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Public Statements

Focusing On The Crisis

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, first, I welcome everyone back. I hope they had a good break.

As a nation, our focus continues to be on the disaster in the gulf. This is a national tragedy, the full dimensions of which we still do not know. But one thing is clear: The top priority at this point, as it should have been from the start, is to stop the leak. Americans are far less interested in how tough the administration plans to be after the leak is fixed than they are in fixing it. People want action more than they want accusations. There will be plenty of time to assess blame and to tighten regulations after the crisis is met. But weeks of blame has done absolutely nothing to plug the leak. Let's focus on the crisis at hand.

As we work to stem the crisis in the gulf, Congress cannot continue to ignore another pressing crisis--an exploding Federal debt that threatens our very way of life.

This week, the Senate will debate the deficit extenders bill the House passed just before the recess. Just for a little context, let's remind ourselves what this bill is. The original purpose of this bill was to give America's job creators an assurance that the longstanding tax benefits they are counting on to retain workers will not be pulled out from under them. But because Democrats cannot seem to resist any opportunity to use a must-pass bill such as this as a vehicle for more deficit spending, they have piled tens of billions of dollars in unrelated spending and debt on top of it, all at a moment when the national debt has now reached $13 trillion for the first time in history. This is fiscal recklessness, plain and simple.

The time has come for hard choices. Americans see what is happening in Europe, and they are begging us to bring the debt under control, to cut it down before we face a similar fate here. Instead, Democrats in Washington just keep piling on as if they are oblivious to the consequences.

Some Democrats in the House started to rebel last week, and some Democrats in the Senate have indicated they will ask for amendments on this bill as well. They are demanding that party leaders make an effort to at least acknowledge that this debt crisis exists. But Americans want more than lipservice.

Here is what the protests of squeamish Democrats in the House achieved: A bill that was supposed to increase the debt by $175 billion will now only increase the debt by $54 billion. In other words, instead of agreeing that the debt is out of control, Democrats played politics--they spent as much money as they could on this bill without losing the votes needed to pass it.

Even in the face of public outrage, Democrats are showing that either they just do not get it on this issue of debt or they just simply do not care. But it is even worse than that because not only are Democrats clearly unserious about this issue, they are not giving the American people the whole picture. They did not lower the price tag on this bill by making tough choices; they just shortened the timetable on the programs it funds by openly promising to add that spending back later. They do not plan to spend any less; they just plan to spend it all by putting it in separate bills, which is a little bit like arguing that you have less debt because you put it on different credit cards.

Clearly, Democrats do not see a $13 trillion national debt for the emergency it is. So let's remind ourselves where we stand so there is no confusion about the gravity of the situation. As I stand here this afternoon, every man, woman, and child in America would have to cough up more than $42,000 to pay down our debt. That is $42,000 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. And that is just the current debt. Remember, it took two centuries--two centuries--to accumulate a $10 trillion debt. In the first 500 days of this administration, Democrats added $2.4 trillion to the debt and plan to add another $1 trillion this year. Americans are as worried as I have ever seen them about the course we are on, and they have a simple message for Congress: Stop spending money we do not have.

One more thing. If all the domestic crises of the past few years have taught us anything, it is that more government is not a solution in itself. Yet this administration has approached virtually every crisis it has faced with more government as the primary solution.

Right now, among other challenges, we have a debt crisis, a jobs crisis, a housing crisis, a financial crisis, and an oilspill to which the American people clearly do not believe government is effectively responding. One can understand the American people's skepticism when they are told that simply adding more government is the solution to government's previous failures. They are being told that adding more government is the solution to government's previous failures.

Now is not the time to propose more government as a solution to these crises. It is time to rethink the model to start focusing on accountability and on results. And a good place to start is the debt. Americans expect action on this issue, and they expect it right now. Unfortunately, Democrats in Congress do not seem to be listening on this issue any more than they did on health care or the stimulus or financial regulatory reform or, for that matter, anything else.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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