Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the importance of ending the government shutdown. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Yesterday the Speaker of the House of Representatives claimed there aren’t enough votes to pass the only bill that can end this dangerous government shutdown. The Speaker is mistaken. Two-hundred Democrats in the House have said they would vote for the bill to reopen the government. And 22 Republicans in the House have said publically that they would vote for the bill as well. Last time I checked, that adds up to a majority of members of the House of Representatives.
Now, if only there was a mechanism for polling all the members of the House to find out whether they support the Senate-passed bill – a surefire way to find out whether the bill would pass. A surefire way such as offering the bill for a vote. That would settle this question once and for all, wouldn’t it?
I say to my friend, the Speaker, allow a vote on the only bill that can end this shutdown – a bill that you proposed in the first place. The entire federal government could re-open for business by tomorrow morning. I ask the Speaker, why are you afraid? Are you afraid the bill will pass, the government will reopen and Americans will realize you took the country hostage for no apparent reason? Why is the Speaker opposed to reasonable solutions?
Across the nation, people are suffering because of the Speaker’s irresponsible political games. There is still one easy way out – the same escape hatch that’s been available as long as we’ve been a country: a vote. But for the seven days the federal government has been closed for businesses, the Speaker has refused to use that escape hatch.
The Senate-passed bill to reopen the government while we work out our budget differences wasn’t even my idea. It was the Speaker’s idea. He admits it was his intention all along to pass a clean continuing resolution.
The bill before the House represents a compromise by Democrats – a compromise it was very difficult for my caucus to accept. But now that Democrats have compromised, the Speaker won’t take yes for an answer. He’s moved the goal line again.
Last week, the Speaker wanted to go to conference to work out a long-term budget agreement. Democrats agreed. We’ve been asking to go to conference to work out a responsible budget compromise for more than six months – six months, M. President. Simply reopen the government, Democrats said, and we’ll gladly negotiate on anything and everything – from healthcare to discretionary spending, agriculture reform to tax reform. Democrats are not afraid to negotiate. And we’re not afraid to make reasonable compromises. But once again, Lucy moved the football.
As Judd Legum, editor-in-chief of Think Progress, pointed out, Republicans have a strange definition of compromise. This is how he explained it. Republicans ask, “Can I burn down your house?” We say no. Republicans ask, “Just the second floor?” We say no. Republicans ask, “[Just the] garage? We say no. Republicans say, “Let’s talk about what I can burn down.” We say no. Then Republicans say, “YOU’RE NOT COMPROMISING.”
Republicans insist we must negotiate while the federal government remains closed. As the New York Times editorial writers said Saturday, when 800,000 federal employees are furloughed, government services are shut down and the economy is flagging, it’s hardly the time for talking.
This is what the Times wrote: “This is a moment for immediate action to reopen the government’s doors, not the beginning of a conversation Republicans spurned when they lacked the leverage of a shutdown. [Republicans] have refused to negotiate over the Senate’ budget, they have refused to negotiate over the President’s budget and they have refused to negotiate to make the health law more efficient…. The two sides will eventually have to reach a reckoning on long-term economic issues, but the time to do so is not while dangling over an abyss.”
Democrats agree. We are willing to negotiate. But we won’t negotiate with a gun to our heads. We say to our Republican colleagues: end this irresponsible government shutdown. Stop your reckless threats of a default on the nation’s obligations. Then Democrats will negotiate over anything our Republican colleagues want.