A SUCCESSFUL FIRST SESSION
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I listened carefully to my good friend, the Democratic leader, give his evaluation of the year that is coming to a conclusion. Let me just suggest that I, not surprisingly, see it somewhat differently. In my couple of decades here in the Senate, this has been quite possibly the most successful first session of a Congress in my time here.
We began the year by passing a much needed class action reform bill that was long overdue to deal with one of the areas of the litigation craze that is bad for American business and bad for our economy. We followed on with the Bankruptcy Reform Act, long in the making, way overdue, to deal with people who have increasingly decided not to accept their responsibilities and pay their debts.
We passed a budget, which is never easy around here, tax cuts, a Central American free-trade agreement, an energy bill, and a highway bill. We confirmed a new Justice to the Supreme Court. We passed a terrorism reinsurance measure and a pension reform bill.
It has been an extraordinarily successful first session of a Congress, and we have much to be proud of as we go toward the Thanksgiving holiday.
Even though my assessment of our accomplishments here differs dramatically from that of the Democratic leader, let me say to all our colleagues, Democrats and Republicans alike, we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. We hope everyone will enjoy the holiday, come back refreshed for what we anticipate will be a very brief session the week of December 12.
I also want to say a word about Iraq. It is much in the news these days. The Senate spoke clearly this week that it is not in favor of cutting and running. On a bipartisan basis, the Senate said we will not cut and run in Iraq. That is the message of the votes that we had earlier this week. We intend to stay the course. We are winning in Iraq, and the policy is to win.
How do you measure success in Iraq? You measure it by the election last January which brought into office a temporary democratic government. Everyone remembers the ink-stained index fingers that were held up proudly by the Iraqis as they, at risk to their own lives, went to the polls and elected an interim government.
Last month on October 15--by the way, back in January, there was a 60-percent turnout, the same as our turnout last November and ours was 60 percent, higher than the turnout of 50 percent before that. The Iraqis turned out the same percentages last January as we did here, and I don't think any Americans were afraid they were going to be shot or blown up by a bomb if they went out to vote.
If that were not good enough, in the constitutional election on October 15, 63 percent of Iraqis turned out, and large numbers of Sunnis who had boycotted the election earlier began to participate.
Clearly, Iraq is heading in the right direction. Surveys taken in September indicate Iraqis are far more optimistic about their future than we are about ours in the United States. They are more optimistic about their future than we are ours here. So the Iraqis feel they are on the right path. They are going to finish the job on December 15 when they elect the first permanent democratic government in Iraqi history, a fairly unusual thing in that part of the world, I think we will all agree.
Next year, that permanent democratic government will increasingly be responsible for its own future and the fate of its own citizens as the Iraqi military improves month after month.
So we do, indeed, have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Most of all, we are grateful for our wonderful troops who have done an astonishing job in Iraq. They are proud of their work. They are somewhat perplexed about the perception that they are failing when they all know they are succeeding dramatically. Hopefully, in the new year, we will be able to do a better job of getting out the entire story in Iraq, which is that dramatic progress is being made. After all, when this democratic government is elected on December 15, it will be less than 3 years from the time Saddam Hussein was toppled to the election of a permanent democratic government in Iraq. It took us 11 years in this country to get from the Declaration of Independence to the writing of the Constitution in our first democratic election.
We are very impatient for immediate success. In fact, the Iraqis have come a long way in a short period of time under very difficult circumstances. We are proud of them and, most of all, we are proud of our troops who made it possible for that to happen.
With that, Mr. President, I think it is time to begin to wrap up in the Senate.
First, I congratulate the House of Representatives and the Senate. We will shortly be passing a bill to honor a great American, Rosa Parks, by placing a statue of her in the Capitol. I am very gratified by the swift action of the House, followed on by the Senate tonight. We have assured that Americans who visit this place 100 years from now will see her statue and reflect on how one woman's courage altered a nation.
I am also pleased and grateful to my colleagues, particularly Senator Dodd in the Senate and Representative JESSE JACKSON, Jr., in the House, who took the lead over there for moving quickly to accord Ms. Parks the honor she so richly deserves. I look forward to the day when her statue is unveiled and placed in this historic building alongside other American heroes.
Ms. Parks' passing on October 24, just a few weeks ago, left us with sadness, but also with deep gratitude to the gift she left all of us.
I am reminded of Dr. Martin Luther King's conviction that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts of men. Today this Congress has taken steps to ensure Parks' achievements will never be forgotten.