Focus must be on putting people back to work (Sen. Harry Reid)

The work period we begin today is an important one.  Like every work period, it represents a new opportunity to move past the partisan stalemates of recent months and find common ground on our most pressing priority: putting people back to work.

I hope the weeks between now and Columbus Day will be productive ones.  There really is no reason they shouldn’t be.  The issues we’ll be dealing with aren’t partisan or ideological ones.  They have the support of Democratic, Republican and Independent senators.  They have the support of Democratic, Republican and Independent constituents.  And all of us have a common obligation and a shared interest in doing all we can to get our economy running again.

If we were to adopt a slogan to guide us in the coming weeks, I would nominate something a colleague of ours said just a few days ago.  The senior senator from Ohio, a Republican, was talking last week about the standoffs that have stalled the Senate – gridlock that has kept us in recent months from realizing our ability and fulfilling our responsibility to help small businesses.  He said: ‘We don't have time for messaging.  We don't have time anymore.  This country is really hurting.'

He’s right.  Small businesses across Nevada are hurting.  Small businesses across my friend’s state of Ohio are hurting.  Small businesses in the presiding officer’s state are hurting.  They’re hurting from coast to coast because credit and capital are too hard to come by.

The owners of these businesses aren’t interested in our partisan rhetoric – and neither are the people they’ve had to lay off, or the unemployed they’ve had to turn away.  People in Nevada and throughout the nation are too busy keeping track of their business’s books or their family’s budget to keep track of who’s scoring cheap political points.  They’re not interested in any of that.  They’re simply desperate for us to do our jobs, and that is to help create jobs.

That’s what the first vote Senators will cast tomorrow is all about.  Tomorrow we’ll decide whether to move ahead with a bill that helps more small businesses be the engine that runs our economy.

When most Americans go to work in the morning, they don’t go to the big corporations with the famous names.  They go to work at small businesses.  But those businesses are also the ones that have paid the highest price in Wall Street’s recession.  Two out of every three jobs we’ve lost came from a small business.

Our bill is not a new one, and tomorrow won’t be the first time we’ve voted on it.  But to refresh my colleagues’ memories, let me briefly remind everyone what’s in it:

One, it cuts small businesses’ taxes so they can hire and grow.  Two, it increases Small Business Administration loan limits, which gets money flowing to the entrepreneurs who create jobs.  Three, it makes it easier for small businesses to export what they make.  And four, it creates a new lending fund to that will give small banks – and by extension small businesses – more capital to invest.

Most importantly, this bill will create jobs – up to 500,000 of them.  But every day we delay, the opposite happens.  Small businesses are holding off on hiring while they wait for us to act.  Banks large and small are holding onto their capital while they wait for us to act.  And half a million Americans who want to work – people who are ready to get off unemployment and get back on the job – are desperate for us to get our act together.

So let’s get to work.  As the Republican Senator from Florida said when we last debated this bill, it should get the support of more than 80 Senators.  And as my friend the Republican Senator from Ohio said, we don’t have time anymore for political games.  Our citizens are hurting too much.

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