State of the Union Address

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: Jan. 25, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, every grade school student knows that all three branches of the Federal Government in Washington are equal, but as every Member of Congress quickly learns, the President sets the agenda. Never is that more apparent than on the day of the State of the Union Address. This year the President will be speaking to a Congress that looks very different from the one he spoke to last year. The voters sent a clear message in November that when it comes to jobs and the economy, the administration's policies have done far more damage than good.

One very positive thing that the President could do tonight is to acknowledge they have a point. He has tried to do so indirectly in recent weeks by hiring new staff and by speaking in tones of moderation, but it takes more than a change in tone to improve the economy. It takes more than a change in tone to reduce the debt. It takes more than a change in tone to help create the right conditions for private-sector job growth. It takes a change in policy, and the early signals suggest the President isn't quite there yet.

The President has talked recently about working together to improve a regulatory climate that stifles business innovation and job growth. Yet he has not acknowledged the extent to which his own policies have stifled growth. Over the past 2 years, his administration has issued more than 130 economically significant new rules or 40 percent more than the annual rate under the last two Presidents. What is worse, the new health care bill will alone create 159 new bureaucratic entities and it is exempt from the President's proposed regulatory reforms. The health care bill, which will create 159 new bureaucratic entities, is exempt from the President's proposed regulatory reforms. This is bad news for small business that was already struggling to get by in a down economy and which is now grappling with how to afford all the new mandates in the new health care bill.

The President has talked about streamlining and reducing the burden of government. Yet the health care bill he has signed is already increasing the cost of care and forcing people out of their existing coverage. The debate over this bill continues and the President and Democrats in Congress continue to defend it. But when nearly two-thirds of doctors surveyed predicted it will make health care in America worse, Americans are right to be concerned. It should tell us something that of the 19 doctors currently in Congress, 18 of them support repeal of the health care bill.

The President has talked about the need to cut spending and reduce the debt. Yet over the last 2 years his policies have added more than $3 trillion to the national debt, much of it through a stimulus that promised to keep unemployment--now hovering just below double digits--from rising above 8 percent. And now we hear that he plans to stick with the same failed approach of economic growth through even more government spending with a call for ``investments'' in education, infrastructure, research, and renewable energy.

We have seen before what Democrats in Washington mean by investments. In promoting the failed stimulus, the President referred to that too as an investment in our Nation's future. Fourteen times alone during his signing statement he referred to the stimulus bill's investments. We all know how that turned out.

The first stimulus, we were told, would include critical so-called investments in education, infrastructure, scientific research, and renewable energy--the same areas we are told he will focus on tonight. Only later did we learn that some of these critical investments included things such as repairs on tennis courts, a study on the mating decisions of cactus bugs, hundreds of thousands of dollars for a plant database, and a $535 million loan to a California solar panel maker which, instead of hiring 1,000 new workers as planned, just laid off 175 instead.

This is what happens when the government decides to pick winners and losers without considering what the marketplace wants. Competitors are left out in the cold, employees get a false sense of security, and taxpayers are left holding the bag. Unfortunately, the President does not seem to have learned this lesson quite yet. But taxpayers now know that when Democrats talk about investments they should grab their wallets.

So I am all for the President changing his tune, but unless he has a time machine, he cannot change his record. If we are going to make any real progress in the areas of spending, debt, and reining in government, the President will have to acknowledge that the policies of the past 2 years are not only largely to blame for the situation we find ourselves in, but that unless we do something to reverse their ill effects, the road to recovery and prosperity will be a bumpy one.

The President has spoken in the tones of a moderate many times. He did so in his campaign. He has done so in countless speeches. He has a knack for it. I have no doubt he will do so again tonight. But speeches only last for as

long as they are delivered. Americans are more interested in what follows the speech and, in the case of this administration, Americans have good reason to be skeptical. Time and time again the President has spoken in a way that appeals to many, then governed in a way that does not. My hope is he will leave that method aside. A better path, in my view, is the one Republicans have been proposing for 2 years, one that respects both the wishes of the public and the two-party system.

Last year, prior to the President's State of the Union, I proposed a number of areas where I thought the two parties could find common ground and work together to help the economy. The President ignored just about everything I proposed. So when the pundits ask whether there are areas where the two parties could come together, I would say yes, I have proposed several of them, but the Democrats don't seem to be interested. Some have suggested that in this new post-election environment I might find a more receptive audience. So in the spirit of bipartisanship, I wish to propose once again a few areas where I believe the two parties can work together in the weeks and months ahead.

I believe the parties can and should work together on energy initiatives that expand America's domestic energy supply and make us less reliant on foreign sources; on expanding exports and creating jobs through free trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea; and on reforming corporate taxes so American businesses are more competitive in an increasingly global marketplace. These are just a few of the things we can do beyond the symbolic gestures and the posturing to help the economy.

Beyond that, we must work to cut spending and to rein in the size and scope and cost of government. The voters have been crystal clear on this point. By proposing more government spending tonight, the President is not only defying their will, he is refusing to learn the clear lesson of the failed stimulus--government may create debt but it doesn't create jobs.

I think we have a lot of work to do in bringing the two parties together in a program that will actually address the problems we face. But there are reasons for optimism. The President's change in tone is an acknowledgement at least that something has to change, as was his willingness to work with Republicans last month to keep taxes from going up on anyone. In the coming weeks and months Americans will be looking to him to come around on spending and debt as well, and Republicans will be working hard to persuade him to do so.

I yield the floor.