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Public Statements

President Should Drop Polarizing, Hard-Left Agenda and Focus on Bipartisan Solutions

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement on the Senate floor today regarding the need for bipartisan action from the President to solve Washington's out-of-control spending problem:

"President Obama may have been vague on details in his inauguration speech on Monday, but I'll give him this: he couldn't have been clearer about the tone and direction he has in mind for his second term.

"Gone is the post-partisan rhetoric that propelled him onto the national stage and into the White House; in its place, an unabashedly left-wing appeal for more bureaucratic control and centralized power in Washington. On Monday, we saw a President and a party that appeared to have shifted into reverse and jammed on the gas.

"For Democrats in the Obama age, the era of "Big Government Being Over' is officially over. And anybody who disagrees with their new approach isn't just wrong, they're not just standing in the way of progress, they're malevolent. They're the bad guys. They want to take food away from children. They want the old and infirm to suffer. They want to choose between caring for the people who built this country, as the President put it on Monday, and investing in those who will build our future.

"Now I don't know if the President really buys all this. I don't know if he believes his own caricature. I certainly hope not. But one thing I do know is that questioning the intentions of one's political opponents makes it awfully hard to get anything done in a representative Democracy. As the President himself, said, without so much as a hint of irony: We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.

"The President won the election. I congratulate him on his victory. It's his prerogative to lay out an agenda and to make an argument, against all evidence, for the efficacy of Big Government, more Washington spending, and centralization. It's even his prerogative to argue, mistakenly in my view, that America's greatness somehow rests not on its communities and voluntary associations, its churches and charities -- on civil society -- but on the dictates of Washington.

"But to suggest that those of us, and those of our constituents, who believe otherwise don't really want the best for our parents or our children or our country's future is, at best, needlessly provocative. At worst, it suggests a troubling inability to view those who don't happen to share your opinions as beneath you.

"To suggest, as one of the President's spokesmen did earlier this week, that both the American political system and those who belong to the Party of Lincoln aren't worthy of this White House or its agenda just isn't the way to get things done. It makes it impossible to tend to problems that we simply have to face up to, and that we'll only solve together. And, frankly, it calls into question the President's own belief in the wisdom and the efficacy of the constitutional system of checks and balances that the Founders so wisely put in place.

"The post-inaugural period is usually a chance to pivot to governing after a long campaign. It's an opportunity for Presidents to reach out to the minority and forge compromises. But that's not what we've seen this time around. Even before Monday, we all noted the harsh change in tone, the reboot of the campaign machine, and how instead of offering an olive branch to those who disagree with him, the President had already decided to transform his campaign operation into a weapon to bulldoze anyone who doesn't share his vision.

"Well, I'd suggest that one thing the American people don't want is a permanent campaign. They want us to work together on solutions to our problems -- and deficits and the debt are right at the top of the list.

"So I'd like to suggest this morning that the President re-think the adversarial tone he's adopted in recent weeks. Our problems are simply too urgent, and too big, for the President to give up on working with us. I appeal to him once again to work with us on the things we can achieve together. And let's start with the deficit and the debt. Because the only way we'll be able to tackle these problems is by doing it together. If he refuses, if he insists on spending the next four years pushing a polarizing, hard-left agenda instead, I assure him he'll meet a determined opposition not only from Republicans in Washington, but from the very people he seems to believe are squarely on his side in the push to remake government in his image.

"The irony in the President's attacks, of course, is that the kind of reforms Republicans are calling for are the only conceivable route to saving the programs the President claims he wants to protect.

"Failing to reform the entitlement programs of the last century now is the best way to guarantee they no longer exist in their current form. I mean, you could practically hear the ring of the cash register with every new promise the President made.

"At a time when we can all see the failure of such policies by simply turning on the news, he seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that from Athens to Madrid, the sad, slow death of the left's Big Government dream is on display for all to see. If we want a less prosperous, less dynamic, less mobile society, that's the way to go.

"The President's vision of an all-powerful government that rights every wrong and heals every wound may warm the liberal heart, but it's completely divorced from experience and from reality.

"So today, I'd like to do my part to bring the President and his allies in Congress a little closer to earth. I know it may be hard for them to accept, but the reality is this: we have a spending problem. Not a taxing problem; a spending problem.

"Just take a look at the chart behind me.

"In green, we have the revenue the federal government collects from taxes. As you can see, revenue today is just about where it has been for the past 30 years or so.

"Now, the President spent nearly his entire first term arguing that we needed to tax the so-called "rich' to solve our fiscal woes. He harangued Congress about it. He argued for it in rallies and debates. He threatened to push us over the cliff if he didn't get his way.

"In the end, he got his wish. Because the tax relief we passed in 2001 and 2003 carried an expiration date, President Obama got his tax hikes by operation of law, before Republicans then voted to make 99 percent of them permanent.

"Given how much time he devoted to that one topic, you'd think his tax hike would have closed the deficit, eliminated the entire national debt, and left us with extra cash to spare. But you see that teeny, tiny little blue line there? That's it. That's all the revenue the President got as a result of his long-sought tax hike on the so-called rich. It doesn't even come close to solving the problem.

"The real challenge, obviously, is how we're going to control all this red. Washington is already spending way more than it takes in, as you can see. And the real uptick comes around the time the President took office.

"It's been hard enough to find ways to close the President's trillion-dollar deficits. But they're next to nothing compared to what's going to hit us as tens of millions of Baby Boomers reach retirement age. Just look at this massive slope. It's going to take a real effort to solve that -- a bipartisan effort on the part of himself and both parties in Congress. That's the only way we can do it.

"Now, we've taken care of the revenue question. The law we voted for made current rates permanent. I doubt there's a single Republican vote in either house of Congress to raise them by another penny. But let's just pretend for a moment that Congress was willing to raise taxes again. Let's say we gave the President all the tax increases he demanded in his budget. Take a look at this little patch of grey here. Even if the President got his way on every single tax hike, no matter how outlandish -- look, hardly a scratch.

"So here's the reality the President needs to face, and quickly: there is no realistic way to raise taxes high enough to even begin to address this problem. That's why Republicans are saying that we need to start controlling spending now. And that's why, if the President wants to do something good right now, he should put aside the liberal wish-list, put aside the character attacks, and join us in this great task.

"What the President laid out Monday was the liberal dream. What I've just presented -- what this chart shows -- is the reality.

"I have no animus toward the President. I just want him to see the problem, and do something about it. Because the longer we wait, the worse the problem becomes. And the more we delay the inevitable, the less time younger Americans will have to plan for the reforms we make today. That's not right.

"So, the President has a choice. He can paint himself as a warrior of the left and charge into battle with failed ideas we've already tried before.

"He can demean and blame the opposition for his own failure to lead. He can indulge his supporters in a bitter, never-ending campaign that will only divide our country further.

"Or, he can take the responsible road. He can help his base come to terms with mathematical realities. He can reach out to leaders in both parties and negotiate in good faith. And he can even get the credit. That's fine by me. If boosting his legacy is what it takes, and it helps the country, all the better.

"If my constituents feel like we're working to help make their future a little better and a little brighter, great. But we can't waste any more time denying the reality that's staring each of us in the face."


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