Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, when it comes to the state of our economy, the American people have seen enough choreographed rallies on factory floors and speeches that sound good but lead to nothing.
After 2 years of chronic joblessness, they want results.
And that is why we have seen a growing consensus in Washington over the past few weeks that something serious must be done about our Nation's debt.
Even Democrats now admit that failing to bring down the debt would be far more damaging to our Nation's economy in the long run than failing to raise the debt ceiling. The situation has been described as the most predictable crisis in American history. People on both sides of the aisle now realize that the warning bells are too loud to ignore. And last month, President Obama himself made a crucial admission.
In a sign that he too is starting to worry about the prospects of inaction, the President said that failing to produce a serious plan for tackling the deficit and the debt could be a bigger drag on the economy than anything else.
So more and more people see the problem. Now the challenge is achieving a result.
And that is why I proposed a few basic principles yesterday that I believe could guide us to success.
This morning, I want to reiterate those principles ahead of the meeting at Blair House.
By setting out clear principles up front, we are far more likely to get somewhere. And to prevent this crisis before it strikes.
First: It is time our friends on the other side stop pitting one group of Americans against another. Solving this crisis will require all of us working together. Let's act like it.
Second: The level of spending that Democrats want to maintain just is not possible without raising taxes on the middle class, which we know is not going to happen. We are only going to solve this crisis by admitting up front that we have a spending problem.
Third: Entitlements need to be a part of this discussion. So let's drop the scare tactics and work together on reform. Nobody is talking about taking anybody's Medicare.
Fourth: Raising taxes is the last thing we should be doing in the middle of a recession. What's more, a bipartisan majority here in the Senate opposes it. So let's set that idea aside and find some common ground instead. If we recognize these things, we can avert this crisis. If we do not, we will not. And I assure you we will all answer for it.
Very few people saw the last crisis coming. This one, on the other hand, is clear as day. Failing to work together in good faith on a solution is completely indefensible. Everybody agrees this is a crisis. More people, including the President, agree that failing to address it would be disastrous for jobs and the economy. And everybody knows the upcoming debt limit vote is the best opportunity we have to do something about it.
So what are we waiting for?
Doing something meaningful about the debt is the centerpiece of any serious jobs agenda in Washington.
Other things will help on that front. And the President made a small but important step in the right direction yesterday by announcing he was ready to begin talks on a free trade agreement with Colombia, something we have been calling on him to do for years.
Ratifying this agreement, along with other agreements with South Korea and Panama, will open markets to U.S. goods and create thousands of jobs. It was just one of the ideas Republicans included in a comprehensive jobs agenda we released this week, an agenda that focuses on expanding opportunity, lowering costs, and clearing away bureaucratic barriers to growth.
But at the top of our list of the things we need to do to create jobs is bringing down the debt. If we can not get spending under control, we will never get the economy moving.
If the economy does not grow, we will not be able to reduce our deficits and our debt.
And if we do not reduce our massive Federal debt, we face a crisis that makes the financial panic of 2008 look like a slow day on Wall Street.
So this debate couldn't be more important to our near-term and long-term fiscal health.
Everyone has a stake in this debate. If we face up to it like adults, we will not only prevent this most predictable crisis, we will help preserve our way of life. And the best part is no one side will be able to claim the credit. This is the moment. We cannot let it pass.