Washington, D.C. – Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the bipartisan budget agreement and confirmation of qualified nominees. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
Today the Senate is debating the House-passed budget agreement, an important step to averting another dangerous and costly government shutdown in January. Another Republican shutdown would undercut the economic progress of the last four years.
When Republicans closed the federal government for business in October it cost $2 billion in lost productivity alone. The combined cost of the shutdown and Republicans’ threats to force a catastrophic default on the nation’s bills cost the economy 120,000 private sector jobs in the first two weeks of October alone. But the agreement the Senate is considering today will help us avoid another costly shutdown.
The bargain rolls back the painful and arbitrary cuts of the sequester – including devastating cuts to education, medical research, infrastructure investments and defense jobs. This isn’t a perfect bargain. No compromise is perfect. But the Senate should pass this agreement quickly, so the Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Chairwoman Mikulski, can begin crafting appropriations bills.
It’s unfortunate that Republicans have forced the Senate to run out the clock on this measure, even though it passed the House on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis and has the support of a majority of the Senate. It’s time to get back to setting fiscal policy through the regular order of the budget process rather than through hostage taking. And it is time for Congress to show the American people that Democrats and Republican can compromise rather than lurching from crisis to crisis. Yet Republicans have insisted on wasting 30 hours of the Senate’s time before allowing a final vote on this measure, even though they know it will pass with bipartisan support.
I read that the Republican leadership may also force the Senate to work through the weekend and into next week by dragging out the consideration of several important executive nominations. The Senate could wrap up work on the budget bill, pass the Defense Authorization legislation and confirm these nominees by Thursday afternoon. The only thing keeping us here is more Republican obstruction.
I was also troubled to hear the Republican Leader say that the nominations we have considered this session, and those on which I filed cloture Monday, are “non-essential.” Does the Republican Leader consider the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security – the individual tasked with protecting us from terrorist attacks – “non-essential?” Does the Republican Leader consider the Secretary of the Air Force or the diplomats who run the State Department “non-essential?” Does the Republican Leader consider the judges that try criminal and civil cases in overcrowded courtrooms across the nation “non-essential?” We confirmed talented and dedicated individuals to all of those essential posts last week.
And does the Republican Leader consider the chairman of the Federal Reserve – who sets this nation’s monetary policy – to be “non-essential?” We will consider Janet Yellen’s nomination to lead the Federal Reserve this week. We will also vote on a number of other nominations, including a new director for the Internal Revenue Service and the deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. And we will consider the nomination of Brian Davis of Florida to fill a district court seat that has been declared a judicial emergency. His nomination has been pending for almost two years.
None of these posts are “non-essential.” On the contrary, these are absolutely essential nominees.
It is their job to carry out justice, to protect our country and to safeguard our economy. It is the Senate’s job to confirm them. How long it will take the Senate to complete that job is up to my Republican friends.