Statements and Speeches

On Bipartisanship

Statement in the Congressional Record

Feb 10 2005

Mr. President, I have just returned to the Senate Chamber from a press conference that took place one floor above us in the press gallery. There Democratic and Republican Senators, some of our staff, and a number of reporters discussed the passage of the class action reform bill by a 72-to-26 margin a few moments ago. That was a strong bipartisan vote. I was hoping that we might get 70, maybe even 75 votes, and we ended up right in that neighborhood.

 

A lot of people deserve credit for the success of the vote: Democratic and Republican Senators who crafted the legislation, debated it in committee, and who improved it over the last 7 years since the first bill was introduced. The key to getting the legislation passed – and it is a fair compromise – was figuring out how to set aside our partisanship, saying that we are not interested in gridlock, and for us to reach across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans and Republicans and Democrats, to figure out how we can reconcile our differences and resolve what has been a very divisive issue for the past 7 years and even before that.

 

I said at the press conference – I say here today – my thanks to our leader. I thanked Senator Frist, the Republican leader. I expressed my thanks to Senator Harry Reid for his willingness to allow this vote to go forward. The class action bill was not legislation that he endorsed, but he was willing to allow the debate to begin and for those who had amendments to the bill to offer the amendments, that we would have plenty of time to debate them and to decide the amendments, and then without any kind of delaying tactics the Senate would go to final passage and take up the bill. I thank him for the very constructive and positive role he played in allowing this legislation to be passed today.

The House of Representatives has agreed to accept without change the bill we have passed. The President has agreed to sign that legislation.

 

I was saddened last night to be reading through my mail and to come across a 29-page document that I believe has been distributed by the Republican National Committee. There is a picture of Senator Harry Reid on the cover, along with our former leader, Senator Tom Daschle. The caption under the picture says: “Who is Harry Reid?” And below that we read: “Sen. Minority Leader determined to obstruct President Bush's agenda.” For the next 28, 29 pages, this document is an attempt to identify Harry Reid or to try to define who he is and where he is from, his values. I think it is 29 pages of something more akin to venom.

 

If we are interested in building on the bipartisanship that characterized this week's debate and today's vote on class action reform, those goals are not enhanced or strengthened by this kind of tactic.

 

I say to my Republican friends – and I don't believe this came from anybody in this Chamber, but it is from someone our Republicans know and work with, people who work for the President or indirectly – if you want Democrats to work with you and find common ground on issues such as class action or energy or asbestos or other difficult issues, bankruptcy, this is not the way to do it. If you want to make sure that we have obstructionism, that we have a lack of bipartisanship, if you want to ensure that the climate of the last several years where we got so little done returns, this is the way to do it.

 

Whoever is responsible for this, let me just say: Shame on you. Republicans can do better than this. And to the extent that Democrats are responsible for this kind of behavior on our side, shame on us.

 

I came here 4 years ago from Delaware, which is a little State, such as the State of the Presiding Officer. In our State we have a history of Democrats and Republicans working across the aisle, trying to find common ground and, more often than not, succeeding. This sort of thing would not be tolerated in my State by either Democrats or Republicans. This is not the way we do business. One of the reasons Delaware is so successful is because of that bipartisan tradition that is part of our fiber.

 

I hope that we won't see this kind of attack on our leader, and I certainly hope we don't see it on the Republican leader. The Republicans are better than this. So are the Democrats.

 

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.