Remarks On Anti-Gun Violence Legislation And Compromise Immigration Reform

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 “The overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans ignored the voices of an overwhelming majority of Americans.”

“But make no mistake: this debate is not over. This is not the end of the fight. Republicans are in an unsustainable position – crosswise with nine out of 10 Americans.”

Washington, D.C.Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding anti-gun violence legislation, comprehensive immigration reform, the capture of a suspect in the ricin attacks on Senate offices and the tragic explosion in West, Texas. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Our thoughts are with the people of Texas this morning, in the wake of a terrible explosion at a fertilizer factory in the town of West, outside Waco.  We don’t yet know the extent of the loss of life, or how many were injured. But my heart goes out to those who were hurt. And I offer my condolences to those who lost loved ones.

We will continue to follow the news from Texas as it develops.  And I will work with my colleagues to ensure that every available federal resource is available to help the people of West as they recover from this terrible tragedy.

This nation has simply dealt with too much loss these last few months. Once again, I offer my condolences to the families who joined us at the Capitol yesterday to honor loved ones lost to gun violence and to lobby for stronger background check laws.  We knew the effort to keep America’s streets safe from gun violence would not be easy.

I commend Senators Manchin, Toomey, Kirk and Schumer for setting aside partisanship to negotiate this compromise. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of Senate Republicans ignored the voices of an overwhelming majority of Americans. Yesterday, the families of gun violence victims watched as Republicans defeated a common-sense proposal to expand background checks that has the support of 90 percent of Americans.

But make no mistake: this debate is not over. This is not the end of the fight. Republicans are in an unsustainable position – crosswise with nine out of 10 Americans.

As we process the remaining amendments today, Democrats will consider all of our options on how to proceed with this legislation.

Democrats will continue to stand with the families from Newtown and Aurora and Tucson and Carson City. And I assure the 90 percent of Americans who support meaningful background check legislation that I will personally continue this fight.

The Senate suffered a notable and stunning defeat of bipartisanship this week, during the debate over background checks. But the week didn’t bring only bad news. A bipartisan group of eight of my Senate colleagues – four Democrats and four Republicans – introduced a comprehensive plan to reform our broken immigration system.

Senators Schumer, McCain, Durbin, Menendez,  Graham, Bennet, Rubio and Flake have worked very hard on this legislation. I commend them for setting partisanship aside to address a critical issue facing our nation.

Democrats didn’t get everything we wanted in these negotiations. That’s the nature of compromise. But I am satisfied that this legislation continues to secure our borders, improves our dysfunctional legal immigration system and requires the 11 million people who are undocumented / to pass a criminal background check and pay fines and taxes to start on the path to citizenship.

I look forward to hearings on this measure before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to a thoughtful debate on the Senate floor. I pledge ample time for discussion and consideration of this legislation.  And I will do everything in my power to get this bill across the finish line.

Here in the United States Senate we deal with many controversial issues that elicit passionate responses – including the immigration proposal I just mentioned and the anti-violence legislation currently before the Senate.  We try to deal with those issues thoughtful and respectfully. Those who serve and work in the Senate do so out of a sense of patriotism and a love of country.  

So it was deeply disturbing that an anonymous individual would attempt to send a deadly poison to a Senate office, as well as to the White House. Fortunately, through the swift action of the Capitol Police and federal law enforcement officials, a suspect has been apprehended in these cowardly, anonymous attacks and will soon be brought to justice.

Americans should understand that this incident does not appear in any way to be related to the tragedy in Boston. Nevertheless, it is a reminder to the Senate community – and to all Americans – to remain vigilant during these unsettling times.  It is also a reminder that Senate offices should continue to follow mail policies that are in place for their safety as this investigation continues.

Fortunately, the system in place to protect the Senate community worked. The suspicious letters were found and intercepted before they reached the Capitol. I applaud the postal employees and law enforcement officials who detected and neutralized this threat. I commend Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Gainer and the Capitol Police for their diligent work to keep the Senate community safe.  And I rest easier knowing that the safety of everyone who works in and visits the Capitol is their first priority.

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