Transcript: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s post-election press briefing

Transcript of remarks by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a press briefing on Nov. 7, 2012: 

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.):

I’m not kidding. I’m happy to be back. Good to see everybody.

It was a late night, early morning but it’s clear that we’re going to increase our majority.

But the results show a number of thing – a number of things for certain.

One is that we’re the party of diversity. Look at the results from all over the country. So I’m looking forward to working with so many great, accomplished Senators next year. I’ve talked to virtually every one of them.

And remind every one – when I came to the Senate, Barbara Mikulski was it as far as women. Now, about a third of our caucus is going to be women. Remarkable work done by all these great Senators to-be.

But the election’s over and we have enormous challenges ahead of us and right here, and we have to sit down and go to work on it now – not wait.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a post-election press briefing on averting the fiscal cliff during the lame duck session. SOURCE: C-Span.org


This was really the message the American people sent from all over and that is they’re tired of these partisan gridlocks. They’re tired of things like “Well, I have one goal: Defeat Obama.” That’s gone. Obama was re-elected overwhelmingly.

The American people want us to work together. Republicans want us to work together. Democrats want us to work together. They want a balanced approach to everything but especially this situation that we have dealing with this huge deficit and taxes that are part of that.

I can remember my first press event with you after I had been selected as the leader – the Democratic leader. I was so afraid. I really was. And as I do on occasion, off-the-cuff said that I know how to fight; I know how to dance; I don’t dance as well as I fight but I’d much rather dance any time. And I still feel that way. It’s better to dance than to fight. It’s better to work together. Everything doesn’t have to be a fight. Everything doesn’t have to be a fight. That’s the way it’s been the last couple of years.

So everyone should comprehend, as should my Senate friends, that legislation’s the art of compromise. It’s consensus-building. That’s what political scientists who have studied this for generations say. They continue to say the way we get things done is to work together.

But we need Republicans to help us. Compromise is not a dirty word. I’m willing to negotiate any time on any issue.

You know, I’ve spent a lot of time here but before I came here that’s what I did. I was a lawyer. Had lots and lots of jury trials. And frankly, every time you had a jury trial, in one sense, it was a failure because you should have been able to work something out.

And so I am convinced that we need to working together a lot.

Gridlock is not a solution. It’s the problem and that’s what’s happened.

I repeat: To have the leader of the Republicans in the Senate say his number one goal is to defeat Obama and that’s how we legislated out there for 2 years. Having filed clotures on motions to proceed that – judges. I filed clotures on 17 different judges. That’s never been done before.

This is no time for excuse in any way. It’s time we get to work. We can achieve really big things when we work together. That’s what the American people said last night in a big way.

I’m going to do everything within my power to be as conciliatory as possible. I want to work together but I want everyone to also understand you can’t push us around. We want to work together.

 

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Key excerpts from the press briefing Q&A: 

Question: Some think that actually the Republicans did so badly is because Mitch McConnell and the leadership did not push for enough votes on amendments on marriage or killing health care or guns…

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): How about 6 weeks on contraception on a highway bill? That a pretty good start one. Did they remember that?

Question: Well, it looks like there are going to be a number of filibusters on motions to proceed. Do you have any plans to change the filibusters?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Yes, I do. I’ve said so publicly. I continue to feel that way… I think that the rules have been abused and that we’re going to work to change them. We’re not going to do away with the filibuster but we’re going to make the Senate a more meaningful place. We’re going to make it so that we can get things done and so that people who want votes on what you’ve mentioned – same-sex marriage and abortion – I mean, the American people aren’t interested in that.

American people are interested in doing something about this staggering debt we have.

And the election is pretty clear in a number of ways. The President campaigned around the country saying we know what the problems are – this fiscal problem – we just need some revenue. That was the issue.

The mandate was – look at all the exit polls. Look at all the polling. The vast majority of the American people – rich, poor – everybody agrees that the richest of the rich have to help a little bit.

Question: On the fiscal cliff, Speaker Boehner’s repeating his stance on no increases in taxes…

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): I had a conversation this morning with the Speaker. It was a pleasant conversation as all my conversations with him are. And he’s going to do an event this afternoon – around 3:30 or so, and I think you should wait and see what he says there.

I have a fine relationship with him. My staff works well with his staff. And this isn’t something that I’m going to draw any lines in the sand; he’s not going to draw any lines in the sand – I don’t believe. And I think we need to work together.

Question: Do you think a deal is possible?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Of course. I mean, it’s so simple. We know what the issue is.

Question: Speaker Boehner has said that he thinks the lame-duck Congress is the right place to address these issues. What’s your take on that?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Well, the Republicans have to make a choice. We’re willing to work something out. We’re willing to work it out sooner rather than later. I don’t know how they think they benefit by waiting until sequestration kicks in.

Question: …Will it be a broad overhaul of taxes, a broad solution to the fiscal cliff or are you looking at a temporary…

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): I personally – I’m not for kicking the can down the road. I think we’ve done that far too much. I think we know what the issue is – we need to solve the issue. Waiting a month, 6 weeks, 6 months. That’s not going to solve the problem. We know what needs to be done. So I think that we should just roll up our sleeves and get it done.

Question: The Treasury Department said last week that we will hit the debt ceiling again near the end of the year.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): I think the debt ceiling will come after the first of the year. But – please everyone, accept this: they tried it before. They the Republicans. They tried it before: “We’re going to shut down the government and we’re not going to raise the debt ceiling.” They want to go through that again. Fine. But we’re not going to be held subject to something that was done as a matter of fact in all previous administrations.

Question: Will you support raising it by another 1.4 trillion or…?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): If it has to be raised, we’ll raise it.

Question: Have you spoken to Jack Lew or any other White House official about their position on the fiscal cliff and do you have any idea of what they’re going to speak out on what they want to be done?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): I had a nice conversation with the President last night. And of course, we’re going to work together and the President made very clear more than once in his very fine speech he gave to the American people last night after he was declared the winner that he wants to work to get this done, and so we’re going to do that…

Question: Your conversation with Angus King last night, what was your impression about his intentions?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): I talked to Gov. King on several occasions in the last 24 hours and we had some very pleasant conversations, and he’s going to make a decision soon as to what he’s going to do. You should talk to him.

Question: The President has said that he won’t accept any passthrough bill that doesn’t allow the top 2 Bush tax cuts to expire. Is that your position too?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Well, as I tried to make clear here, there was a message sent to us by the American based on the campaign and that is people making all this money should give a little bit more. And in all the exit polling, all the polling that we’ve done, the vast majority of the American people support that, including rich people. To have this diatribe by some Republicans saying we’re not going to raise taxes on small business – please, everybody. We know that the President – we all agree that there’s a 3% of the people who are worried about their tax increase for small businesses – 3%, including Donald Trump. So I don’t think we should worry about him so much.

Question: Can I ask you about immigration? You mentioned that your party’s the party of diversity. Given the results of the election, next Congress where does the immigration reform fall on your priority list?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Very high in priority, and here’s why: We have tried – I have tried – I’ve spent more time on immigration the first two Congress ago than on any issue. And it’s interesting what’s happened. Kennedy and McCain led that. McCain hasn’t been with us in immigration reform.

So the only thing we need to get immigration reform done is a few Republican votes. I get 90% of the Democrats. Couldn’t we get a few Republicans to join us?

So it’s high on my list and we’re going to have votes on it. And if the Republicans continue, it’s at their peril. Not for political reasons. Because it’s the wrong thing to do to not have comprehensive immigration reform. The system’s broken and needs to be fixed…It’s very, very high on my list.

Question: Given the House Republicans lost in this election and Senate Democrats picked them up despite the fact that a lot of the Washington dynamics have stayed the same. Do you think heading into this lame-duck the Democrats have leverage?

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): Young lady, I think your statement “things stayed the same” is about as far off base as you could be. We had an overwhelming re-election of the President. We picked up seats in the Senate. We picked up seats in the House. That’s not the status quo.

 

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