Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today on Republicans’ extreme budget proposal. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“When an American family sits at the kitchen table and sorts through its finances, partisan politics don’t figure into the equation.
“When the families we represent calculate their own budgets – when they add up the cost of gas and groceries and other necessities – they care more about bottom lines than news headlines.
“And when a family desperately counts the dwindling number of weeks before its unemployment insurance runs out, that family doesn’t have time to also keep track of which side scored the most political points that week.
“That’s because when you have to make the tough decisions that go into any budget, those decisions have to be practical, not political. They have to be realistic, not ideological.
“We often tell ourselves and our colleagues that we should be as responsible as the American people. As their representatives, we absolutely must be sympathetic to the challenges outside this chamber. And we need to come quickly to a resolution that benefits them before we worry about whether it benefits us.
“As careful as we must be not to waste the American people’s money, we must be just as mindful not to waste their time. Regrettably, though, the budget debate has turned into a political exercise, and little more. That’s counterproductive. We need to be as serious as the challenge before us.
“I’m much more concerned with actually keeping our country running and investing smartly in our future than I am in this political game. When they wake up in the morning, the American people want to send their children to a good school and then go to a good job. They want their families to come home to a safe neighborhood at night and they want to go to sleep knowing our country is safe from those who want to harm us. They don’t care who gets credit for it. They don’t care who thought of how best to do it – they just want us to do it.
“The time for politics is over. The time for pragmatism is overdue. So this is what the Senate is going to do: We’re going to vote early next week on Democrats’ plan, and we’re going to vote on Republicans’ plan. Everyone will have the chance to be on record supporting whichever they choose.
“Let me talk briefly about the merits of each of these plans, and what they will do:
“First, the reckless Republican plan that the Tea Party has pushed through the House. That irresponsible proposal slashes investments, cuts jobs, and sacrifices security and education. Yes, it cuts a lot of money today, but America would lose so much more tomorrow because these cuts are made arbitrarily, without regard for consequences. That’s why leading independent economists agree that it will hurt our recovery, slow growth and cost jobs. We can’t afford that.
“We can’t afford to be blinded by the big numbers in the House Republicans’ plan. We have to scrutinize how they came to cut $61 billion. And the truth is that it adds up to $61 billion through significant subtraction of program the American people don’t want to lose:
It slashes more than a billion dollars from Social Security, which means half a million seniors who paid into Social Security their entire lives will be waiting for benefits their country promised them.
It cuts $700 million from education, which means a million disadvantaged students could lose funding and more than 10,000 teachers, aides and school staff could lose their jobs. It would even take 200,000 children out of Head Start.
It closes poison-control centers and cut $100 million from food-safety inspections. That means the food we eat could be both less safe and more expensive – and that’s a lose-lose proposition.
It cuts three-quarters of a billion dollars from renewable energy investments, which will cost us jobs, threaten our energy independence and delay the day America lives and works in a clean-energy economy.
It cuts hundreds of millions of dollars from border security, port security and FEMA. Even some Republican Congressmen readily admit it’s not so smart to pinch pennies on the backs of our national security and first responders.
“That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said these cuts – and many more like them – will cost a significant number of jobs. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s, put that number at 700,000 jobs.
“These cuts place far too heavy a burden on working families, low-income children and seniors. And it asks for little, if any, sacrifice from those who rake in unnecessary taxpayer-funded subsidies they don’t need. That’s no way to recover.
“And that’s why Democrats have a different plan, one that represents our different priorities.
“We know that we have to make cuts. But we also know that when we cut, we have to cut in a way that strengthens our economy – not in a way that weakens it. We know we have to look carefully at the quality of these cuts and not get blinded by the quantity. After all, as I’ve said before, you can lose a lot of weight by cutting off your arms and legs – but no doctor would recommend it.
“Our plan cuts $51 from President Obama’s budget, but in a much more responsible way. We’re eliminating redundancies, ending unnecessary bureaucratic programs and cutting funding for earmarks.
“Our plan recognizes that we’re not in a competition to determine who can cut the most, without regard for the consequences. Rather, we need to cooperate to figure out where we can cut the smartest.
“While the House-passed plan is based in ideology, ours is based in reality. These are decisions about real money that solve real problems that affect real lives. Our budget affirms and reflects our values.
“We see our modestly recovering economy, including today’s news that employers are hiring at the fastest pace in almost a year, and the national unemployment rate fell to a nearly two-year low. We can’t squander this cautiously optimistic news with counterproductive cuts.
“This is what each Senator will vote for or against next week. These votes, like all votes, are about choices, and what I’ve just outlined is what this choice represents.
“Not to spoil the surprise, but we all know how this vote will turn out. We know neither will reach the President’s desk as written. We’ll end up back at square one, without consensus, without a budget for the rest of this fiscal year, and without assurance that we can keep the country running.
“So once these votes are behind us and everyone’s voice is heard, I hope each Senator and Member of Congress will find renewed motivation to do what we’ve needed to do since the beginning – come together, negotiate in good faith and compromise.
“We have to acknowledge that the answer that will allow us to move forward lies somewhere between our two positions. And we have to recognize that digging in one’s heels threatens our fiscal footing. If one side stubbornly demands victory, everybody loses. That goes for both parties – and both chambers.
“This negotiation will not happen in the media, and a solution cannot be found in extreme rhetoric or unrealistic idealism. It will happen when we sit down and have an adult conversation about what our country and our constituents need. That is the only worthy exercise.
“How we invest taxpayer money – how we create a foundation for our future – how we articulate our priorities to our citizens and our states across the country, and to our allies and adversaries around the world – is not political. It is among the most practical things we do.
“When we talk about where to invest and what to cut, everyone is concerned about the budget’s bottom line. When we talk about how we can get there, here is the bottom line of the negotiation process: Yes, we have to make tough choices. But that’s what leadership is all about. And it’s true that no one here will get everything he or she wants. But that’s what legislating is all about.
“Today marks 150 years since Abraham Lincoln took his first oath of office as President of a country whose very existence was in question.
“Like the incomplete nation he had just sworn to lead, the Capitol building was unfinished. As he addressed the nation for the first time as President, Lincoln stood on the East front of this Capitol building, under cranes and scaffolding that represented growth and uncertainty at the same time.
“A century and a half later, the threats we face are nowhere near as dire as the civil war Lincoln’s America was about to endure. But his words that afternoon are useful for us to hear this afternoon, for we are again at a moment of great peril – and again, we all will sink or swim together.
“As Lincoln closed that inaugural address 150 years ago today, he reminded a divided nation that ‘we are not enemies, but friends. … Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.’
“Lincoln famously called on us to recall the ‘better angels of our nature.’ If we listen to his critical lesson in leadership at this critical moment in history, we will secure, in our time, a stronger future.”