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President Should Focus On Proposals Both Sides Can Agree On


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement Tuesday after the President finally submitted the pending free trade agreements to Congress for a vote:

"There's a lot of talk these days about how Washington is broken, and how unless we do something to fix it, the solutions to our most urgent problems will remain out of reach.

"But the fact is, it's not really true. Congress is not frozen in a state of perpetual gridlock. And the now imminent passage of three long-awaited free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea shows it.

"For two and a half years, I and other Republicans have stated as clearly as we could to anyone who would listen that we are willing and eager to work with Democrats on legislation that we know both sides could agree on.

"Free trade agreements fall squarely into that category. That's why I've been calling on the President to approve them since his first day in office. Yet for reasons that I'll touch on in a moment, he's held back.

"It's true that the President had to be convinced of the importance of these agreements. After all, he ran for office promising to renegotiate NAFTA. But once he did come around, his reluctance to act became an emblem for the administration's entire approach to jobs, in which results have taken a back seat to ideology.

"All the President had to do was follow through on his own pledge, send these trade agreements up to Congress, and we'd have had an early bipartisan achievement that didn't add a single dime to the deficit, and which, by his own estimates, would protect tens of thousands of jobs right here at home.

"Instead, the President passed over what could have been a job creating, bipartisan lay-up and devoted the first weeks of his presidency to a highly partisan Stimulus that has since become a national punch line.

"Two and a half years after the Stimulus was signed into law, there are 1.7 million fewer jobs in America. And the President is just this week getting around to free trade agreements we knew would create jobs.

"All of which raises a question: Why didn't we do this sooner?

"Well, I think for two reasons.

"First, the White House was under pressure from unions, who don't like free trade. They've been extracting promises from the White House for two and a half years in exchange for their support. That's one reason.

"The second reason the White House didn't send these agreements up sooner is that the political operators over at the White House seem to believe that they benefit from the appearance of gridlock.

"They're over there telling any reporter who will listen that they plan to run against Congress next year. Their Communications Director said as much to the New York Times two weeks ago.

"So that's their explicit strategy -- to make people believe that Congress can't get anything done.

"And how do you make sure of it? By proposing legislation you know the other side won't support -- even when there's an entire menu of bipartisan proposals the President could choose to pursue instead.

"How else do you explain the President standing before the country in January, extolling the job-creating potential of these free trade agreements, asking Congress to pass them as soon possible, and then sitting on them until yesterday, preventing Congress from taking the vote?

"How else do explain the fact that the President's spent the past few weeks running around the country demanding that Congress pass his so-called Jobs Bill "right away' even as leading members of his own party admit that Democrats wouldn't have the votes to get it through Congress even if it came to the floor? As one senior Democrat aide put it yesterday, "Nobody is all that excited about the President's jobs bill.'

"That's how you create dysfunction: by refusing to acknowledge that we live under a two-party system in this country, and that as long as we do, the two parties will have to cooperate to some extent in order to get legislation through Congress. It's the refusal to accept this reality that leads to inaction.

"The President can govern as though this is the Congress he wants, or he can deal with the Congress he has. Along the first path lies gridlock, and along the second lies the kind of legislative progress Americans want. And as for Republicans, well, we've been crystal clear from the outset that we prefer the latter route.

"So this morning, I reiterate the same plea that I have consistently made for the past two and a half years. My suggestion to the President is that he put aside proposals for which we know there is bipartisan opposition and focus instead on proposals for which we know both sides can agree.

"Free trade agreements are a good first step. But they're just that -- a first step. If we're going to tackle the enormous challenges we face, we need to come together on much more than that.

"There is bipartisan agreement, for instance, on the need to increase domestic energy exploration, to reverse job-killing regulations, to reform the corporate tax code so we're more competitive. If the White House really wants to make a statement, it will work with us on all of these things. If it doesn't, Americans will only conclude that it would rather have an issue to run on than an impact. With these trade agreements, we're showing we can work together to create jobs and help the economy. It's something we should do a lot more of around here."
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