Transcript: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s floor speech on the debt ceiling & government shutdown – Oct. 15, 2013

Partial transcript of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nevada) floor speech on the debt ceiling and government shutdown on Oct. 15, 2013:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
Mr. President, the House Republican leadership’s plan that is now out and people have taken a look at it. It’s a plan to advance an extreme piece of legislation and it’s nothing more than a blatant attack on bipartisanship.

For the past several days, we’ve been engaged in productive bipartisan negotiations in the Senate. Everyone knows that. We’ve been working across party lines, making steady progress to achieve an agreement that re-opens the government, protects the full faith and credit of our great country, and opens talks to put this country on a firm fiscal plane.

Everyone needs to know that the measure under discussion in the House is no part what we’ve negotiated here in the Senate.

Mr. President, the debt is here. The deadline is looming. Rating agencies are talking about downgrading us as early as tonight again.

I know i speak for many of us who’ve been working in good faith when I say that we felt blindsided by the news from the House. But this isn’t the first time.

Extremist Republicans in the House of Representatives are attempting to torpedo the Senate’s bipartisan progress with a bill that can’t pass the Senate – can’t pass the Senate and won’t pass the Senate.

The House measure would take away the President’s fundamental authority that’s been in existence for as long as political science can remember. It’s been in place for decade after decade after decade to prevent a catastrophic default on the nation’s bills.

Out of spite, Tea Party Republicans are trying to take authority away from President Obama. They would never ever consider doing this if it were President Romney or President Bush or President Reagan. Never.

But as they’ve said – and they’ve cheered over there “The government’s closed!” – “We don’t mind defaulting on the debt. It’s good for the country.” That’s what they’ve said.

Their legislation would also make unacceptable major changes to Obamacare.

The House legislation doesn’t even include a process for bipartisan negotiations on a sensible long-term budget. They just throw out these numbers and think that magic is going to happen and somehow comes Jan. 15th, everything will be hunky dory. There are still processes that we have to follow. They’ve set no pattern, no schedule, no routine to do that.

For weeks, Republicans have claimed that they want to negotiate but their legislation completely ignores the need to work together to craft a budget to put our country on a fiscally sustainable path.

For years, Mr. President, they’ve complained about “Why don’t we have regular order here?” They’ve complained about a lack of a budget. Now, they don’t want us to even negotiate a budget. Hard to comprehend this logically.

But Mr. President, the Tea Party-driven part of the Republican Party doesn’t want to follow logic or why would they want to close the government for 15 days, have us default on our debt.

Introduction to this measure by House Republican leadership is unproductive and a waste of time. Let’s be clear. The House legislation will not pass the Senate.

And here is what the White House said just a few minutes ago: “The President has said repeatedly members of Congress don’t get to demand ransom fulfilling their basic responsibilities to pass a budget and pay the nation’s bills.”

Unfortunately, the latest proposal of House Republicans does just that in a partisan attempt to appease a small group of Tea Party Republicans who forced the government to shut down in the first place.

I’m very disappointed with John Boehner, who had once again tried to preserve his role at the expense of the country.

I’ve worked hard to rise above partisanship to find common ground in the Senate, and Mr. President, we’ve done that together for the good of the nation. This is much bigger than the Senator or who’s presiding from the state of Hawaii or the Assistant Leader who’s to my side. This is much bigger than that. It’s much bigger than me…

Mr. President, we have to start working together for our country. That’s what we’ve been trying to do.

This is so disappointing on the eve of financial destruction for this great country. That’s what it is. To appease a small group of people over there. So disappointed.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois):
Would the Senator yield for a question?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
I would be happy to.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois):
I’d like to ask the Senate Majority Leader through the Chair. One of the key elements in this new proposal from Speaker Boehner is to diminish this President’s authority to deal with a default on our national debt. This authority – so-called extraordinary measures or urgency measures – gives the Presidents going back to President Kennedy the wherewithal through the Treasury Department to try to avoid an economic disaster, which could impact families, businesses, jobs, and the reputation of the United States in the world. I ask through the Chair of the Majority Leader, now that we have seen the Republican Party bring us so close to the precipice on a default, it is unimaginable to me that any President, including President Obama, would surrender this authority to keep America safe in light of this type of threat. Is this one of the key elements in terms of the problems associated with the Boehner proposal?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada):
Mr. President, to my friend from Illinois – the senior Senator – we’ve seen what’s going on these last few months, this whole year, with a group of people who are out giving press conferences, holding demonstrations. They want the government to stay closed. They want it to close in the first place. The hardships we have all over this country is really, really awful.

And then, if that’s not good enough, they’re out boasting that they want the country to fail its obligations to pay its bills. These are not new programs. These are obligations we have.

…This proposal that they’ve sent gives the President of the United States, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff no flexibility whatsoever when sequestration kicks in on the 15th. We’re not asking to change those numbers. We agreed to those numbers. We voted here to approve those numbers. But they won’t even allow flexibility to allow the Department of Defense to shift that money around. I do not know how the defense of this country can go forward if they don’t have flexibility with losing $22 billion beginning Jan. 15th. They don’t even give authority for that. This bill that they’re sending over here is doomed to failure. It’s doomed to failure legislatively. And it is so awful – awful, awful, awful for our country.

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