Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2014-01-08
REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for
the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Congratulating Greg Maddux Mr. REID. Mr. President, the Republican leader and I don't agree on everything, but we do agree on some. There is one thing no one can dispute we agree on, and that is our love of baseball. We both love baseball season. It gives us an opportunity, when we go home after working here, to turn on the TV and watch a few innings of a baseball game.
For some people, baseball is a very slow, boring opportunity to watch people moving slowly, but Senator McConnell and I love it. We talk about baseball. We love the Nationals. He and I have great affection for the Nationals because of Bryce Harper, a Las Vegas athlete.
The reason I mention that is because today, Nevada's greatest baseball hero--in fact, one of the greatest baseball heroes not of Nevada but of all time--was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Greg Maddux is an extremely nice man--a man of humility. I have gone out to dinner with him and his lovely wife a few times. I know his brother well, who was also a professional baseball player, and he would be the first to say when he was playing baseball and today about how average he was: I am not a great athlete. But he is one of the best of all time.
He started his career with the Chicago Cubs and went on to win 355 professional Major League Baseball games and four consecutive Cy Young awards. Today he received almost 98 percent of all votes cast--the second highest tally in the history of Hall of Fame voting.
So I congratulate this good man on the honor he received so deservedly--I repeat, a man of humility; a man who had probably the greatest control in the history of baseball of being able to throw a ball to the spot he wanted. He is not a big man. That is an understatement. He is not a big man, but he was precise in where he could throw that baseball.
I have such fond memories of Greg Maddux. The last election was kind of a hard election for me. So I called Greg. I called him on his cell phone. I said: Greg, I want you to be a Republican for Reid. Would you do that? He said: I will do that.
I said: What are you doing? He said: I am playing golf.
I said: Can you break 80? And he said: If you leave me alone, I can break 70.
Greg Maddux is a fine man. I have great affection for him and his family. I am sure this is one thing that Senator McConnell and I agree on.
This afternoon, the Republican leader came to the floor to complain about the minority's ability to offer amendments, in particular, to offer amendments on the 3-month extension of the legislation now before this body. It is interesting that during the Republican leader's remarks there wasn't a word uttered about jobs, about unemployment compensation, or the economy--not a word.
So it is very clear what went on here today with my Republican colleagues. Remember, the Republican leader came and Republican Senators came and sat here with him. It is impossible for my Republican colleagues to explain to the American people their callous opposition to the plight of the 1.3 million Americans. About 20,000 of them live in Nevada.
Two very fine Senators on a bipartisan basis have this legislation before this body: Jack Reed of Rhode Island--and Rhode Island is tied, as we speak, with Nevada for the highest unemployment rate in the country--and the other Senator is my friend, the Republican Senator from Nevada, the junior Senator from Nevada Dean Heller. It is an important move they made on behalf of their States and the American people.
Republicans, though, do not want to talk about the problems facing the middle class, as evidenced by what went on this afternoon. They do not want to talk--these Republicans--about the solutions to falling wages and job shortages.
In America today, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer and the middle class is being squeezed. During the last 30 years, the top 1 percent's wealth and income has increased by triple numbers--triple. But what has happened to the middle class during that same 30 years? Their wages have gone down 10 percent--tripling to going down 10 percent.
So they do not want to talk about this, and that is why they plan to vote against an extension of these emergency unemployment insurance benefits. The vast majority of them voted to not even let us get on the bill and have a debate, but a few stepped forward and said: No, we should have a debate on this, and a debate we are having.
My Republican colleagues are looking for a distraction, a diversion, a phony process argument to steal attention away from their unconscionable stand on the issues that matter most to the middle class.
This issue of unemployment insurance was not developed by some political science professor from Harvard or Yale or Stanford. It is something to help people who are in desperate shape.
I repeat, they are looking for a distraction, a process argument to steal attention away from their unconscionable stand on the issues that matter most to the middle class. You have to give them credit, they are doing their best to divert attention away from this issue. This is opposition--and it is coldhearted--to extending unemployment benefits. It is a very tough position to defend, especially when Republicans around America support what Heller and Reed of Rhode Island are trying to do. Democrats support it, Independents, but Republicans in Congress do not and they have said so.
The Republicans' complaint that the majority never allows the minority to offer amendments is false. It is not true. It is another diversion.
During my tenure as majority leader--there has been volumes of stuff written about the obstruction we have had with my Republican colleagues during the last 5 years with the Obama administration. Think of the obstruction that took place when Barack Obama decided to run for reelection.
That was a little interesting because the Republican leader said his No. 1 goal as a Senator and the leader of the Republicans was to make sure he was not reelected. He fell real short on that because he was reelected overwhelmingly. So during that period of time: obstruction, obstruction, obstruction, obstruction, and after he was reelected it continued.
During my tenure as majority leader, the Senate has voted on minority amendments at a higher rate than it did during either of my Republican predecessors--and the largest rate of minority amendments probably in the history of the Senate. But let's just talk about Republican Leader Frist and Republican Leader Trent Lott--both friends of mine. I still am in touch with them all the time. They are people I will always admire and have great respect for.
Since I have been leader, 7 out of 10 amendments on which the Senate has voted have been Republican amendments. Under Senator Frist's leadership, certainly there were not that many, I will tell you that, that were offered by the minority. Under Senator Lott's leadership, only 54 percent of the amendments considered by the Senate were offered by the minority.
During my leadership of the 111th Congress, minority amendments represented a greater share of all amendment votes than during any single Congress during either Leader Frist's or Leader Lott's tenure. Facts.
In fact, often the minority is prevented from offering amendments. Why? Their own Senators will not allow amendments. How many times has the Presiding Officer and others come to this floor and wanted to offer an amendment--objection on the other side because they want to offer an amendment that has nothing to do with anything we are debating on the floor at a given time.
Last year just a handful of Republican Senators held up any legislation. The best example was the legislation [[Page S117]] we tried to do dealing with energy efficiency. Energy efficiency. We could not get it done because of Republican obstruction.
Often a particular Republican will prevent any Senator from offering an amendment unless he gets a vote on what he wants voted on first--a little unusual.
So let's not revise history. Let's talk about history as I know it and as the books report how we should know it, what the facts are in the Congressional Record.
We know how under my friend the Republican leader's leadership there has been obstruction in the way of the filibusters. Filibuster is not some right that was placed in the Constitution. It is a privilege that was granted under the Senate rules, and that has been abused big time.
Their obstruction has continued to be unprecedented over the last 5 years. Half of all filibusters waged in the history of the country-- that is 230-plus years--half of them have been waged against President Obama's nominations--half of them in 5 years compared to 230 years.
Last year Republicans mounted the first ever filibuster of a Secretary of Defense--by the way, a former Republican Senator. They even filibustered him.
I understand Republicans do not want to talk about how we can create jobs, how we can boost the economy or any of the other issues that matter most to the middle class. I understand that Republicans are struggling to explain turning their backs on 1.3 million unemployed Americans. But I do wish they would stop trying to justify their opposition to helping Americans in need with false claims and distortions of the truth.
Finally, as I leave the floor, I prefer not to pay for this emergency situation where we have long-term unemployed. This is an emergency, and it should be considered accordingly and should not be paid for in the normal course around here.
We believe in reducing the debt. In the Senate Chamber with me now is someone whom I had the pleasure of appointing to the Bowles-Simpson Commission, the senior Senator from the State of Illinois, the assistant majority leader. He worked hard. We have not followed Bowles- Simpson as a bible, but it certainly has been a guide we have followed. While we could have done better, we have done pretty good. We are approaching having reduced the debt by some $3 trillion right now as we speak. We could reduce it another $1 trillion if we could get comprehensive immigration reform done.
The goal of Bowles-Simpson was $4 trillion. So when I say this is something that has not been paid for ordinarily in the past, that is true, but that does not take away from the fact that we all are going to continue to work on this side of the aisle to reduce the debt.
But I do hear that some of my Republican colleagues want to pay for this. I disagree with them, but that is what they want to do. So far all we have heard from Republicans' pay-fors is this: take a big whack out of ObamaCare. There are 9 million people--approaching 10 million now--who benefit from ObamaCare. So they want to damage every one of those 9-plus million people. Or they have another one: go after children--children--with the child tax credit. Those are their two pay- fors at this point--a little scary, I would think.
So I am waiting, we are waiting for Republican suggestions on how to pay for a full-year extension of unemployment insurance. Let's hear from them how they want to pay for it. They say they want to pay for it. Let's hear what they want to do.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.