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Reid outlines agenda for June

“And we’ve done a lot.  Long-overdue health reform is now the law of the land.  The House and Senate have each passed bills to clean up Wall Street.  And three million Americans who are going to work today have the Recovery Act to thank for their jobs.  In Nevada the Recovery Act created or saved more than 4,000 jobs in just the past four months alone.

“But every time I go home to Nevada, I am reminded of how much more we have to do, and reenergized to do it.  The work period between now and July 4 is short, but our to-do list is long.

“We have to pass an emergency extension of unemployment benefits and other matters related to job creation that help out-of-work Americans make ends meet.  These benefits have now expired – and so has our patience for excuses.

“Many who oppose this extension gave tax breaks to rich CEOs who shipped American jobs overseas.  Now their constituents are looking for a lifeline in a job market Republicans helped sink.  I hope both sides can come together to give them the help both they and our economy need.

“This legislation also cuts taxes for middle class families and small businesses.  It includes a host of tax credits, tax extenders and tax incentives – all of which will help put people back to work.  It’s something Republicans and Democrats should come together to finish because it’s something we can all be proud to support.  More than that, it’s something each of our states desperately needs.

“We intend to add to that bill FMAP funding – that’s Medicaid money to ensure the poorest in our communities can afford to stay healthy – which will protect jobs in states like Nevada and prevent deep cuts to critical services.

“After we finish the jobs bill on the floor this afternoon, we have to pass a bill designed specifically for small businesses – to help them grow and to help them hire more workers.  This bill includes more tax incentives and also establishes a new lending facility for small businesses.

“This week we are going to debate a resolution of disapproval that will prevent DOT and EPA from working together to slow the pollution from heavy-duty vehicles.  The result of this resolution would be to waste at least 450 million more barrels of oil than we need to.

“We also would like to finish two important conference reports.  One, the supplemental war appropriations bill that will give our commanders and troops the equipment and resources they need to succeed and fund disaster assistance in the parts of the world that need it the most.  Our military is about to undertake the most important mission of the war in Afghanistan.  It is the largest operation since the war began.  We’ve given them this mission – now we have to give them what they need to accomplish it.

“And two, we have to finish the Wall Street reform bill that protects families’ life savings and seniors’ pensions.  The bills both the House and Senate passed will enforce the toughest protections ever against Wall Street greed, will guarantee taxpayers they will never again be asked to bail out a big bank, and will make sure no bank can become too big to fail.  I hope we can send our final bill to the President this month.

“There are other items on our agenda, as well.

“We must protect voters and ensure that our elections are be decided by the people, not by the richest corporations with the most money to spend.

“We want to empower public safety employees like firefighters, police officers and paramedics with a voice in decisions that affect their lives and their livelihoods.  We want to ensure they have the same rights in the workplace as everyone else.

“We have a food safety and child nutrition bill to consider.

“We have a Defense Authorization bill to pass.

“The Judiciary Committee will start its hearings this month on President Obama’s tremendous nominee for the Supreme Court, Elena Kagan.

“And though we may not get to it this short work period, the Senate must take definitive action to hold companies like BP accountable for disasters like the one that’s poisoning our waters and shores more and more every day.

“Oil has gushed into the Gulf for more than a month and a half now – but we’ve finally started to see a trickle of good news.  BP managed to control some of the spill this weekend, by maybe as much as 50 to 80 percent.  That still leaves a leak of too many barrels every day.

“There is an enormous and unacceptable amount of pollution harming our water, wildlife, beaches and businesses.  As much as 35 million gallons have already leaked, and that oil could make its way to the south of Florida and up the eastern seaboard.  By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons.

“Beyond the immediate damage and our anger at those whose irresponsibility allowed it to happen in the first place, this spill underscores our need for a new energy policy.  We need a policy that fully recognizes the obvious and hidden costs of the way we produce and consume energy today.  We need to confront and limit the risks of future catastrophes.  We cannot wait to act until after more tragedies and disasters happen.

“A new energy policy must strongly encourage companies to invest rapidly in technologies that make us safer, more competitive and more energy independent.  That means immediately refocusing our efforts on clean and renewable energy – like the sun, the wind and geothermal energy – improving energy efficiency and using more biofuels.

“We need better options than oil, and we needed them yesterday.

“I also want to say a word about the biggest story in sports over the past week: the near-perfect game thrown by Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga.  It would have been just the 21st time in 150 years – though, remarkably, already the third time in this young season – that a pitcher had retired every opposing batter over nine innings.  No hits, no walks, no errors.

“The perfect game is one of the most special, most difficult, most coveted accomplishments in sports.  It’s exceedingly rare.  Which, by the way, makes it all the more incredible that one of our own colleagues – the junior Senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, himself once a Detroit Tiger like Galarraga – achieved the feat for the Philadelphia Phillies on Father’s Day in 1964.

“A perfect game means 27 men up and 27 men down.  Galarraga had taken care of 26.  We all know what happened to the 27th: the play was made, the runner was out, the game should have been over.  Galarraga’s name should have been added to an elite list that includes giants of the game like Cy Young, Sandy Koufax and Randy Johnson.

“But it didn’t end that way.  The first base umpire, Jim Joyce, badly blew the call.  In an instant, a superhuman success story was spoiled by all-too-human error.

“Yet what has makes this story so significant is not what happened in the split second between the pitcher getting the out and the umpire yelling ‘Safe!’  It’s what happened right after.

“Jim Joyce admitted he was wrong.  He apologized to the pitcher, the players and the fans he let down.  He didn’t make excuses.  He didn’t hire a p. r. firm, or run television ads defending the indefensible, or try to spin his mistake.  He just owned up to it.

“Armando Galarraga graciously accepted the apology and moved on.  He didn’t raise his voice or point his finger.  When every sports fan in America pitied the pitcher, the pitcher pitied the umpire.

“The 28-year-old player had just summoned the strength to throw the game of his life, but then somehow summoned the grace not to throw the tantrum he was entitled to.

“It was an incredible act of class and compassion, an incredible display of perspective and sympathy.  It was, appropriately enough, perfect.

“In recent days we’ve seen insurance companies try to avoid responsibility for denying health care to the sick.  We’ve seen Wall Street executives try to avoid responsibility for millions of layoffs and millions more foreclosed homes.  We’ve seen oil companies try to avoid responsibility for environmental disasters of historic proportions.

“We’ve seen too many fail to own up to their own mistakes or take responsibility for their actions – but more than that, we’ve seen too many actively turn away when others have tried to hold them to account.  In that context, what Jim Joyce did is as exceptional as a perfect game.

“One call may be just one of hundreds an umpiring crew makes each day.  A single game may be just one of 162 each team will play each year.  And even though baseball is the national pastime, it may be merely that – a diversion.

“But in this episode lies a lesson for athletes about sportsmanship, for adversaries about forgiveness, for our children about integrity, and for all of us about accountability.”


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