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Public Statements

Free-Trade Agreements

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, later today the Senate will show that Democrats and Republicans can, in fact, work together to make it easier for American businesses to create jobs.

By passing free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, we will help the economy, and we will put the lie to the ridiculous Obama campaign claim that Republicans are somehow rooting against the economy. Nothing could be more ridiculous and absurd as to suggest that Republicans are somehow rooting against our economy.

In fact, if President Obama were willing to work with us on a more bipartisan piece of legislation, nobody would even be talking about a dysfunctional Congress. There would not be any reason to.

But, as we all know, that does not fit in with the President's election strategy. The White House has made it clear that the President is praying for gridlock--he is actually hoping for gridlock--so he has somebody besides himself to point the finger at next November.

That is a big mistake. The American people will not tolerate their own President putting politics ahead of working with Congress on the kind of bipartisan legislation that we know both parties could agree on right now.

So this morning I would like to repeat my call to the President to put the political playbook aside and work with us instead on the kind of bipartisan, job-creating legislation the American people truly want.

The trade bills we will be voting on tonight are a good start. There is no reason we should have had to wait nearly 3 years for this President to send them to Congress for a vote, but they are a good start nonetheless--3 years late but still very important to do.

Now let's move on to some other things. We have pointed to areas such as regulatory reform, tax reform, and energy exploration where the parties could help create jobs without raising taxes or adding to the deficit.

It is just the kind of bipartisan cooperation that the American people are actually demanding from us, and what I am saying this morning is that Republicans are eager and willing to join Democrats in making that happen.

The Presidential election, for goodness' sake, is 13 months away; 13 months from now is the Presidential election. There is plenty of time to campaign. Why don't we put that off for a while and do what we were sent here to do?

But right now we have an opportunity to work together. Let's put aside the political playbook and focus
on results. I know that does not come easy for some around here. The senior Senator from New York, for example, made it pretty clear yesterday that he is more interested in drawing a contrast with Republicans than he is in actually passing bipartisan legislation that we know will spur job growth. But I do not believe the 14 million Americans looking for work right now care more about contrast than about jobs. The jobs crisis we are in calls for lawmakers to rise above these games.

Americans expect us to do something to help create jobs. That is what we should be doing. That is why Republicans will continue to seek to find Democrats who are more interested in jobs than in political posturing and work with them on bipartisan legislation such as the trade bills we will vote on tonight.

What we will not do, though, is vote in favor of any more misguided stimulus bills because some bill writer slapped the word ``jobs'' on the cover page. The stimulus bill with the word ``jobs'' slapped on the cover page and wrapped around a talking-point tax hike is not our idea of what is good for America. We refuse to raise taxes on the very people Americans are depending on to create jobs. We need to be looking for ways to make it easier to create jobs, not harder.

For nearly 3 years, Republicans have told Democrats again and again that we are willing and eager to work with the Democrats anywhere, anytime, on real job-promoting legislation on which both sides could agree.

I have been calling on the President to approve these three free-trade agreements since the day he took the oath of office. All the President had to do was to follow through on these agreements and send them up to Congress, and we would have had an early bipartisan achievement that did not add a single dime to the deficit, that would have convinced people the two sides could work together, and that by the President's own assessment created tens of thousands of jobs right here at home. But he did not. The President chose to push a highly partisan stimulus bill instead that the administration said would keep unemployment below 8 percent. We all know how that turned out. Nearly 3 years later, the only thing left is the nearly $1 trillion it added to the debt and the government programs it created. As for jobs, well, unemployment has been above 8 percent for 32 months straight, and according to the Labor Department, there are now 1.5 million fewer jobs than there were then.

It is time to try something different. Republicans have proposed a number of ideas that would not only represent a change in direction but would also attract broad bipartisan support. There is no good reason whatsoever for the President and Democrats in Congress to prevent us from doing these things. As I see it, the President actually has a choice: He can spend the next 13 months trying to get Republicans to vote against legislation which will not create sustainable private sector jobs and which is designed to fail in Congress or he can work with us on legislation that will actually encourage small businesses to create jobs and is actually designed to pass.

There is an entire menu of bipartisan job-promoting proposals the President could choose to pursue over the next year. Republicans hope he works with us to approve them. Americans are waiting. We are ready to act. The free-trade agreements we are voting on tonight are a good first step. They demonstrate the way Washington can actually help tackle the jobs crisis, not by spending borrowed money to create temporary jobs--spending borrowed money to create temporary jobs. We have tried that. This will lower barriers to private enterprise, unleashing the power of the private sector to make and sell products, expand market share, and in doing so create sustainable private sector jobs that will not disappear when the Federal cash spigot runs dry. But if we are going to tackle the enormous challenges we face, we need to do much more than that. With these trade agreements, we are showing we can work together to create jobs and help the economy. We can and must do more of this kind of thing.

I yield the floor.

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