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West Virginia Mine Disaster

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, while we were in recess, the people of West Virginia experienced a very difficult mine safety experience. Our neighbors in West Virginia, like Kentucky, are big coal producers. We have had our share, in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, over the years of mining disasters, and our hearts and prayers go out to our neighbors in West Virginia as they attempt to recover from the latest tragedy in what is obviously a very dangerous profession, and that is mining of coal.


We also witnessed a great tragedy overseas, the death of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and so many other Polish leaders over the weekend. This is obviously a terrible tragedy for Poland and a great loss for us as well. Poland is a great friend of the United States and we send our heartfelt condolences and every expression of solidarity to the Polish people and the families of the dead at this very difficult time.


Turning back to home now, I want to welcome everybody back. I hope everyone had a restful and productive break. My constituents have never been shy about sharing their views on what we are doing here in Washington. These past 2 weeks were no different. To be perfectly blunt: Kentuckians are concerned about the direction of our country. They are overwhelmingly opposed to the health spending bill, what it will cost, and the process used to pass it. And more generally, Kentuckians, and Americans everywhere, are concerned about the consequences of the endless borrowing and spending here in Washington.

Americans worry that we are on the cusp or maybe even past the cusp of a debt crisis. And they are frustrated. They don't understand how lawmakers in Washington can ignore this looming disaster after just narrowly averting the last one. Americans know that this is one crisis no bailout could ever prevent. We could borrow a trillion dollars to dig the country out of a mess that was created on Wall Street, but once the government maxes out its own credit card, there is nowhere to turn--except to the citizens themselves.

So the time to act is now. The deficit this year alone is projected to be more than $1.4 trillion. Social Security recently started paying out more than it is taking in. Interest payments alone on the national debt are approaching $1 trillion a year. Interest rates on mortgages, student loans, and small business loans are threatening to rise. There is no reason to think the problems we are seeing in Europe won't strike here at home if we do nothing to reverse current trends.

Those who continue to use the taxpayer credit card with reckless abandon threaten not only our chances of a quick recovery and the jobs it would create but also the nation's long-term fiscal security--and a safety net that has been built up over the decades precisely for moments like this. Democrats can no longer hide behind the argument of good intentions when the results threaten our very stability as a nation.

We must get a handle on the deficit and the debt. This is the issue that will focus our attention in the weeks and months ahead. And over the coming weeks, I assure you, Republicans will continue to give our colleagues across the aisle and our President the opportunity to live up to the President's commitment on February 13: ``Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.'' Americans will not tolerate another crisis of Washington's making.


Another issue we will be focused on, of course, is the Supreme Court. Justice Stevens' decision last week to retire from the Court gives us another opportunity to discuss the proper role of our Federal courts and our Constitution.

Last year, during the debate over Justice Sotomayor's nomination, Americans saw the Senate debate and discuss the President's ``empathy'' standard for judicial appointments. At the end of that debate, most Americans--and indeed Justice Sotomayor herself, along with Senators of the President's own party--rejected that standard and agreed with Republicans that judges ought to apply the law, not their own feelings and personal preferences.

We are hopeful that this time around the President will select someone with extensive real-world legal experience and a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law. That is what Americans expect from their judges, whether it is small claims court or the Supreme Court. They do not expect us to select judges based upon whose side the judge is on, as one Democrat on the Judiciary Committee once suggested.

Once the President submits his nominee, Senate Republicans will diligently review his or her record so the American people can be confident that they will be able to fulfill the judicial oath; namely, to administer ``justice without respect to persons and to do right by the poor and by the rich.'' I am hopeful that at the end of the day, I and other Republicans will be convinced that the nominee will be able to do so.

I yield the floor.

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