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Reid speech in 2006

Mr. President, I just hope that my friends on the other side of the aisle-and there isn't a single Senator over there I don't consider a friend and have great respect for-I hope they remember this exchange between the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the majority leader today, as we wind down this session of this Congress. I want them to remember this because you don't have to have a very long memory to understand what has happened in the Senate with our inability to offer amendments. The most recent that I can think of, of course, was the Dubai Ports situation on lobbying. The next thing I can go back and look at is the PATRIOT Act, where the distinguished majority leader filled the tree.

There is no need-we went through this yesterday. There is no need to do this. But the Senate, in the 200-plus years it has been in existence-even though the rules are somewhat difficult to accept, they are here. And they are here for a reason. Because over the generations of the Senate, there is always the ability to have an endgame. There is a way to proceed orderly on a piece of legislation. And what we should do on this, if everyone is so upset with what is taking place here, is in the morning we will have an opportunity to invoke cloture. All germane amendments will be allowed, if they were filed before 1 o'clock today. There would be an opportunity then to debate these amendments and vote on them. So there is no more orderly way to proceed to a matter than cloture.

I wish to switch a little bit here and talk about something that is extremely personal to me. I have been a legislator for a long time. The first job I had in public office was in 1964. I have been involved in government for 42 years. I was a city attorney, served on county boards, the State legislature, and other such opportunities that the people of the State of Nevada have given me. I don't want this to be true confessions, but I want to relate to the Senate that the biggest mistake I ever made, the largest error I ever made was 15 or 18 years ago, as a Member of the U.S. Congress, when, with my chief of staff, my dear friend Reynaldo Martinez-he and I played baseball together. He was a star on that team. I wasn't. But we beat everybody. We were the California Scholastic Federation champions when I was a sophomore in high school.

He was my chief of staff. He is retired, a wonderful man. He has credentials in the Hispanic community. He has had a school named after him in Nevada. He has a youth center named after him. He is a very famous Nevadan and my dear friend.

A group of people came and talked to us and convinced us that the thing to do would be to close the borders between Mexico and the United States; in effect, stop people from coming across our borders to the United States. This period of time for which I am so apologetic-to my family, mostly-lasted about a week or two. I introduced legislation. My little wife is 5 feet tall. We have been together for soon to be 50 years. As I said here on the floor a few days ago, her father was born in Russia. He was run out of Russia. His name was Goldfarb, his family. They were Jewish. My wife heard that I had done this. She does not interfere with my legislation. Only when I ask her does she get involved in what I am doing. I didn't ask her about this. She, in effect, said: I can't believe that you have done it. But I had done it.

To compound this, I held a meeting a day or two after being confronted by my wife, a meeting in Las Vegas. It was a townhall meeting to explain this travesty that I called legislation. My friend, Judge John Mendoza, was there, somebody who, when I lost my Senate race in 1974 by 524 votes, spent all night with me consoling me, but he was in that audience. Larry Luna, Larry Mason, Isabelle Pfeiffer, people I had not talked to about this, in addition to my wife, pointed out the errors of my way. I have done everything since that meeting in Las Vegas, in conversation with my wife, to undo my embarrassment.

I have nothing against my friend, the junior Senator from Alabama, for bringing up what I had said those many years ago today on the Senate floor. I have no problem with that at all. But I do want to tell him and the rest of my friends in the Senate, that is a low point of my legislative career, the low point of my governmental career. That is why I believe we need comprehensive immigration reform today. People in America are counting on us to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform. They recognize that this country's national security depends on securing our borders and fixing our immigration system. They all want us to do this, Democrats and Republicans, to come together and do this.

I still believe that the bill before us is a compromise. I believe it is a good bill. It is up to my Republican friends to decide what they want to do. They can work with us to move forward and vote cloture and have some amendments that are germane postcloture. My friends, the majority, can move forward with a bill that will fix our borders and reform the immigration system or continue to stonewall. It is in the eyes of the beholder who is stonewalling. I think what we have here is a compromise. We have a real bipartisan opportunity to fix our immigration system. Thanks to the hard work of the Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, we have a bill that will do it.

So I hope that tomorrow morning, an hour after we come into session, that there will be a bipartisan vote to invoke cloture, move forward with this legislation, look at those germane amendments, vote them up or down, and move forward with the process.

I, first of all, want everyone in this Chamber to know that there is no animosity between the two leaders. We have jobs to do. We do the best we can to fulfill those responsibilities. But as far as the two of us are concerned, there is no ill will toward me from Senator Frist. He has never shown that on a personal basis. I have attempted not to do that with him. I will say on one occasion I did, and he brought it to my attention. I acknowledged that, and I understood what he was critical of. It was constructive criticism, and I took it as that.

I hope we can move forward. There have been proposals made by both sides. My friend's proposal on this side of the aisle was not acceptable. My proposal to him was not acceptable. But it is only 4 o'clock. Maybe something will happen before tomorrow morning's cloture vote.

By Greg Sargent  |  August 13, 2010; 3:32 PM ET
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