Reid: "Senate Republicans are Addicted to Koch"

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 04 Mar 2014 22:59:00 GMT

In a blistering floor speech Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) doubled down on his criticism of the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers, who he described last week as “un-American.” Reid’s comments last week focused on the advertisements against the Affordable Care Act produced by the Kochs’ political group, Americans for Prosperity, which fact-checkers have described as “missing context,” “misleading,” and “loose with facts.”

“This discussion – this fight – isn’t just about health care or even about a few hundred million dollars in disingenuous ads,” Reid said today. “This is about two very wealthy individuals who intend to buy their very own Congress – a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy.”

Reid’s remarks touched upon climate change and environmental policy:

We may never know how much money the Koch brothers are spending to rig the system for themselves. But we do know their investments have already paid off. In November of 2010, the petroleum industry walked right through the door the Supreme Court had opened, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect a Republican majority to the House of Representatives. That Republican majority has effectively shut down any hope of passing legislation to limit the pollution that causes climate change. And that Republican majority is, in fact, working to gut the most important safeguards that keep cancer-causing toxins out of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Without those safeguards, the Koch brothers would pass on the higher healthcare costs to middle class Americans while padding their own pocketbooks. . . .

Their extreme vision for America means giving giant corporations the unfettered right to dump toxins into our rivers and streams, on our mountains and in our valleys, and to give them even more tax breaks while they destroy our environment.

Americans for Prosperity has also recently launched a television ad attacking Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), falsely claiming that Begich supports a carbon tax.

Charles and David Koch control Koch Industries, a petrochemical, industrial, and financial conglomerate that is the second-largest private company in the United States. They have an estimated combined net worth of over $100 billion, making David Koch the richest man in New York City and Charles the richest man in Kansas. They are the third and fourth richest billionaires in the United States.

Transcript of Reid’s speech:

Charles and David Koch are shrewd businessmen. Their wealth is nearly unparalleled – not only in America, but in the world. The brothers inherited a small oil company from their father, and built it into a multi-national corporation that refines oil, manufactures fertilizers and chemicals, makes paper products, extracts minerals, produces glass and even owns a cattle ranch. And like most shrewd businessmen, the oil baron Koch brothers are very good at protecting and growing their prodigious fortune. There’s nothing un-American about that.

But what is un-American is when shadowy billionaires pour unlimited money into our democracy to rig the system to benefit themselves and the wealthiest one percent. I believe in an America where economic opportunity is open to all. But based on their actions and the policies they promote, the Koch brothers seem to believe in an America where the system is rigged to benefit the very wealthy. Based on Senate Republicans’ ardent defense of the Koch brothers, and the fact that they advocate for many of the same policies the Koch brothers do, it seems my Republican colleagues also believe in a system that benefits billionaires at the expense of the middle class. The Koch brothers are willing to invest billions to buy that America.

In 2010, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates of corporate money into electoral politics with its Citizens United decision. Since mega donors like Charles and David Koch can launder their huge contributions using shadowy shell groups and so-called “non-profits,” it’s difficult to tell exactly how much they’ve invested so far. Investigative reporting by some of the most respected news outlets in the country had revealed that the Koch brothers funnel money through a web of industry groups and advocacy organizations that are immune from disclosure rules, such as the Club for Growth, Heritage Action, the NRA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

We may never know how much money the Koch brothers are spending to rig the system for themselves. But we do know their investments have already paid off.

In November of 2010, the petroleum industry walked right through the door the Supreme Court had opened, and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect a Republican majority to the House of Representatives. That Republican majority has effectively shut down any hope of passing legislation to limit the pollution that causes climate change. And that Republican majority is, in fact, working to gut the most important safeguards that keep cancer-causing toxins out of the air we breathe and the water we drink. Without those safeguards, the Koch brothers would pass on the higher healthcare costs to middle class Americans while padding their own pocketbooks.

So the Koch brothers are already seeing a return on their 2010 investment in a Republican House of Representatives. But they haven’t stopped there. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity alone spent $400 million on misleading attack ads last election cycle. If you’ve seen an ad maligning the Affordable Care Act, chances are the Koch brothers – or one of their shadow groups – paid for it.

Koch-backed groups have spent a vast sum helping elect Republican Senate candidates this year – a sum that dwarfs even the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s own spending. The Koch brothers and other moneyed interests are influencing the political process for their own benefit in a way not seen for generations.

Republicans Senators have come to the floor to defend the Koch brothers’ attempt to buy our democracy. Once again, Republicans are all-in to protect their billionaire friends.

Not only have Senate Republicans come to the floor to defend the Koch brothers personally, they have, again and again, defended the Kochs’ radical agenda. Senate Republicans have opposed closing a single tax loophole for profitable oil companies or corporations that ship jobs overseas. Senate Republicans have opposed asking billionaires to pay the same higher tax rate as middle-class families pay. Senate Republicans have opposed environmental and workplace safety standards that might cost Koch Industries or their other corporate donors a few extra dollars.

And the Koch brothers are returning the favor with huge donations to Republican Senate candidates. Senate Republicans are addicted to Koch.

In fact, Senate Republicans hardly need the NRSC anymore. They’ve got the Koch brothers. Besides, the NRSC can’t hide its donors’ identities, like Koch-funded front groups can.

Senate Republicans call this freewheeling spending by anonymous donors nothing more than free speech – free speech. Senate Republicans say whoever has the most money gets the most free speech. But that is not what America’s Founders meant by free speech. The Founders believed in a democracy where every American has a voice and a vote.

This discussion – this fight – isn’t just about health care or even about a few hundred million dollars in disingenuous ads. This is about two very wealthy individuals who intend to buy their very own Congress – a Congress beholden to their money and bound to enact their radical philosophy. Witness: Republican Senators beholden to wealthy special interests rush to the floor to defend the Kochs whenever I say something negative about the brothers or their radical agenda.

By the way, those words – “radical philosophy” – aren’t my words. Charles Koch proudly told Brian Doherty, an editor of the libertarian magazine Reason, about his self-described “radical philosophy” in 2007.

These are the same brothers who have lobbied against recognition of formaldehyde as a cancer-causing carcinogen because it might be bad for business. These are the same brothers whose Koch Industries ranks near the top of the list of America’s worst toxic air polluters. These are the same brothers whose company, according to a Bloomberg investigation, paid bribes and kickbacks to win contracts in Africa, India, and the Middle East. These are the same brothers who, according to that report, used foreign subsidiaries to sell millions of dollars of equipment to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism.

They already believe they can play by a different set of rules. Think about what an America rigged by the Koch brothers would look like.

The Koch brothers don’t care about creating a strong public education system in America. The Koch brothers don’t care about maintaining the strong safety net of Medicare and Social Security. And The Koch brothers don’t care about a guarantee of affordable, quality health insurance for every American. Why? Because the Koch brothers can afford to buy all those benefits and more for themselves and for their families.

Their extreme vision for America means abolishing Social Security and Medicare as we know it. Their extreme vision for America means eliminating minimum wage laws. Their extreme vision for America means putting insurance companies back in charge of your health care and allowing them to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Their extreme vision for America means stripping tens of million people of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act today. Their extreme vision for America means allowing the gap between the wages women and men earn for the same work to keep growing. Their extreme vision for America means giving giant corporations the unfettered right to dump toxins into our rivers and streams, on our mountains and in our valleys, and to give them even more tax breaks while they destroy our environment.

Democrats have a different vision. Democrats believe the economy is strongest when the middle class is vibrant and growing. Democrats believe world-class education leads to a world-class work force ready to take on any challenge. Democrats believe an even playing field with higher wages, affordable health care and a secure retirement gives every American the same shot at success.

Now, I welcome a public debate over these competing visions. Average Americans share our vision for a country whose success is built on a strong middle class. And the Koch brothers know it. That’s why, rather than have an honest and fair debate, they are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a massive campaign of deception. They manufacture stories and make up facts. And they are angry that I am calling attention to their campaign of distortion and deceit.

I am not oblivious to the fact that my comments about the Koch brothers have caused controversy. Anyone who has turned on Fox News lately knows I’ve gotten under Charles and David Koch’s skin. But I will continue to shine a light on their subversion of democracy.

When I hear my Republican colleagues defending the Koch brothers, I recall the words of Adlai Stevenson: “I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends… that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them.”

And as long as the Koch brothers continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying elections, I will continue to do all I can to expose their intentions.

Under Threat of Republican Obstruction, Reid Abandons Climate Push 9

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 27 Jul 2010 15:13:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Climate deniersAs Washington, D.C. wilts in the global heat wave gripping the planet, the Democratic leadership in the Senate has abandoned the effort to cap global warming pollution for the foreseeable future, unwilling to test a Republican filibuster. Instead of testing the hypocrisy of climate peacocks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will instead attempt to pass a limited bill with new energy incentives and oil reduction policies next week. The decision was formally made at a meeting of the Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday. After the meeting, Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), whose efforts to craft comprehensive climate legislation had foundered, focused on the challenge of overcoming a filibuster:

But we’ve always known from day one, that in order to pass comprehensive energy/climate legislation, you’ve got to reach 60 votes, and to reach those 60 votes, you’ve got have some Republicans. And as we stand here today, we do not have one Republican. I think that it’s possible to get there.

It is the ninth day of the latest 90-plus heat wave to hit Washington DC, part of the global heat wave caused by greenhouse gas pollution. Former vice president Al Gore responded to the announcement with a cold reminder of the realities the Senate has not confronted:

The need to solve the climate crisis and transition to clean energy has never been more clear. The oil is still washing up on the shores of the Gulf Coast and we’ve just experienced the hottest six months on record. Our troops are fighting and dying in the Middle East and our economy is still struggling to produce jobs. I continue to urge the President to provide leadership on this issue and urge the Senate to make this issue a priority for the remainder of this Congress. Ultimately – and sooner rather than later – these issues simply must be dealt with. Our national security, our economic recovery and the future of the United States of America – and indeed the future of human civilization on this Earth – depends on our country taking leadership. And that, in turn, depends on the United States Senate acting. The truth about the climate crisis—inconvenient as ever—must be faced.

Reid To Bring Clean Energy Bill To Floor In Two Weeks 12

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Jul 2010 19:40:00 GMT

After today’s weekly Senate Democratic luncheon caucus, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters he plans to initiate debate on sweeping clean energy legislation the week of July 26. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports:
Reid confirmed that the bill will have four sections: an oil spill response; a clean energy and job creation title; a section that deals reduction in energy consumption; and a broad proposal coming out of the Finance Committee that deals with the electric utility industry.

When asked if the legislation will include a cap on greenhouse gases, Reid said only he will “work on pollution.” Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NV) and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) are both working on proposals for a climate regime that would be limited to the utility sector. Reid “said he was meeting with Carol Browner, Obama’s top energy and climate adviser, as well as Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Kerry was planning to meet with environmental groups and former Rep. Glenn English (D-Okla), now the CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association.”

White House: Immigration Is 'Important' And Energy Is 'Critical,' But Reid 'Sets The Agenda' 11

Posted by Wonk Room Tue, 27 Apr 2010 15:42:00 GMT

From the Wonk Room.

Although both immigration and climate reform are top priorities for the Obama administration, White House domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes said, it is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who “sets the agenda.” MSNBC’s Chuck Todd questioned Barnes Monday morning over the conflict between Reid and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that derailed the expected unveiling of comprehensive climate legislation Monday. Barnes said that energy reform – what President Obama has called one of his “foundational priorities” – is “critical to this country,” while immigration reform is “important.” However, she repeatedly indicated that the responsibility for moving forward lies with Reid:
MELODY BARNES: What the president and administration want is to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats in Congress to address these big issues. The Senate Majority Leader will make a decision how to go forward. Immigration reform is important. We also know that comprehensive energy reform is critical to this country. We have to get away from reliance on foreign oil. We know we can create clean energy jobs. So both of these are top priorities for this president. We’re going to be working with the Senate.

CHUCK TODD: Can either be signed this year?

BARNES: We’re hoping to move forward with the majority leader as he sets the agenda.

Watch it:

Reid’s staff had leaked to reporters that the majority leader wanted the Senate to consider an immigration bill before climate legislation, a statement that made little sense other than a response to local political pressures. As Graham, who has been the lead Republican on both issues, voiced his displeasure, it seems neither Reid nor the White House reached out to quell his anger. Graham and Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) American Power Act is ready to be unveiled for direct floor consideration, but immigration reform requires “significant committee work that has not yet begun”—as Reid said. President Obama has been keeping his pledge to immigration reform advocates to raise the issue with Republicans like Sen. Scott Brown (D-MA) to get on board with Graham and Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) immigration effort, but the two bills aren’t on the same timetable.

In addition to the fealty of most Republicans to killer fossil industries, Democrats have competing camps on the best pathway to energy action, with senators like Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pushing for alternate strategies to President Obama’s comprehensive climate reform. Reid has waffled on whether he would be willing to risk conflict with Democratic committee chairs by taking climate reform straight to the floor. This potential conflict with senators like agriculture chair Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and finance chair Max Baucus (D-MT) would likely have to be mediated by the President, even as Graham would have the responsibility of locking down Republican votes other than himself.

Transcript:

TODD: I understand that there’s this idea that everybody here wants to walk and chew gum at the same time but we will know Washington sort of can handle one big issue at a time. Financial reform at some point feels like it’s going to wrap interrupt next couple weeks. It sounds like energy, immigration, can you really expect this town to handle both at the same time or is there going to have to be one over the other?

BARNES: When we walked in the door we inherited big problems. I think what this president has shown is he can handle a number of challenges at the same time.

TODD: Maybe he can but Congress is a different story. We know they have their priorities. I guess what I’m asking, would the White House accept immigration going before energy?

BARNES: What the president and administration want is to work with Congress, Republicans and Democrats in Congress to address these big issues. The Senate Majority Leader will make a decision how to go forward. immigration reform is important. We also know that comprehensive energy reform is critical to this country. We have to get away from reliance on foreign oil. We know we can create clean energy jobs. So both of these are top priorities for this president. We’re going to be working with the Senate.

TODD: Can either be signed this year?

BARNES: We’re hoping to move forward with the majority leader as he sets the agenda.

TODD: If he’s picking immigration, he’s setting the agenda.

BARNES: He’s the majority leader.

Whisper Campaign Derails Climate Bill Rollout 11

Posted by Wonk Room Mon, 26 Apr 2010 15:21:00 GMT

Lindsey GrahamThe unveiling of green economy legislation by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Monday has been indefinitely postponed, following a whisper campaign that Senate leadership preferred tackling immigration reform instead. Below is the timeline of the last four days, in which political reporters quote anonymous “Democratic officials” and “Senate Democratic aides” to promote the rumor:

Wednesday, April 21: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) meet. Based entirely on comments from anonymous “Senate Democratic aides,” Roll Call’s John Stanton claims that “Democratic leaders are pushing ahead with plans to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year — even if it means punting on energy legislation until next Congress.” The Hill’s Ben Geman cites “a Democratic aide” to claim Pelosi said she is “fine” with “the Senate taking up immigration reform before climate change legislation.” The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler cites “three Democratic officials” to claim “both leaders said they would put immigration ahead of energy on their priority list.”

Thursday, April 22, Earth Day: The Associated Press’s Laurie Kellerman and Matthew Day cite “two Democratic officials” to repeat the immigration-first rumor.

Pelosi holds a press conference, and is asked about the rumor. Pelosi responds that “energy security and addressing the climate crisis is the flagship issue of my speakership,” notes that the House has “already passed our energy bill,” and “if the Senate is ready with an immigration bill, we don’t want anybody holding it up for any reason, and we would be pleased to welcome it to the House.” Fox News’ Chad Pergram interprets her remarks to claim “Pelosi Okay On Delaying Climate Bill in Lieu of Immigration.”

Graham tells reporters that “If immigration comes up then that’s the ultimate CYA politics,” and “It destroys the ability to do something like energy and climate” to jump to immigration reform legislation, because “We haven’t done anything to prepare the body or the country for immigration” and “business and labor are not together on a temporary worker bill.”

In a story by Politico’s Marin Cogan about Graham’s comments, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) “declined to say which bill she’d prefer be taken up first.”

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) tells the Christian Science Monitor’s Linda Feldmann, “I don’t know that anybody made a determination in the discussions I have had with leadership that immigration is more important than energy,” and agrees with Graham’s assessment, “I am not sure the Senate can move an immigration bill.”

Friday, April 23: A “Democratic aide” tells Politico’s Kasie Hunt: “Immigration is gaining steam; climate change may suffer.”

“I think these are separate issues on separate legislative tracks,’’ Lieberman says in a conference call. “One will not adversely affect the other.” Hartford Courant’s Daniela Altimari reports “Lieberman said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid assured him that he will bring the climate and energy bill to the floor, likely in late May or early June, barring any obstacles.”

Saturday, April 24: Graham sends a letter to business, religious and conservation leaders that “I will be unable to move forward on energy independence legislation at this time” because of “what appears to be a decision by the Obama Administration and Senate Democratic leadership to move immigration instead of energy,” unless “their plan substantially changes this weekend.”

Reid, the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin writes, “declined to assure Graham on Saturday that he would put immigration behind energy in the legislative lineup,” responding in a statement instead: “I will not allow him to play one issue off of another, and neither will the American people.” The Hill’s Eric Zimmerman interprets Reid’s statement to claim he “said today that Democrats might push climate legislation before immigration reform.” Reid’s statement blames Republicans, specifically “the tremendous pressure he is under from members of his own party not to work with us on either measure.”

The White House “also declined to indicate whether it would address Graham’s concerns,” issuing a statement by climate advisor Carol Browner saying, “We believe the only way to make progress on these priorities is to continue working as we have thus far in a bipartisan manner to build more support for both comprehensive energy independence and immigration reform legislation.” Talking Points Memo’s Christina Bellantoni notes Browner says about climate reform, “We’re determined to see it happen this year.”

In the evening, Kerry releases a statement that “regrettably external issues have arisen that force us to postpone only temporarily” the Monday unveiling because Graham “feels immigration politics have gotten in the way and for now prevent him from being engaged in the way he intended.” “Joe and I will continue to work together and are hopeful that Lindsey will rejoin us once the politics of immigration are resolved.”

In summary: although Lieberman and Hoyer attempted to debunk the rumor, Senate leadership and the White House refused to address the rumor of timing spread by anonymous Democratic staffers and officials. Graham, who has also been the lead Republican working on immigration with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), announced Saturday he would not participate in a bill rollout with its fate on the Senate calendar placed in competition with unwritten immigration legislation.

Sen. Reid Calls for Global Coal Plant Moratorium 3

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 20 Aug 2007 19:03:00 GMT

Sen. Reid, Senate Majority Leader from Nevada, detailed his position on America’s energy and global warming policy. He called for a moratorium on coal-fired plants and a restructuring of tax policy away from gas and oil and toward renewable energy.

At a community meeting he said:

Let us spend a few billion developing what we have a lot of. We have a lot of sun, we have a lot of wind and we are the Saudi Arabia of geothermal energy. The sooner we move toward the sun, the wind, geothermal, biomass, the better off we’ll be, and we will never do it until we have a tax policy that gives people an incentive to invest in these industries because the big oil companies have controlled America.

More at Grist, It’s Getting Hot in Here, and I Think Mining.

From the Associated Press this weekend:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the threat of global warming should preclude the construction of new coal-fired power plants anywhere in the world.

The Nevada Democrat last month came out against three proposed major coal-fired plants in his home state, but on Saturday extended that opposition to any such new plants worldwide.

He said each coal-fired plant burns 7 million tons of coal every year, spewing out pollutants that contribute to global warming.

“There’s not a coal-fired plant in America that’s clean. They’re all dirty,” Reid told reporters after speaking at a conference on renewable energy. “Unless we do something quickly about global warming, we’re in trouble.”