SENATE GOALS -- (Senate - November 17, 2008)
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, first, I would like to congratulate President-elect Obama on his victory. It is a rare honor for the Senate to send one of its own to the White House. In fact, I think it has only happened two other times, Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy, who went directly from the Senate to the White House. Regardless of party, every one of us, I am sure, feels a certain institutional pride in the event.
I called the new President shortly after his victory to offer my congratulations, and he was gracious in congratulating me on my own victory when he returned the call. As it happened, when he returned the call, I was grocery shopping in the local Kroger and enjoying the people passing by saying ``Congratulations.''
There I was in front of the cereal talking to the new President on my cell phone. What I told him was we would all be here to work with him once he takes office. I think both of us are eager to confront the challenges ahead. I told him he can expect cooperation on the confirmation of qualified nominees to key Cabinet posts. Faced with two wars overseas and a complex financial crisis at home, the American people should not have to worry about a power vacuum at places such as the Pentagon, the State Department, Treasury or the Department of Homeland Security.
Now, history offers a fairly clear path to success or failure for new Presidents. It is there for every new President who comes in to observe. The path I have discussed with the President-elect is one that can lead to success. As I see it, we face a simple choice: We can either work together to confront the big issues, the big issues of the day that neither party is willing to tackle on its own or the majority can instead focus on narrow partisan issues that appeal to a tiny sliver of the populace but which lack the support of the American mainstream.
In my view, the choice is rather simple, but the work that follows will not be. So I hope President-elect Obama will go after the big things and go after them early. If he does, our chances of achieving a positive result for the American people will be greatly increased.
We can start with some of the things President-elect Obama spoke about on the campaign trail, such as cutting spending, paying down the national debt, providing speedy tax relief, committing to a long-term strategy for energy independence, and reining in our out-of-control entitlement spending that threatens to consume 70 percent of the Federal budget in 9 years. Let me say that again: Our out-of-control entitlement spending will consume 70 percent of the Federal budget in 9 years.
These are the challenges on which Senator Obama campaigned. They also happen to be issues upon which Republicans and Democrats should be able to reach some agreement. The American people are looking to us to resolve these issues, and Senate Republicans are eager to get that work done.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The majority leader is recognized.
Mr. REID. Mr. President, let me say through the Chair to my distinguished counterpart, congratulations on your victory. As George Will, the esteemed columnist, wrote over the weekend, he compared your victory to Henry Clay, and I know the Senator is from the State of Kentucky. So I congratulate you on years of hard work.
Mr. McCONNELL. I thank my friend, the majority leader.