Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding a default crisis. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Five days remain until a few extremist Republicans drive our economy off a cliff because they are too radical and inexperienced to compromise.
Financial experts are begging Congress to come to an agreement that averts a first-ever default on this nation’s financial obligations. This is what one financial analyst said yesterday about the need to avert a default crisis that would spark a global economic depression:
“The market is saying, ‘we need a deal here…’ Default is starting to seep into the marketplace.”
It won’t be long, they say, before financial markets severely react to continued stubbornness by Tea Party Republicans, tanking our economy.
Wall Street had a very bad day yesterday – its worst in months – largely based on the news that Congress has still not found a path forward.
That doesn’t only affect big investment banks or wealthy investors. All around the country, ordinary Americans with 401k’s and college savings accounts lost money yesterday. Their life savings took a hit because a small group of radical Republicans who don’t represent mainstream America have refused to move even one inch toward compromise.
Yesterday’s bad economic news should be a sign to those Republicans who deny reality. Default will rock our financial system to its core.
Many reasonable Republicans realize time is running out. They have urged their colleagues to compromise.
Yesterday on the Senate floor, John McCain, the Republican senior senator from Arizona and President Obama’s opponent in the last presidential election, asked his own party to return to reality.
It “is not fair to the American people, to hold out and say we won’t agree to raising the debt limit,” he said. He called the radical Republican approach – saying up is down and denying the sky is blue – “unfair” and “bizarro.”
“It’s time we listened to the markets,” he told his colleagues. “It’s time we listened to the American people and sit down and seriously negotiate.”
He was talking to his fellow Republicans, and in particular to a Tea Party that doesn’t seem to realize Republicans control only one half of one branch of government. That faction of the Republican Party is holding our economy hostage.
My counterpart, Sen. McConnell, also urged a return to reason.
“We cannot get a perfect solution, from my point of view, controlling only the House of Representatives. So I’m prepared to accept something less than perfect, because perfect is not achievable.”
Both sides know that neither side will get everything it wants. That does not mean we should not come together to find a compromise that gives each side something it needs.
Republicans have drawn the line at ending wasteful tax breaks for corporate jet owners and oil companies making record profits. They have vowed to protect corporate welfare at taxpayer expense.
Democrats have vowed to protect senior citizens who rely on Social Security and Medicare benefits. We will not allow them to suffer while Republicans protect tax breaks for billionaires.
The compromise plan we’re considering here in the Senate protects both those priorities. Unfortunately, in a concession to Republicans, it does not ask millionaires and billionaires to contribute their fair share. But it does protect the seniors Republicans insist should feel the pain.
It would also avert a default crisis while cutting $2.5 trillion from the deficit. That’s more than the Speaker can say for his plan.
Yet House Republicans refuse to support the Senate compromise.
I am happy to talk to my Republican colleagues and listen to reasonable suggestions to make the Senate compromise legislation even better. That would require Tea Party Republicans to admit compromise is not a bad word. Legislation is the art of compromise. They need to learn that.
A significant number of House Republican has said their party would rather see this nation default on its financial obligations than cooperate with Democrats.
This kind of thinking has been roundly rejected by the American people. Nearly three quarters of Americans want Congress to compromise even if neither side gets everything it wants.
This thinking has also been rejected by reasonable Republicans. In an open letter to the House GOP, former Senator Fred Thompson, a Republican, urged members of his own party to recognize a good deal when they see it.
“I respectfully suggest that you rake in your chips [and] stuff them in your pockets,” Thompson urged Republicans.
The proposal on the table would cut the deficit by $2.5 trillion. If their goal is truly to rein in spending, they’ve already won, he said. Republicans should know when to take their chips and walk away.
American writer Elbert Hubbard said “It is easy to get everything you want, provided you first learn to do without the things you cannot get.”
Republicans cannot get the short-term Band-Aid they will vote on in the House today.
It will not get one Democratic vote in the Senate. All 53 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus wrote to the Speaker last night to tell him they will not vote for it.
The economy needs more certainty than the Speaker’s proposal would provide. We must not be back here in six weeks or six months debating whether to allow our nation to default on its financial obligations for Republicans’ political gain.
It would be easy for Republicans to get nearly everything they want, if only they embraced the Senate’s true compromise plan – and stop, as Sen. McCain put it, “deceiving” the American people.
The question remains, will my Republican colleagues be wise enough to end this stalemate?