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The Debt

Sen. Harry Reid

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Mr. President, for the last month or 6 weeks the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, who served in this body for 36 years, has been assigned by the President of the United States to work with people who have been assigned by me, Senator McConnell, the minority leader in the House, and the Speaker to meet with Senator Biden to work out problems that we have facing our country with this huge debt. Senator Biden has been working very hard. There have been numerous meetings with this group of people that we assigned. Progress is being made. Whether it is enough progress remains to be seen.

The President of the United States gets up early every morning, gets an intelligence report about what is going on around the world--there are a lot of things going on around the world that he has to keep his eye on, and that is an understatement. We have had many issues come about this last month on which he has had to focus. No one can suggest in any way the President is not engaged in what is going on in the country. He is briefed at least once a day by the Vice President as to these negotiations. Following that, almost every day he meets with his advisers as to what should be the next step.

I think it is unfair to say things such as, ``Where is the President?'' I think it is fair to take a little look at history. When George Bush became President, following that time of 8 years of President Clinton, he was given reports at his desk in the White House that showed there was about a $7 trillion surplus over the next 10 years. We had developed, during the years of President Clinton, a number of procedures. One was the pay-go rules. We made sure if there was a new program that we couldn't pay for, we would take some money from another program, take the money we used for that and use it to take care of the new program. It was a time of economic vibrancy in this country that we have never seen before.

President Bush got rid of the pay-go rules and decided to do something unique. He decided to do everything on credit--two unfunded wars that are now approaching $2 trillion in cost, none of which is paid for, money we borrowed from Saudi Arabia and China and other countries--and then we gave President Bush's huge tax cuts that have been deemed by most all writers around America and around the country to be unfair.

Warren Buffett, who some believe is the richest man in the world, said it is unfair that he pays less taxes percentage-wise than his secretary. So this $7 trillion surplus we had over 10 years, the Bush administration wiped that out with all these wars unpaid for and all these tax and other actions that were taken.

When President Obama became President, there had been 8 million jobs lost, and he found himself in a big hole. I think one of the things we should do is stop denigrating the economy of our country. Is it vibrant and strong? Of course not, but it is improving. It is getting better--not fast enough, not good enough, but it is improving.

So I say to my friend, my counterpart, the Republican leader, who says the only place we can solve the problems of this country is just to basically cut domestic programs significantly, we know we are going to have to do a better job of balancing the budget because of the cards that were given to President Obama. We are going to be doing our very best to do that. But the one interesting point my friend failed to mention as he talked about the Bowles-Simpson debt reduction program is they said, among other things: Of course, we have to make significant cuts in domestic discretionary spending, in defense, in mandatory programs. They looked at some of the work we needed to do with entitlements. But they also said there had to be something done with revenue. My friend ignores what they said about that.

They also said; that is, Bowles-Simpson, together with the people who were on that Commission--and I made a number of appointments to that Commission--they said: Yes, we need to do some cutting, but these next few years we have to spend some money to create jobs. We hear not a word from my Republican colleagues about creating jobs.

The House of Representatives, all they do is flex their muscles on things they want to eliminate. But the one thing they do not talk about is creating jobs--not a word.

This week my Republican colleagues killed their fourth jobs bill this year. The Economic Development Administration reauthorization was commonsense legislation with a proven track record of spurring innovation and hiring by private companies because for every dollar we spent as a government, $7 came back in return from the private sector. They killed our fourth jobs bill this year. It seems Republicans don't care about putting Americans back to work. They don't even pay lip service to the issue.

Americans have said they care more about creating jobs than anything else. In fact, yesterday the junior Senator from Tennessee, a Republican, said right here on the Senate floor that this effort to create and protect, as we did the last few years, 314,000 jobs was ``nothing of importance.'' That is a direct quote. I am confident the 14 million Americans out of work today, including many from Tennessee and every other State in our country, would disagree with the Senator from Tennessee.

He also went on to say, this junior Senator from Tennessee--I repeat, who is a Republican--he went on to say that this worthy legislation, our fourth jobs bill of this Congress, was nothing more than an attempt to ``kill time.'' He said it is an attempt to kill time. He went on also, I repeat, to say it was unimportant.

Republicans may consider job creation a waste of time, but Democrats disagree and Americans disagree--Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike. We are not going to stop fighting to get Americans back to work until we get our economy back on track. We cannot solve our problems without jobs creation. Congress has no more important task than creating jobs. There is no better way for us to spend our time, there is no issue more important than job development. This legislation, which, again, would have supported 314,000 jobs, as it did in the last 5 years, is an important part of that effort.

But don't take my word for it. The junior Senator from Tennessee said this about the Economic Development Administration 2 years ago. This is what he said prior to his saying that it was a waste of time, prior to his saying that it was not of importance. Here is what he said. This is a direct quote, less than 2 years ago:

In the midst of an economic crisis, projects like these are just the kinds of things that will renew confidence and reinvigorate private investment in the area.

That is what he said. He said ``EDA funds protect jobs and support economic growth.'' Why, then, didn't he vote that way? No wonder the junior Republican Senator from Tennessee had such high praise for the program. EDA investments over the last 5 years will support an estimated 7,000 jobs in Tennessee. But in spite of his previous support, he voted to kill this worthy legislation anyway. And he is not the only Republican whose words don't match their actions.

His counterpart, the senior Senator from Tennessee, also a Republican, also supported EDA and those 7,000 jobs once. He did it before. He said an EDA grant would ``bring a much needed boost to the local economy.'' Just a few days ago he voted to kill the program.

Last month, the junior Senator from Texas, also a Republican, said an EDA grant in his State would ``pave the way for the creation of new jobs.'' He said it would ``strengthen the region's economy.'' EDA investments from the last 5 years are expected to support more than 18,000 jobs in Texas. Yet he voted to kill the program.

The senior Republican Senator from Oklahoma said he has ``long been a supporter of EDA programs.'' That is a direct quote. EDA investments from the last 5 years are expected to support more than 5,000 jobs in Oklahoma. He is such a big supporter he was an original cosponsor of the legislation, but he voted to kill it.

These are only 3 of 23 Republican Senators who lauded the importance of this legislation and then voted against it.

Nevada has been hit harder by this terrible recession than any other State. EDA investments from the last 5 years are responsible for creating almost 5,000 jobs in Nevada. The legislation Republicans killed this week could have created hundreds of thousands more jobs all across America. I take it very seriously when a Republican Senator says putting thousands of people to work is a waste of time. The real waste of time is this endless obstructionism by Republican Senators. They waste the Senate's time when they put partisan politics ahead of our economic recovery.

Americans have told us time and time again, putting 14 million people back to work is their No. 1 priority. Democrats share that priority. Obviously, the Republicans do not. Their goal is to change Medicare as we know it, to end it. Believe me, thousands of Nevadans who are working today because of EDA don't think our efforts to create jobs are nothing of importance, as the junior Senator from Tennessee said. In fact, we have heard from out-of-work people in Nevada and every other State in this great country that there is absolutely nothing more important than job creation.

Would the Chair now announce morning business, please.