Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, today the House of Representatives will vote on a bill that extends the temporary payroll tax cut as well as unemployment insurance and which will not add a dime to the Federal deficit. In other words, the House bill would do both of the things the President and Senate Democrats have described as their top legislative priorities before the close of this year.
So it was surprising, to say the least, to read this morning that President Obama and my friend, the majority leader, are now plotting to block this very legislation--even to the point of forcing a Government shutdown--over the inclusion of a job-creating measure that the President thinks will complicate his reelection chances next year.
That is what is happening in Washington this week, and the American people need to know about it. So let me repeat what is unfolding right now in the Capitol.
Yesterday, the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee--Democrats and Republicans alike--agreed to a spending bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year; that is, next September 30. Today, Republicans in the House will consider a bill that contains the President's top priorities: an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.
But here is the problem: The House bill also includes a provision to accelerate construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, a project that has been described as the biggest shovel-ready project in America. Evidently, the President does not want this project approved before his election next November--because a small faction of very liberal voters he is counting on to get reelected do not like the pipeline.
We have already had 3 years of environmental studies. This project was not only ready to go from an environmental point of view, it is shovel ready. It will produce jobs almost immediately, as soon as the President signs off on it.
Here is a project that would create tens of thousands of jobs, as I indicated, right away. It also would not cost the taxpayers a dime to build. It is being built by the private sector. It would reduce the share of energy we import from unfriendly countries overseas, and it is a project which everybody from labor unions--labor unions--to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says they support because it would create tens of thousands of jobs right away.
The Teamsters support getting the pipeline started right now. The AFL-CIO supports getting the pipeline started right now. This is the kind of project the Democrats themselves, including the President, have been saying all year they want.
But the Presidential campaign seems to be getting in the way, to the point that my friend, the majority leader, now says he is willing to hold up a bipartisan bill to fund our troops, border security, and other Federal responsibilities rather than letting the President decide if this pipeline project should move forward.
Let me say that again. The President and the Democratic majority leader, my friend, Harry Reid, are now saying they would rather shut down the government than allow this job-creating legislation to become law. That is what would happen if they succeed in blocking this bipartisan funding bill from coming to the floor for a vote.
House Republicans are giving the President everything he asked for today. They just think that instead of simply providing more relief to those who continue to struggle in this economy, we should also help prevent future job loss and incentivize the creation of new private sector jobs, all at the same time.
That is what the House bill does. It goes beyond government benefits--beyond government benefits--and takes us a step toward addressing the jobs crisis at hand.
Most people would view this proposal as evidence that the two parties are putting their best ideas on the table and addressing both sides of this jobs crisis--the relief side and the incentive side. Most people would call it a balanced approach.
Unfortunately, the President does not seem to be happy these days unless he has an issue over which to divide us. If the Republicans are proposing it, he is against it, regardless of how many job losses it prevents or how many private sector jobs it would help create, and he is not even trying to hide it.
The majority leader signaled yesterday that he and the President are so determined to turn even the most bipartisan job-creating legislation into a political issue that he will ask his Members to hold off signing the government funding legislation--that they have already agreed to on an a bipartisan basis--just to hand the President what they view as a political victory this week.
This is not just irresponsible, it is reckless. The House is about to pass a bill we believe--certainly going to consider today--would help working Americans by extending the temporary payroll tax cut, help unemployed Americans by extending unemployment insurance, and which would help Americans looking for work by accelerating the construction of the single biggest shovel-ready project in America. This is the biggest construction project in America, ready to go. It only needs a signoff from the President of the United States.
It deserves to pass with broad bipartisan support. They had a vote on that earlier this year in the House. Forty-seven House Democrats voted to get this project started. So I would suggest that our friends put the political games aside and give the American people the certainty and the jobs they deserve. Take up the House bill, pass it right here in the Senate, and send it to the President for a signature without theatrics and without delay.
I yield the floor.