Reid: 'Day of Freshness for This Great Country of Ours'

By Staff | November 22, 2013 | 8:23 AM EST

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

( - After eliminating the filibuster option as it applies to presidential nominations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it is not a time for celebration -- even though his move will let the Democrat majority speedily approve anyone President Obama chooses to nominate.

"I'm glad we changed it. It is a day of freshness for this great country of ours," Reid said afterwards at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

Here are his opening remarks at that news conference:

This is not a time for celebration. It's a time for being very serious. For too long Washington has been in gridlock, gridlock, gridlock. The American people are sick of this. We're sick of it. Is it any wonder how people look at Congress? So as I said a little while ago, enough is enough.

And I'm not here talking about how clean we are and how dirty they are, or vice-versa. When it comes to what's gone on on the Senate floor, there's a lot of blame to go around. But the obstruction we've seen from Republicans against President Obama has reached new heights never dreamed of, never dreamed of, never even come close in the history of the country, through all the ups and downs we've had as a country.

Remember, for the first 140 years as a country, there were no filibusters. The Founding Fathers were very clear in what they thought there should be supermajorities: impeachments and, of course, on treaties. And in the same paragraph as it deals with two-thirds votes, specifically the Founding Fathers did not mention at all other things other than those two things that required a supermajority.

In the entire history of our country, there've been 168 filibusters against nominations. So for 230 years, half of them were accomplished; in the last 4 1/2 years, with Obama as president, the other half. In the history of our country, 23 District Court judges have been filibustered. Two hundred thirty years, 20 -- I'm sorry. Two hundred thirty years, three; 4 1/2 years, 20.

Under President Obama, even consensus judicial nominees have been forced to wait an average of a hundred days longer for confirmation than President Bush.
We have one nominee who deals with making sure the water we drink and the air we breathe is pure. He's been waiting almost 890 days because they don't like that agency. It's that dreadful Environmental Protection Agency. It's an undeniable fact that the obstruction we've seen in recent years is something altogether new and very, very different.

So this is not just about Republicans versus Democrats. This is about doing what is right for this institution to evolve and remain responsive to the needs our country has. And we have not doing that. The status quo of middle -- of this gridlock has guaranteed that the middle class gets no attention whatsoever.

So the most important distinction today is between those who are willing to solve this problem and those who defend the status quo. How can anyone in good conscience defend the status quo? And for people to stand and say, we're -- they're -- you're breaking the rules to change the rules -- since 1977 the rules have been changed 38 times -- 18 times. Sorry. I'm sorry about that. I got my numbers mixed up. Rules are changed all the time. Senator Byrd, the master of the Senate Number 2, he went forward and changed the rules lots of times. We've changed the rules here. We've done it just in recent years.

With today's vote we declared that we're on the side of the problem solvers, and that's really true.

It's simple fairness. The changes we made today will apply equally to both parties. When Republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them as well. That's simple fairness. And it's something both sides should be willing to live with to make Washington work again. That also is simple fairness.

You know, the Republicans are defending what's going on here. How can you do that? The D.C. Circuit -- you know, they -- I got a -- last night I got a call from one of my Republican friends saying, Harry, we got a deal for you. I'm anxious to listen; what is this? We'll give you one of the D.C. Circuit; that way, you'll have -- it'll be 5 to 4. (Chuckles.)

I just can't imagine -- and one of my friends -- and he has been, anyway, we've been in the House together, the Senate together. We've been together a long time. Came to see me -- what would you do? What would you do, I said? And he -- just the two of us. He didn't want to -- not didn't want to; he said, I'm not answering that question. Everyone knows that what has gone on is absolutely unfair and wrong, and I'm glad we changed it. It is a day of freshness for this great country of ours.