Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, last night the Senate voted to proceed to the STOCK Act--a bill, incidentally, that was coauthored by two Republicans. I am glad the majority leader is going to allow amendments for a change. Up until a few years ago, the Senate has been known as a forum for open-ended debate. The minority party may not have always gotten its way, but at least it knew it would always be heard. It is something we have not done nearly enough of in these past few years. I hope it does not prove to be a false promise. I expect Senators on both sides of the aisle will have a number of amendments to this legislation.
But one thing that stands out is the fact that the President is calling on Congress to live up to a standard he is not requiring of his own employees. So I think we can expect at least one amendment that calls on executive branch employees to live up to the same standards they would set for others. If the goal is for everyone to play by the same rules, that should not mean just some of us, and it certainly should not leave out those in the executive branch who, after all, have access to the most privileged information of all.
So the goal in the course of this floor debate will be to make sure the executive branch--those most likely to take advantage of insider information--is fully and adequately covered by this regulation.
But let's be clear. President Obama is not interested in this bill because it would address the Nation's most pressing challenges. Of course it will not. He is interested in it because it allows him to change the subject. The more folks are talking about Congress, the less they are talking about the President's own dismal economic record. Frankly, for a President who has presided over a 43-percent increase in the national debt in just 3 years and the stain of the first ever downgrade of America's credit rating, I can certainly understand why he would want to change the subject. I can see why he would rather be talking about Congress or the Super Bowl or the weather or anything other than his own failed economic policies. But the problems we face are too grave and too urgent, and every day the President spends time trying to change the topic instead of changing the direction of the economy is another day he is failing the American people who elected him.
Now, the President can pretend he just showed up. He can try to convince people, as he tried to do this weekend, that the economy is moving in the right direction, but he is not fooling anybody. Americans know we are living in an economy that has been weighted down and held back by legislation he passed with the help of a big Democratic majority in each House of Congress. Americans know we are living in the Obama economy now--we are living in the Obama economy right now--and they are tired of a President who spends his time blaming others for an economy he put in place. They want the President to lead.
I have yet to see a survey in the past year that shows Americans agreeing with the President on the direction of the country or the economy. The ones I have seen all say the opposite. Wide bipartisan majorities believe the country is on the wrong track.
For small business owners, the people we are counting on to create jobs in this country, the numbers are even starker. According to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 85 percent--85 percent--of small business owners say the economy is on the wrong track. Eighty-four percent of them say the size of the national debt makes them unsure about the future of their businesses. Eighty-six percent worry that regulations, restrictions, and taxes will hurt their ability to do business. Just about three-quarters of them say the President's health care bill will make it harder for them to hire. In other words, it is a huge drag on job creation.
If I were the President, I would probably rather be talking about Congress too. I understand why he would rather be talking about what Congress may or may not do rather than what he has already done. He would rather be talking about what Congress may or may not do rather than what he has already done. But he has a job to do. He was elected to do something about the problems we face, not blame others for our problems. He was elected to take responsibility for his own actions, not pretend they somehow never happened.
Today the Congressional Budget Office will release an annual report on the Nation's finances. We do not know all the particulars, but I can tell you this: It will not paint a very rosy picture. Our fiscal problems are serious, and every day that the President refuses to address them, they become harder to solve.
So my message to the White House this morning is simple: It is time to lead.
I yield the floor.