agreement long ago. But reducing the deficit and getting our fiscal house in order is too important to quit when the going gets tough.
I am confident that we will find a way to get this done. We simply cannot allow our country for the first time in its history to fail to pay its bills. The risks to our economy are too great not to.
America’s business leaders put it this way: “Now is the time for our political leaders to put aside partisan differences and act in the nation’s best interests. It is time to pull together rather than pull apart.”
I urge my Republican colleagues to remember this: we are not opponents squaring off across the field. We are all on the same team, with the same goal in mind. But if the catcher doesn’t take the field, it doesn’t matter how good the pitcher’s fastball is. The team doesn’t stand a chance.
It’s time each and every one of us in Congress remembered that. In the words of American business leaders, “It’s time to pull together rather than pull apart.”