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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, yesterday, I said there were a number of things the President could announce in his North Carolina speech that would draw bipartisan support and actually boost the economy. One of the things I was particularly disappointed he didn't push--at least push harder--is trade.
As I said, this is one of the brightest areas of his economic agenda, but if we as a nation don't act quickly and decisively, the world is going to literally pass us right by. We are going to miss opportunities to benefit economically, to open foreign markets to American goods and to America's political and cultural influence.
When we look at the rest of the developed world, from Europe to Canada to Australia, they are practically falling all over themselves to negotiate more and better opportunities, while we basically have sat on our hands, a consequence of the President's inability to persuade his own party--his own party--to expand trade-related jobs.
So we need to catch up, but we can't do that without leadership from the President, the kind of leadership as we have seen in the Senate from the chairman of the Finance Committee, who himself obviously is a Democrat. He has been a tireless advocate for trade and for American agriculture. Yet with his retirement looming on the horizon, I am afraid there might not be many Democrats left in the Senate willing to help lead on this issue. That is why we need the President to be deeply involved. We need him to step up for American workers and increase exports by bringing his own party on board with a trade promotion bill that was introduced just last week.
The authority in that legislation is key to enabling the administration to conclude critical trade negotiations that hold incredible promise for American jobs and economic growth. With our economy in such dire straits these days, opening new opportunities for American goods through trade should be a real no-brainer. It is an issue that used to be fairly bipartisan around here, and it can be again, if the President is willing to lead. Millions of middle-class families and small businesses are counting on him to do just that.
So I look forward to him promoting the benefits of trade and the legislation I mentioned in his State of the Union Address. I hope we will hear about that. When he does so, Republicans will be right there with him to move the trade promotion bill through Congress in a bipartisan fashion.
EPA COAL REGS
Last week the Obama administration published a regulation that would effectively ban coal-fired powerplants from being built in the future.
The head of the EPA, who will be testifying on this regulation today, basically admitted as much herself when she called it ``significant economic lift.'' She knows the technology this regulation requires is prohibitively expensive; that her own agency knows it is nowhere near--nowhere near--ready for adoption; that even some White House officials do not believe her plan is feasible, and that is the point. The point is to eliminate coal jobs in America.
That is why I wasn't surprised by emails that recently came to light--emails which appeared to show EPA officials colluding with extremist special interests in devising impossible-to-achieve regulations. The emails even referred to previously shuttered powerplants as ``defeated,'' making the intent behind coal-related actions abundantly clear.
Here is the other thing. This new regulation is not even expected to reduce emissions in a meaningful way--not even expected to reduce emissions in a meaningful way. What it will do, however, is trigger a section of the law that would allow the administration to eventually shut down coal-fired plants that exist today.
In other words, it would allow the administration to achieve its true aim of eliminating coal jobs completely. For struggling middle-class families across eastern Kentucky, this is just the latest punch in the gut from Washington, from an administration whose own advisers seem to believe that ``a war on coal is exactly what is needed,'' from one of the President's advisers.
Some call this regulation outrageous. Some say it is extremism at its worst. Here is what I call it. It is absolutely cruel because here is what is lost in this administration's crusade for ideological purity, in its crusade for approval of coastal editorials--human lives are affected, the lives of people I represent, folks who haven't done anything to deserve a war being declared on them.
These are the Kentuckians who just want to work, provide for their families, and deliver the type of low-cost energy that attracts more jobs to Kentucky. And coal is what allows so many of them to do all that. It provides well-paying jobs. And, as Jimmy Rose of Bell County, KY, who has now become a rather famous country singer, puts it in his hit song, ``Coal Keeps the Lights On.''
I remind my colleagues that coal does more than keep the lights on in Kentucky; it keeps the lights on here too, both figuratively and literally. From the anti-coal blogger tapping out a tweet to the EPA staffer cooking up a meal, millions of Americans rely on coal to power their homes and their offices. In recent years, coal has accounted for about 40 percent of the electricity generated in our country. That compares to just 3.5 percent for sources such as wind and solar. So even if the administration were to achieve its dream of eliminating every last coal job, it is not as though they could just fire up a few windmills to cover the gap. It is going to take a very long time--decades--for alternative sources to even come close to providing the same level of jobs and energy as coal. In other words, the administration's ideological crusade doesn't even seem to have a logical end game. It is basically just ideology.
Here is the thing. Republicans agree that alternative and renewable energy sources are necessary for fuel diversity, but we believe wind and geothermal and solar should be part of an ``all of the above'' energy strategy which also includes coal and natural gas and the oil we can get right here in North America, with Americans providing the workforce.
Another key difference is this: Republicans look at Kentucky coal miners and see hard-working men and women, not obstacles to some leftwing fantasy. That is why I, along with 40 Republican cosponsors--including my friend and fellow Kentuckian Rand Paul--intend to file a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to ensure a vote to stop this devastating rule. We believe the EPA regulation in question clearly meets the definition for congressional review under this statute, and I am sending a letter to Comptroller General Dodaro outlining the reasons why that is the case.
If the majority leader were serious about helping Kentuckians, he would stop blocking the Senate from passing my Saving Coal Jobs Act. It is commonsense legislation that would give elected representatives of the people a greater say in how coal is regulated in this country. There is no reason for him to keep it bottled up a moment longer.
Look. Kentucky is facing a real crisis. The Obama administration appears to be sending signals that its latest regulation is actually just the beginning in a new, expanded front in its war on coal. Already the administration's regulations have played a significant role in causing coal jobs in my State to plummet. These are good jobs which pay more than $1 billion in annual wages to my constituents. For every miner with a job, three more Kentuckians will hold a coal-dependent job as well.
The majority leader and his Democratic caucus now have a choice: Are they going to stand with the coal families under attack in places such as Kentucky and West Virginia and Colorado or are they going to continue to stand with the powerful leftwing special interests who want to see their jobs completely eliminated? That is the choice. It is pretty clear where I stand and where most of my colleagues on this side of the aisle stand.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.