Solution to Fiscal Crisis Hinges on President's Ability to Lead, Bring Both Sides Together

Statement

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: Nov. 15, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the need for presidential leadership on serious solutions to solve the nation's fiscal crisis:

"With the New Year fast approaching, all eyes are on Washington, and whether the two parties can come together and agree on a plan to avoid a massive year-end tax hike. And I truly believe we can.

"I believe the two parties can avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. And in the process, I even believe we can agree on a framework for a bipartisan plan to address the even bigger problem of our nation's fiscal solvency.

"But there are clear obstacles to success. And if we're going to succeed, if we want to avoid a job-killing tax hike and put the country on the path to solvency, we need to be clear about what those obstacles are.

"The first obstacle is a very vocal and very determined group of extremists on the Left who are rooting for us to go off the fiscal cliff. These are the folks the President invited to the White House earlier this week, and who seem to have gotten a number of Democrats in the Senate to embrace this reckless idea themselves.

"Make no mistake: the goal of these folks isn't to do what's best for the middle-class.

"It isn't to create jobs. It isn't even to balance the books, since the taxes they'd hike wouldn't even come close to covering current spending. What they want is to sock it to those they define as rich, regardless of the impact on jobs or the broader economy. That's what motivates this crowd.

"They're not serious about tackling the nation's fiscal problems. And if we're serious about helping middle-class Americans and helping this economy grow, their radical approach should be ignored.

"The other obstacle to success is a mindset that says the President of the United States is somehow a bit player in this whole thing, that he's just a bystander sitting around waiting on other people to act. This is the mindset that thinks leadership consists in telling other people to "work it out' while you continue to run a campaign to make sure they can't. It's ludicrous.

"The only way -- the only way -- we're going to solve this present crisis, and get past the political stalemate, is for the President to lead.

"Just to illustrate the point, let me remind everyone of something that happened two years ago next month, because it says a lot about the power of presidential leadership in critical moments like this. Less than two years ago, the President said he wasn't going to allow tax rates to go up on anyone because, as he put it, "you don't raise taxes in the middle of a recession'.

"Let's leave that aside for a second, that if it was a good idea then, it's an even better idea now, since the economy is growing even more slowly now than it was in late 2010. Just leave that aside.

"The point here is that the moment the President of the United States said those words -- the moment he signaled that it was okay to keep rates where they were -- 40 Democrats, including many who'd spent the previous decade campaigning against them -- got in line and followed his lead.

"That's an example of presidential leadership. And that's just what's needed now.

"The President is the only person in America, the only one out of 315 million, who can sign a bill into law. He's the only one who can lead the members of his own party to do something they wouldn't ordinarily do, but first he needs to decide it's time to put away the talking points and do something good for the county.

"Ronald Reagan understood this. Bill Clinton understood this. And President Obama seemed to understand it too in December 2010.

"So I'll say it again: the only way we succeed is if the President steps up and leads.

"It starts by showing that he's serious about success. And let's be clear: an opening bid of $1.6 trillion in new tax hikes isn't serious. It's more than Simpson/Bowles or any other bipartisan commission has called for. It's been unanimously rejected in the House and Senate. It's twice as much as the White House seemed ready to agree to during last summer's debt ceiling talks, and looked at in the context of the spending cuts that are yet to be enacted from the President's other proposals, it amounts to about 20 cents in cuts for every new dollar in tax hikes -- in other words, no cuts at all. It's a joke.

"Look: the people I talk to across Kentucky, they don't want any more political fights that get us nowhere. They want the two parties to work together to find a solution to our fiscal problems. And that's just what we're proposing.

"Yesterday, the President said he had an open mind when it came to finding a solution to these things. He said he's happy to listen to other people's ideas. I take that as a good sign.

"If the President's got an open mind, maybe he'll see that Republicans are the ones who've expressed a willingness to step out of our comfort zone if it actually leads to solution. We don't happen to think the government needs more revenue. Government spends too much as it is. But if Democrats are willing to reduce spending and strengthen entitlement programs, which we all know are on an unsustainable path that threatens their own long-term viability and the economic well-being of our children and grandchildren, then we'll be there.

"What we won't do is raise tax rates, and kiss goodbye more than 700,000 good jobs in the process. What we won't do is embrace a tax policy that disincentives saving and work. What we won't do is agree to revenue in exchange for reforms we know won't materialize.

"That's not a good deal for anybody, certainly not the middle class Americans the President says he's got a mandate to protect. If the President wants to help the middle class, he'll accept the basic outline that Speaker Boehner proposed last week and convince his fellow Democrats to do the same. Ignore the reckless voices of those on the far left who are calling for fiscal calamity. Ignore the extremists who want to cover their eyes and do nothing to protect and strengthen entitlement programs for the future. And propose a plan that you know both sides can accept.

"That's how we get out of this. That's how we succeed.

"The scope of this challenge calls for presidential leadership. That's what the American people should be able to expect, and that's all that Republicans are calling for.

"It's the President's turn to propose a specific plan that brings both parties together. That's what a President is elected to do. It's what he pledged to do. And it's precisely the sort of leadership we need."