Reid Floor Remarks on Tax and Budget Negotiations

December 6, 2012

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding tax and budget negotiations. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Democrats have been saying it for more than four months: it’s time for the House to pass the middle-class tax cut approved by the Senate.

But as the days until the country goes over the fiscal cliff tick by, more and more Republicans have joined our chorus. They realize Republican leaders’ unwillingness to compromise sooner has put them in a real bind.

So reasonable Republicans are asking their House leadership to allow a vote on the Senate-passed legislation. What was once a trickle has become a flood.

Last week Republican Rep. Tom Cole said it was time to give middle-class families certainty their taxes won’t go up by $2,200 on January 1.

Then Rep. Tim Scott, also a Republican, admitted the Senate’s middle-class tax cut would surely pass the House – since it will take only 26 moderate, Republican votes to ensure passage.

Conservative opinion makers piled on. Columnist David Brooks, of the New York Times, wrote: “Republicans have to realize that they are going to cave on tax rates.”

Then on Tuesday the Senior Senator from Maine, Olympia Snowe, urged House Republican leaders to end the suspense for middle-class taxpayers.

They shouldn’t have to wonder, she said, whether “we will ultimately raise taxes on low- to middle-income people.” I assure them, we won’t.

And on Wednesday Senator Susan Collins, joined her colleague from Maine, agreeing the idea of ending the suspense for the middle class “has merit.”

Yesterday, it seemed every practical Republican left in Washington was suddenly willing to say out loud what we’ve known for weeks: the only remaining option is for the House to pass the Senate bill.

Dozens of House Republicans signed onto a letter urging Speaker Boehner to take the last exit before the cliff.

Neither President Obama nor Democrats in Congress have ever been ambiguous about our proposal – to provide economic security for 98 percent of American families, while asking the wealthiest 2 percent to contribute just a little more to stop runaway debt.

And now that even a dyed-in-the-wool conservative like Senator Coburn has endorsed the Democratic approach, Speaker Boehner has the political cover he needs.

“I know we have to raise revenue,” Senator Coburn said Wednesday. “I would rather see the rates go up,” he said, than eliminate tax credits and deductions that benefit the middle class.

It’s apparent how this will end. The only question left is how long Speaker Boehner will make middle class families wait for relief and how long he’ll force the financial markets to wait for certainty.

The longer he delays, the greater the risk to our economy. So I urge Speaker Boehner, if you won’t listen to me, listen to your own caucus. Listen to prudent members of your own party.

We can argue whether to give more unnecessary tax breaks to the wealthy tomorrow. We can discuss balanced, responsible ways to reduce our deficit next week. We can reform our tax code next year. But we must give economic certainty to the middle class today.

Democrats agree. Independents agree. Republicans agree. Americans agree. Even dozens of CEOs of major corporations – whose personal taxes would go up under our plan – emphatically agree.

I’ve been saying for weeks that the only people who aren’t on board are Republicans in Congress. But now even they are crying out for compromise. I only hope Speaker Boehner is listening.

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