Transcript: Press briefing remarks by Sen. Harry Reid on Senate filibuster rule changes – Nov. 21, 2013

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) on changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule on Nov. 21, 2013:

This is not a time for celebration. It’s time for being very serious. For too long, Washington has been in gridlock, gridlock, gridlock. The American people are sick of this. We’re sick of it. Is it any wonder how people look at Congress?

So as I said a little while ago, enough is enough. And I’m not here talking about how clean we are, how dirty they are, vice versa. When it comes to what’s gone on on the Senate floor, there’s a lot of blame to go around.

But the obstructions we’ve seen from Republicans against President Obama has reached new heights never dreamed of – never dreamed of, never even come close in the history of the country through all the ups and downs that we’ve had as a country.

Remember, for the first 140 years as a country, there were no filibusters. The founding fathers were very clear in what they thought there should be super majorities – impeachments and of course on treaties. And in the same paragraph as it deals with two-thirds votes, specifically the founding fathers did not mention at all other things than those two things that require a super majority.

In the entire history of our country, there have been 168 filibusters against nominations. So for 230 years, half of them were accomplished. In the last 4.5 years with Obama as President, the other half. In the history of our country, 23 district court judges have been filibustered. 230 years – 3. 4.5 years – 20.

Under President Obama, even consensus judicial nominees have been forced to wait an average of 100 days longer for confirmation than President Bush.

We have one nominee who deals with making sure the water we drink and the air we breathe is pure. He’s been waiting almost 890 days because they don’t like that agency – the Environmental Protection Agency.

It’s an undeniable fact that the obstruction we’ve seen over these years is something altogether new and very, very different.

So this is not just about Republicans versus Democrats. This is about doing what is right for this institution to evolve and remain responsive to the needs our country has, and we have not been doing that.

The status quo of this gridlock has guaranteed that the middle-class gets no attention whatsoever.

So the most important distinction today is between those who are willing to solve this problem and those who defend the status quo. How can anyone in good conscience defend the status quo?

And for people to stand and say, “You’re breaking the rules to change the rules” – [chuckles] since 1977, the rules have been changed 18 times. Rules are changed all the time. Sen. [Robert] Byrd, the master of the Senate Number II, he went forward and changed the rules.

We’ve changed the rules here. We’ve done it just in recent years. With today’s vote we declared that we’re on the side of the problem-solvers, and that’s really true. Simple fairness. The changes we made today will apply equally to both parties. When Republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them as well. That’s simple fairness, and it’s something both sides should be willing to live with to make Washington work again. That also is simple fairness.

You know, the Republicans are defending what’s going on here. How can you do that?

The DC Circuit – you know, last night I got a call from one of my Republican friends saying, Harry, we’ve got a deal for you. “What is this?” “We’ll give you one of the DC Circuit, that way it’ll be 5 to 4.” I just can’t imagine – and one of my friends…”What would you do? What would you do?” I said…and he [said], “I’m not answering that question.”

Everyone knows what is going on is absolutely unfair and wrong, and I’m glad we changed it. It is a day of freshness for this great country of ours.




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