Media Stakeout With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell; Senator Jon Kyl; Senator Lisa Murkowski; Senator John Ensign; Following The Senate Republican Policy Luncheon
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SEN. MCCONNELL: Okay, good afternoon, everyone. A little noise in the background.
It's pretty clear that the administration is recommending that we continue the spending binge that has begun here at the beginning of the -- of the year. And we have already in the first year of the new Congress spent more money than the previous seven years combined, spent more money than we spent on Iraq, Afghanistan, and the response to Katrina.
We have an omnibus appropriation bill which is sort of -- was supposed to have been finishing up last year's legislation that is 8 percent above what was anticipated to be spent. That's clearly been plussed-up by the new majority. And of course, now we've seen a $3.6 trillion budget designed to transform America through a massive tax increase, a massive carbon tax, and what we fear is a nationalization of health care.
Clearly, this new Congress wants to transform America left-of- center in a dramatic way. We think this spending -- spending binge needs to be stopped before it starts.
With that, let me call on Senator Kyl.
SEN. KYL: In addition to the massive spending and taxation leading to record-breaking deficits and record-breaking debt for this country, the policy changes, as Leader McConnell pointed out, will dramatically and permanently transform what America looks like.
Wall Street Journal last Friday indicated that the policy changes embodied in the budget not only take us in a radical new direction, but one which the Obama administration hopes can never be rolled back. That's a matter of great concern to us.
And so, in looking at the omnibus bill, which is on the floor right now, we've also identified policy changes there. I just want to mention a few of them here and then call on Senator Murkowski, who will expand on -- on one specific one.
As many of you know, it eliminates school choice for the District of Columbia. That's a big deal, because the people of the District of Columbia support school choice.
It weakens restrictions with respect to our policy in Cuba. You'll hear Mel Martinez talking about that in just a few minutes on the floor of the Senate.
It weakens the so-called Kemp-Kasten funding, the United Nations Population Fund restrictions. It would fund abortion.
It removes the funding prohibition on implementing the Fairness Doctrine; interesting why it would attempt to do this.
And it allows groups like Planned Parenthood and others to buy certain drugs for nominal prices and then resell those drugs at a profit.
The bottom line is that apparently, in every piece of legislation that spends money that they send up here, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats are also inserting significant policy changes that will forever transform America. And so it's not enough just for us to look at the spending and taxation, as massive as that is, but also to look at the policy changes underlying the legislation as well.
SEN. MURKOWSKI: One of those policy changes that could have a dramatic impact on what we have just put in place through this stimulus and this push towards more jobs is a provision that was included in the omnibus on the House side that would pull back or allow the secretary of the Interior to withdraw certain rules as they relate to the Endangered Species Act.
When the polar bear was listed by Secretary Kempthorne some months back, there was a provision that was put in place that allowed for the process of the -- of the Administrative Procedures Act to remain in place; in other words, that there would be -- there would be public input on this issue. And it was on this public input that the secretary based his decision. This rider that has been placed in this omnibus would essentially pull the rug out from underneath that, allowing the secretary to withdraw these regulations, list the polar bear -- for which we have concluded that there's not the scientific evidence to list them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act -- but essentially do this without any public process at all.
This would have dramatic impact on anybody who is looking to build a new road, build a new bridge, put a vehicle on the -- on the roads. It could be challenged to the extent that you would say it's incredible, it's incredulous. But in fact, this is what withdrawal of this -- of this particular rule could mean for us. Things like this should not be included in an omnibus bill.
SEN. ENSIGN: Well, we're going to give the Democrats an opportunity today -- another opportunity today to see whether they actually are for fiscal responsibility.
As you know, the president in his budget has proposed that we double the national debt in five years and triple it in 10 years. The Democrats roundly criticized us for about a one-and-a-half-times increasing the national debt over the eight years that President Bush is in office, and now they have a budget which doubles the national debt in five years and triples it in 10 years.
Today, on the -- I'm going to be offering an amendment that freezes to '08 levels the omnibus bill. It basically allows the government and the Appropriations Committee to do what it does to determine where the money is, but do it at last year's level.
This is not the time to be -- you know, we already had the stimulus bill. They want to increase federal spending? Fine. They did that in the spending bill. We don't need to, every single time bills come before the Senate, to dramatically increase federal spending. This bill is one of many spending bills -- this bill is 8 percent above last year. It's time to have some kind of fiscal discipline be put into the Senate and the House, and we're going to give them the opportunity to see whether they actually believe in fiscal discipline.
SEN. MCCONNELL: Okay, we'll take a couple of questions, if there are any.
Q Senator McConnell, you talk about a spending binge. Are you willing to support the line-item veto that Senator McCain and Senator Feingold are -- (off mike)?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Are they going to offer that on the bill? I've supported the line-item veto in the past.
Q And is there any way to actually look into the omnibus bill and strip out any of the items that you all -- (off mike) -- here? Are you going to do that sort of --
SEN. MCCONNELL: Well, yeah, we're -- we're going to have a number of amendments that will direct -- will go at it in a variety of different ways in addition to trying to shrink the -- the size.
Q Senator McConnell?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Dave? Oh. Yeah.
Q Senator McConnell, what efforts are you still going to make to try to take these things out -- (off mike) -- Washington -- (off mike)?
SEN. MCCONNELL: Yeah, I'm going to have --
SEN. ENSIGN: Yeah, I'm actually going to -- yeah, I'm going to have an amendment to say let's keep the D.C. voucher program in place. We want to strip the language out that effectively would kill the D.C. voucher program.
You know, there was an article today written in The Wall Street Journal -- I believe it was the opinion -- opinion page -- that said, you know, why is it okay for President Obama to send his kids to a private school and at the same private school there's two of their -- their children's classmates who won't be able to go there any longer if the D.C. voucher program is eliminated?
We want to stand by some of these poor kids in Washington, D.C. who are getting the opportunity to attend, you know, a great school. This -- this mother took her -- her daughter to Roosevelt High School and saw the metal detectors, all that kind of a thing. She said it's not just even about the crime. Half of the kids at Roosevelt High School don't read at the level that they're supposed to read, don't pass the math courses they're supposed to pass at that level, half of the children there. She doesn't want her kids going there because they are -- they are not getting the kind of education.
You know, it's been said that education is the new civil right. To send kids to failing schools in Washington, D.C. -- most of you would never allow your kids to go to to the schools here in Washington, D.C. We're trying to give some of those poor children a chance at a better life, and that's why this needs to continue.
Q (Will ?) you offer that today or tomorrow?
SEN. ENSIGN: Probably tomorrow, because we're going to do some of the other spending ones, and then we'll go more to the policy.
Thank you all.
Q Thank you.