Washington, DC—Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks today regarding budget negotiations. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“The time we have left to work on a budget agreement is short. The window in which we can avoid the terrible consequences of a shutdown is closing quickly. It is no longer measured in months or weeks. We are now just days away from the deadline. And the time we have to get the long legislative process started in both houses is measured in mere hours.
“It’s clear that those sitting at the negotiating table have different priorities. That’s true of any negotiation. But we all should share the same goal: to keep the country running, and to keep the momentum of our economic recovery. And we all want to cut the deficit.
“Last week we agreed upon a number on which to base our budget cuts – $73 billion below the President’s proposal. But disagreements remain on where we should make those cuts. We worked through the weekend to bridge the gap. We’ve made some progress, but we’re not there yet.
“There is another way in which the sides remain separated. Democrats have demonstrated throughout this process that we are willing to meet in the middle.
“But Republicans and the Tea Party continue to reject reality, and insist instead on ideology. Let me give the Senate two examples.
“First, they refuse to recognize that H.R. 1 – that is, the budget the House passed – isn’t going to happen. The Tea Party pushed it through the House, over the objections of some Republicans and all Democrats. Then the Senate soundly defeated it, and we all know the President would never sign it into law.
“So the Republican Party and the Tea Party need to admit what Democrats have proven and what the country already knows: That neither party can pass a budget without the other party, and neither chamber can send it to the president without the other chamber. Democrats stand ready to meet Republicans halfway, and the Senate stands ready to meet the House halfway. We hope our partners on the other side are willing to be just as reasonable.
“Second, Tea Party Republicans refuse to recognize that their budget is a simply appalling proposal. They stomp their feet and call ‘compromise’ a dirty word, and insist on a budget that will hurt America rather than help it.
“It slashes programs for the sake of slashing programs. It chops zeroes off the budget for nothing more than bragging rights. The authors and advocates of the Republican budget either completely ignore the practical impact of their dangerous cuts, or they know the damage they will do and simply don’t care. Either way, it’s not right.
“Their budget won’t do a thing to lower unemployment. In fact, it will cost the country 700,000 jobs through 2012. That’s not my estimate – that’s the estimate of the head of Moody’s, an independent economist who has worked for both parties.
“It will also hurt seniors. It slashes funding for the Social Security Administration, which means seniors and disabled Americans who count on the benefits they’ve earned over a lifetime of hard work will have to wait for them. In many cases, those Social Security checks are seniors’ only source of income. In some cases, they’re the only thing keeping them out of poverty. And those checks have nothing at all to do with the deficit. Nothing.
“The Republican budget will hurt women and their families. It cuts nutritional programs for women, infants and children. It makes cuts to Planned Parenthood that are based on ideology, not economics. Planned Parenthood doesn’t contribute to the deficit – it contributes in great measure to the health and safety of women of every age, in every state.
“Their budget also will hurt our veterans. There is a successful program in this country that helps homeless veterans afford housing. Democrats think our nation’s veterans deserve a roof over their heads, and we think it’s a worthy program. The Republican budget cuts it.
“It will also hurt students. The Tea Party plan kicks hundreds of thousands of boys and girls out of Head Start, cuts college students’ Pell Grants and slashes job-training programs. That’s no way to recover.
“And independent economists have analyzed the Tea Party’s plan and found that it will actually slow economic growth. The point of this whole exercise is to help the economy. Democrats will not stand for a budget weakens the economy.
“None of the people I’ve just mentioned led us to recession. Punishing innocent bystanders like seniors, women, veterans and students will not lead us to recovery.
“This is what we mean when we say their budget is based on ideology, and not reality. This is what we mean when we say the Republican and Tea Party budget cuts irresponsibly. And when they refuse to relent on these dangerous cuts – many of which have nothing to do with the deficit – that’s what we mean when we say the other side simply isn’t being reasonable.
“Our national budget reflects our values and the tough choices we make. Democrats have made many tough choices because we know that sacrifices are the cost of consensus – and we believe they’re worth it. But we’ve never forgotten that what we cut is more important than how much we cut.
“In addition to the many choices about what to cut and what to keep, the Republican Leadership has another very big choice to make: It has to decide whether it will do what the Tea Party wants it to do, or do what the country needs it to do.
“I’m hopeful it will make the right choice and that we can come to an agreement. But the bottom line is this: At the end of the day we’re all on the same side. Time, however, is not on our side.”