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Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, in his State of the Union speech last week, President Obama promised America a year of action. He said he wants to use his pen and his phone to make it happen. Here is what I say: The President should use that pen and that phone of his today for the Keystone XL Pipeline and the jobs that will be created almost immediately.
Here is something both parties can agree on. I see my colleague from North Dakota here, and nobody has been more aggressively advocating the Keystone Pipeline than he has. This is an important shovel-ready project for America. Here is the President's chance to work with Republicans on a bipartisan plan to create thousands--literally thousands--of private sector jobs almost immediately. Here is his chance to show he is not captive to the ideological extremists on the left. Here is his chance for action on a policy the American people actually want. Here is his chance.
On Friday, the State Department released yet another report concluding what the President and everyone else already knew. The Keystone XL would meet the President's stated requirements on the environment, and there was basically no good reason not to build it.
So here is a project that essentially wouldn't cost the taxpayers a dime to build, that would have almost no net environmental effect, and that would put thousands of Americans to work right away. It is an initiative that is supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans. It is supported by unions, by businesses, by Republicans, by Independents, and even by prominent Democrats--close to 20 right here in the Senate alone. Yet the President has delayed and delayed for more than 5 years now, not because the project really needs to be studied further but because of pressure from the most doctrinaire fringe of the doctrinaire left.
These are the kinds of folks who care a lot more about ideology than what makes sense for the middle class. Yet these are the same folks who have a lot of influence in today's Democratic Party. Just look at the war on coal--a war that is being waged with scant concern for the lives of people who live in States such as Kentucky where people are really hurting, and it doesn't seem to matter much to these folks.
So here is the thing. The President has run out of excuses on Keystone. It is way past time to make a decision. Let's be honest: This decision shouldn't be a hard one at all because the science, the economics, and common sense all basically point in one direction. As far as I can tell, ideology is really the only thing that could lead to a different decision.
So is President Obama on the side of the middle class or is he on the side of leftwing special interests? He needs to use that pen to show us where he stands, and he really ought to do it today.
While he is at it, he should pick up the phone too because in his State of the Union Address the President called on Congress to help break down trade barriers that stand in the way of more American jobs. He called for legislation that would help prevent foreign countries from taking the trade jobs that should be going to America's middle class.
``China and Europe aren't standing on the sidelines,'' he said, and ``neither should we,'' he said. Republicans applauded him for that. He is absolutely right. But now the President's own party is standing in the way of getting anything done. So if there ever was a moment for the President to use his phone, this is it because trade should be a bipartisan issue. It sure used to be. Just ask President Clinton.
America's middle class is hurting. The very least Washington can do for them is to approve job-creating initiatives such as Keystone and enhancing American exports. So we will see soon enough if the President meant what he said about his pen and his phone--if his year of action will really be just that instead of another tired slogan.
The answer is pretty simple. The President needs to step up and lead. Middle class Americans have taken a back seat to the hard left extremists in this town for entirely too long. It is time for the President to stand up to these folks and to do the right thing. Pick up that phone and that pen and get this done.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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