BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Our friends on the other side, the Senate Democrats, have put on a clinic this week on how not to run a serious legislative body. If they have achieved anything at all, it is to make Americans even more frustrated with Congress, as if that were possible.
Faced with skyrocketing gas prices, Senate Democrats turned to a bill that even they admit doesn't lower them. Then, to make matters worse, they blocked Republicans from offering anything that might. That was their brilliant plan on how to deal with gas prices: raise taxes on energy companies, when gas is already hovering around $4 a gallon, then block consideration of anything else just to make sure gas prices don't go anywhere but up.
Somehow they thought doing this would set up some kind of political win for them, which, frankly, I don't understand. I mean, I can't imagine anybody giving them any high-fives for not lowering gas prices. But, anyway, that was obviously the plan. It appears to have fallen short because now they want to move off this issue and on to another political vote to yet another debate where the goal isn't to make a difference but, rather, to make a point--to increase taxes not lower prices at the pump.
Well, I don't expect this next vote will have the political punch they expect either. But that is the Democratic plan anyway. It is getting quite tedious. Day after day after day, Senate Democrats all choose to come out here not so we can make an actual difference in the lives of working Americans and families struggling to fill the gas tank, but so we can watch them stage votes for show. For some reason they thought they would put some political points on the board this week if the American people saw them voting for a tax hike we all knew ahead of time didn't have the votes to pass.
That didn't work. If anyone has any doubt about that, just ask yourself why they were moving to actually get off of it. Now they think they will score political points by staging another vote on a tax hike we know doesn't have the votes to pass.
None of this makes sense to me. But that is how the Democrats have chosen to run this place. If they want to keep trying to distract the American people from the fact they do not have any solutions to the problems we face, that is their prerogative. But that is not going to keep Republicans from talking about ours. That is not going to keep us from trying to actually make a difference around here.
Surveys show two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way the President is handling high gas prices.
We know high gas prices are having a negative impact on Americans' daily lives. So we think the American people are entitled to this debate. They sent us to do something other than put on a show, and that is why we will continue to insist on a serious debate.
The majority leader frequently complains there isn't any time to focus on priorities such as cybersecurity, postal reform, and the Export-Import Bank, not to mention maybe passing a budget for the first time in 3 years. Yet he seems to find the time to hold not one but two political show votes on tax hikes.
The way I see it, the American people didn't send us to score political points. As I said, they sent us to make a difference. So I will be voting against this tax hike on American energy manufacturers, and I would urge my colleagues to do the same.
I hope that when the Senate returns in April, Democrats will have heard from their constituents and will focus on jobs and prices at the pump--rather than the latest political vote.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, we have all been following what has been going on across the street this week with great interest. While we all have our preferences, none of us knows at this point how the Supreme Court will rule. But one thing we should all be able to agree on is that the President's health care bill is a mess, an absolute mess.
The American people clearly don't like it. Polls show the majority want the law repealed. More than two-thirds of the public, including most Democrats, believe the core of this bill is unconstitutional. It is loaded, literally loaded with broken promises.
The President said it would lower costs. It is, in fact, raising costs. Proponents said it would create jobs. Now we know it means fewer jobs. The President said families would save on their premiums. They are, in fact, going up. He said people would be able to keep the insurance they have and like. They will not. CBO's most likely prediction finds 3 to 5 million Americans will lose their current plan every single year. The President said he would protect Medicare, but, instead, the law raids Medicare for over $500 billion, cutting billions from hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, and Medicare Advantage.
The President promised the American people their taxes wouldn't go up one penny. Two years later, the American people found out their taxes will be going up by more than $550 billion. The Joint Committee on Taxation found no fewer than 11 separate taxes and penalties that fall squarely on the middle class.
Remember the CLASS Act? The administration said it would be fiscally stable and would reduce the deficit. A couple months ago, it was determined to be unsustainable and was shut down before it even began.
The President told the American people, ``Federal conscience laws will remain in place.'' Two years later, he turned around and gave his approval to HHS to mandate that religious-affiliated schools, universities, hospitals, and charities would have to violate their religious tenets or pay a hefty fine.
Finally, the health care law will increase Medicaid rolls by nearly 25 million people, costing already cash-strapped States another $118 billion--money many Governors, including Kentucky's, don't know where to get.
This law is bad for Kentucky, it is bad for the country, and it is bad for health care. Americans don't want it. Regardless of what the court decides this summer, it should be repealed and it should be replaced. It should be replaced with commonsense reforms that lower costs and that Americans actually want--reforms that protect jobs and State budgets, reduce the deficit, reform entitlements, and strengthen Medicare.
One broken promise is one too many. This law is full of broken promises from top to bottom.
Two years ago, then-Speaker Pelosi said we would have to pass this bill to find out what was in it. Now we know. The American people have had a chance to decide for themselves. They don't like it. They want it repealed, and that is what we plan to do.
Madam President, I once again share with my colleagues stories of the heartbreaking events in my home State of Kentucky in the aftermath of the horrific wave of storms and tornadoes that ravaged my State, along with several others in the Midwest, earlier this month.
As I have already stated on the floor, these were very severe tornadoes, with at least 11 funnel clouds confirmed by the National Weather Service to have touched down in my State, blowing at wind speeds up to 125 miles an hour.
We know 24 Kentuckians lost their lives and more than 300 were injured. Many homes, churches, schools, and places of business were destroyed. Scenes of destruction still exist across the State in places such as Magoffin County, Menifee County, Kenton, Morgan, Laurel, Lawrence, Martin, Pulaski, Johnson, and Trimble, all those counties in my State which were among the hardest hit.
Kentuckians are working hard to rebuild. I am pleased to say that despite the tragedy of lives lost, families grieving, and memories destroyed forever, there is some good news to report; that is, how inspiring it is to see so many good-hearted Kentuckians come together to provide for their neighbors in the wake of these tornadoes.
Take, for example, the congregation of Arthur Ridge
Baptist Church in the town of East Bernstadt, located in Laurel County. Thanks to the leadership of Pastor Steve Smith, Arthur Ridge Baptist Church opened its doors within hours of the storm's end to provide food and shelter for those who needed it.
Pastor Smith kept the church doors open for 24 hours a day and served up to 700 meals a day to local residents who had no food, no kitchen, and no home to call their own. According to Pastor Smith, people from all over the area pitched in. Folks from different churches worked to prepare meals, and many residents donated items such as dishes, silverware, toiletries, pillows, and blankets for care packages to distribute to the victims of the storm. Local businesses did their part too. The nearby Little Caesar's pizza in London gave away 120 pizzas in 1 day, soon after the tornadoes. Many other local restaurants donated food as well.
Thanks in part to the efforts of Pastor Smith and the congregation of Arthur Ridge Baptist Church, life is just a little bit better for many in East Bernstadt. At first, the church had to tend to people's most immediate and ``simple needs--water, a hot meal, an air mattress to sleep on,'' says Pastor Smith, who is a Laurel County native and has been the pastor at Arthur Ridge now for 6 years. He says, however, ``People are over the shock and awe.''
Weeks after the tornadoes passed, the church was still open 14 hours a day, distributing 125 to 150 meals a day and running a clothing distribution center. Pastor Smith's latest focus was on finding a place to set up donated washing and drying machines so local storm victims without homes can actually clean their clothes.
Over 3,500 people have registered to volunteer in the region, and as of last week over 25,000 meals had been served to displaced families.
This is just one story of how many Kentuckians have joined together to help the least fortunate in my State. Hawk Creek Baptist Church in Laurel County, First Baptist Church of East Bernstadt, and Trinity Freewill Baptist Church of Martin County also opened their doors to provide shelter and relief to displaced Kentuckians and the volunteers working to help them in the days after the disaster struck.
Jim Paul, director of the organization called Ken-Tenn Relief Team, was in East Bernstadt the morning after the storms with food supplies. He trucked in a tractor-trailer load of donated food and other items and personally volunteered dozens of hours in at least three counties to aid storm victims.
In Morgan County, the local Appalachian Regional Healthcare hospital suffered serious damage. Every second-floor window of the hospital was literally blown out, doors were torn off their hinges, and part of the roof was ripped off. Dozens of people were injured and the patients had to be evacuated to nearby hospitals.
Luckily, Martie and Teresa Johnson, owners of a nearby Wendy's restaurant, stepped in to help. They served 450 hot meals to the cleanup crew who came in to repair the Morgan County ARH hospital and also traveled to Salyersville and gave away food there.
One television station in Hazard, WYMT, held a telethon to raise money for victims across the State. I was pleased to play a small part in that effort myself, as the television station asked me to record a greeting describing the devastating effects of the tornados. The people of the region raised over $180,000 in the telethon for disaster relief.
The local J.C. Penney of Corbin donated clothing and shoes to area elementary school students, and the employees of the store took up a collection to donate winter, spring, and summer clothing for the children.
``Some of [the employees] don't have a lot to give, but when this came up, they all wanted to know what else we needed,'' says Tiffany Flint, the Corbin J.C. Penney store manager.
We hope it will help the children to look good and feel good. We just wanted to do this to help them get back on their feet.
The men's soccer team from Kentucky's University of the Cumberlands donated some of their time to help the less fortunate. Head soccer coach Brenton Benware, his staff, and nearly 30 student athletes drove to East Bernstadt to help clean up debris in the area.
``Going ..... was just another reminder of how blessed we really are,'' said Coach Benware. ``I think we were all deeply affected by what we saw and reminded how important it is to serve and help our neighbors in times of need.''
While there, the University of the Cumberlands soccer team may have run into the soccer team from Union College, which also traveled to Laurel County to help. The team stacked wood from downed trees, cleared debris from backyards, and helped a man move a displaced steel roof that the tornado had deposited in his yard.
Union College dean of students Debbie D'Anna was responsible for sponsoring the trip, while the school's campus food services donated snacks and bottled water, and James Jimerson of the school's physical plant loaned out tools. Local businesses, such as Knox Hardware and Pope's Lumber, donated work and cleaning supplies. Many faculty, staff and students of Union College donated items such as food, clothing, and other essentials.
In Salyersville, a town in Magoffin County, the block known as ``Restaurant Row'' was hit by a tornado and nearly every restaurant on it destroyed. One of the few left was a Dairy Queen owned by Doug and Sue Mortimer.
On the night of the storms, they opened their restaurant, running on generator power, and served free meals to the volunteers working to clean up the wreckage.
Several Home Depot stores in Kentucky and Indiana contributed to the relief efforts as well. In the West Liberty area, district manager Becky Young and store manager Jim Householder coordinated donations of approximately $2,600, and Jim's store employees were out immediately after the storm handing out paper towels, trash bags, and gloves to relief volunteers.
Other Home Depot stores in Kentucky and Indiana, led by district manager Tim Choate and district human resource manager Lee Ann Bruce, donated thousands of dollars' worth of products such as chainsaws, gloves, respirators, tarps, water, and trash bags to organizations such as the Henryville Fire Department and local United Way chapters. And store employees volunteered to assist those organizations in the recovery.
Lowe's stores in Kentucky have also pitched in, providing gloves, tarps, shovels, bleach, and other supplies to communities all across the State. In addition to over $300,000 donated by the company to relief efforts after the storms, the Lowe's district manager for Kentucky, Stephen West, dispatched ``Lowe's Heroes,'' store employees who are volunteering their time and construction know-how.
Local Walmart stores in Kentucky as well as the company's foundation have provided tens of thousands of dollars' worth of water, cleaning supplies, baby food, diapers, and more to help the community. Bob Gound, the market human resources manager for Walmart locations in eastern Kentucky, has taken the lead in coordinating these efforts. And local store employees are making bag lunches and handing them out in the hardest-hit Kentucky communities.
I have seen firsthand in my recent visits to the Bluegrass State both how severe the destruction is, and how hard the people of Kentucky are working to rebuild and lift their neighbors out of the dire circumstances that the cruel forces of nature have put so many of them in.
It is thanks to altruistic and generous Kentuckians like Pastor Steve Smith, among many others, that I am confident that the Kentuckians hurt by these storms will recover. I and my staff throughout the State have heard so many heart-warming stories like the few I have just shared that it would not be possible for me to recite them all on this Senate floor.
But I hope that the few stories I have shared are more than enough to reassure my colleagues, the people of Kentucky, and the world that we Kentuckians are stout of heart and firm in our resolve. We will prevail over this tragedy. We will rebuild towns like East Bernstadt to be better than they were before. And the families of Kentucky will hopefully one day heal the wounds in their hearts and continue on.
TRIBUTE TO LAURA DOVE
Madam President, I know I have inconvenienced the Senator from Georgia, but I have one more rather brief comment. I would like to say a few words about Laura Dove, who is leaving us this week, sitting right here at the table on the Republican side of the Chamber in the well.
For C SPAN2 watchers out there, Laura is the assistant secretary for the minority. We wish she were the assistant secretary for the majority, but she is assistant secretary for the minority, which means she is one of the people who make this place run every day but whose names you don't hear on the rollcall.
She has put in her time, starting out as a page in high school and later moving to the Republican cloakroom. She did a stint at the Senate Republican Conference and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. And then Dave Schiappa, the Secretary for the Minority, hired her back into his shop about 10 years ago.
And she's done a fabulous job. Senate work is in Laura's DNA. Her dad's a past Senate parliamentarian. And she's been an invaluable member of the floor team for as long as I can remember--counseling members on the floor, working with committees to clear legislation, and doing countless other essential tasks, big and small, that nobody watching from home would even notice.
She always has a smile, always handles the pressure down in the well with a cool-head, and I know she's been an anchor for Dave over the years. So we will miss having her around.
And we wish her all the best as she moves onto other things.
I know she wants to travel with her husband Dan, and her two children Jakey and Abby. I don't think any of us would be surprised if Laura came back. But for now, I thank her for her service to the Senate.
I yield the floor.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, I have one question before this morning's vote--one simple question: Is this the best we can do? Is this the best we have to offer folks who are staring at $4-a-gallon gasoline, a bill that even Democrats admit won't do anything at all to lower the price of gas, and a process that blocks any other idea from even coming to the floor for a vote? Is this the best we can do? No other idea has been allowed other than a proposal that will inevitably raise the price of gasoline at the pump. Does anybody think the Senate has done its job on this issue?
Well, if you don't, if you think we should do more for the American people at a time when they are paying $4 a gallon for gas than raise taxes on energy manufacturers and block a pipeline from Canada, then you ought to vote against cloture. You should stand with Republicans and insist we do more to lower gas prices in this country.
I see the President made a statement a little while ago in support of this proposed tax hike. My question is: Where was the White House when the Democrats voted to actually get off of this proposal? Maybe they were too busy lining up votes against the Keystone Pipeline. Maybe the President was too busy telling the Russians about how he is hoping for more flexibility.
My point is Democrats don't have to take orders from the White House. They don't need to serve the President's political strategy. They can do what their constituents want them to do on this issue. They can vote to stay on this bill and fight for real solutions to the problems of high gas prices and any other number of issues the Democrats refuse to face, for that matter. We can use this institution to actually make a difference. I hope at some point that is what my colleagues on the other side decide to do.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.