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Public Statements


Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, the Senate suffered a notable and stunning defeat of bipartisanship this week during the debate over background checks. They said a week ago we would never get on the bill, but the Senate joined together and we got on the bill. Then yesterday, as I have indicated earlier, we got a significant majority of the Senate voting to move forward on this background check. Ninety percent of the Democrats, which is in keeping with the American people, and four valiant Republicans joined to put us where we are today.

But the week did not bring only bad news from the legislative front. A bipartisan group of eight of my Senate colleagues--it would never have happened a few years ago, but it is going to happen now. As I indicated, quoting Senator Schumer, background checks is about where immigration was just a few years ago. A bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues--four Democrats and four Republicans--from all different political persuasions introduced a comprehensive plan to reform our broken immigration system. Senators SCHUMER, MCCAIN, DURBIN, MENENDEZ, GRAHAM, BENNET, RUBIO, and FLAKE worked very hard on this legislation. All one needs to do is look at the legislative pedigree of these eight Senators. They are all over the book--liberal, conservative, moderate. And that is the way it should be.

I commend each of them for setting partisanship aside--both Democrats and Republicans setting partisanship aside--on an issue that is critical to our great Nation. The four Democrats did not get everything I wanted in that legislation they now have before the American people. They did not give me, they did not give Democrats everything they wanted in these negotiations. But, as I have said on this floor numerous times, that is what legislating is. It is the art of compromise. It is not the art of getting everything you want.

I have been in this body a long time, and I have been very fortunate to put my name on things that have passed here, and I have helped guide things through this Senate in the last many years. I have to on occasion swallow hard and say: Well, we are going to have to compromise here to get this done.

That is what we need to do. People have been in a situation where they have been unwilling to compromise. There are things that have happened in the great history of this body that have come by compromise. I have never ever gotten everything I wanted. Republicans in these negotiations dealing with immigration, I guarantee you, did not get everything they wanted, just as Democrats did not.

But I am satisfied with this legislation. It continues to secure our borders, the northern and southern borders. It improves our dysfunctional legal immigration system. Our immigration system is broken, and has been for quite some time, and needs to be fixed.

Another thing that is important, it requires 11 million people who are undocumented to pass a criminal background check, pay fines, start on a path to citizenship, and, yes, learn English. It does not put them at the head of the line; it puts them at the back of the line. It takes about 12 or 13 years to finally get up there. But at least the program is moving forward. I look forward to hearings on this measure that will be led by Senator Leahy.

Mr. President, I want to take a minute to commend Chairman Leahy. He is the most senior Member of the Senate, he is the President pro tempore of the Senate, but he also has an important responsibility as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

The reason we were able to get the legislation on the floor that we have been working on this past few weeks is because of Senator Leahy, because he had his committee--even though, as I have just indicated, Senator Leahy did not agree with everything that came out of that committee of his; he comes from the State of Vermont which is much different than other places people on that committee come from around the country, but he brought it forward, and everything we voted on as the base bill came out of that committee.

It is the same as is going to happen on immigration. Senators--these eight--a significant number of them want to do hearings. They want to have a markup. Other Senators said: Let's just move to the floor. Well, there are a number of Senators who believe it should come out of the committee first, so that is what is going to happen. So I commend Senator Leahy for agreeing to do this.

He is going to have a hearing tomorrow and another one on Monday. He has estimated a time for the markup. So I commend him for his leadership with Judiciary.

I repeat, I look forward to hearings on this measure before the committee, and to a thoughtful debate on the Senate floor.

We are going to have ample time to discuss and consider this legislation. I am going to do what I can to get this bill across the finish line, which I think we are going to do. I think we are going to do it pretty soon.

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