Every Student Succeeds Bill and Filibustersby Senator Harry Reid
Posted on 2015-12-09
REID. Mr. President, today we are taking a long, overdue step in
moving beyond the Bush No Child Left Behind law.
The Every Student Succeeds Act will reduce the focus on testing while still ensuring that all students are making progress. This reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act also includes new investments for early childhood education--a priority for Democrats.
The senior Senator from Washington, Mrs. Murray, and the chairman of the HELP Committee, Senator Alexander, did good work in getting this bill passed. But while we pat ourselves on the back for passing this legislation, we shouldn't forget that we could have done this a long time ago. It was not long after the bill passed that we knew it was full of flaws, and we tried valiantly to change it for a number of years.
Why didn't we change it? Because there were Republican filibusters. We couldn't bring the bill to the floor. In fact, nearly every major bipartisan bill we passed this year could have become law in years past if Republicans had not blocked them, obstructed them, and filibustered them.
What are we talking about? We are talking about the bill we are going to vote on at 10:45 a.m., the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and the so-called doc fix. My friend referred to that, the SGR. For years, because of something the Bush administration had done to fix it on paper to make the budget look good, we could not get past that. It was terrible for Medicare patients and very bad for Medicare physicians. We tried to change it not once, not twice, not three times, but numerous times. Every time we couldn't do it because of Republican obstructionism.
We passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Why didn't we do it earlier? Because the Republicans filibustered it, blocked it, and obstructed it.
The Department of Homeland Security funding that nearly shut down the government--we tried to do it earlier. We couldn't because of obstruction by Republicans.
The Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, also called the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act--why didn't we do that earlier? Because they wouldn't let us. They filibustered it, they blocked it.
For the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency bill it was the same thing; the USA FREEDOM Act, the same thing. As to cyber security legislation, my friend comes and boasts about all the good things done, and it includes cyber security. It takes a lot of gall to come here and boast about that. It was filibustered time and again by the Republicans.
My friend also talks about how great the Senate is operating. When he signed up for this job, he said that, as Republicans, they would take all bills through the committee of jurisdiction--absolute falsehood. They have not done that.
What am I talking about? Well, S. 534, the Immigration Rule of Law Act of 2015, went directly to the floor. DHS, Department of Homeland Security appropriations, directly bypassed the committee. For the Keystone Pipeline it was the same thing; Iran nuclear agreement, same thing; vehicle for the Trade Act, same thing; Trade Preferences Extension Act, same thing. H.R. 644, Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, same thing, went directly to the floor and skipped the committee. Patriot Act extension, same thing--it skipped the committee. Highway bill, same thing--it skipped the committee. Defund Planned Parenthood skipped the committee and came right here. The vehicle for the Iran bill skipped the committee and came directly to the floor. The pain-capable bill, same thing--it skipped the committee and came here. And there are many other instances.
The bills I have talked about, with some exception, were good bills in the last Congress, and they were good bills this Congress. The only difference between then and now is that Republicans no longer blocked them.
I am not amused. I know that some may think this is amusing, but it is not. It is too serious. When my Republican colleagues take victory laps on legislation they filibustered last Congress, that is not a laughing matter. I say to my Republican friends: You get no credit for passing legislation now that Republicans blocked then. It doesn't work that way. We have not obstructed; we have been constructive. If Republicans are intent on claiming credit for moving forward bills they have blocked in the past, I hope they will change course this coming year and finally start to do something for the middle class.
Where have we done anything for the middle class during the first year of this Congress? I don't see a place. We are halfway through the 114th Congress, and I have seen little hope that they are planning on doing anything in the next few months. Let's see what happens next year.
This Congress so far has been a failure for middle-class Americans. We can change that next year. We can do something about the minimum wage that has been filibustered numerous times by the Republicans. Increasing the minimum wage is good for American workers, businesses, and the economy. Under Senator Murray's proposal, 38 million Americans stand to benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. In Nevada, almost 400,000 workers will get a raise. That is almost one-third of our State's workforce.
Next year we can finally address unfair wage disparity that takes money out of American women's paychecks. On average, women make about 77 cents for every dollar their male colleague makes for doing the same work. For women of color, the disparity is even worse. African-American women make 64 cents for every dollar their male colleagues make for doing the same work. Latino women make 53 cents for every dollar doing the same work that a man does. That is really unconscionable. I encourage the Republican leader to take up Senator Mikulski's Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help close the wage-gap disparity for American women.
Next year we could pass legislation to ease the burden of student loans, which are so costly. Americans now owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt. Student loans are the second largest source of personal debt in the United States--even more than credit cards or auto loans. I hope Republicans will work with us to do something about this next year. Americans with student loans need the help.
These are just a few of the important matters I urge Republicans to undertake in the coming year. There are many things we can do to help the middle class. So instead of telling us how the Senate is working, why not work with Democrats? Instead of telling us how productive this year has been in [[Page S8509]] spite of all the empirical data that proves otherwise, why not make this coming year productive for America's working families? If we do that, then we can honestly tell the American people that the Senate is working again--not obstructing--because they would be working with us. We have worked with Republicans to pass legislation outlined by the Republican leader and previously filibustered by them.