Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, as we all know, the No. 1 issue on the minds of most Americans is jobs, and I think it is pretty clear both parties are focused on that issue right now.
I also think it is safe to say the two parties have a fundamentally different take on the solution. For Democrats, the solution, apparently, is to increase the number of people who work for the government. My good friend, the majority leader, made this pretty clear yesterday when he said the private sector ``is doing just fine'' and that the President's latest stimulus is focused on government jobs instead.
Republicans take a different view. We recognize that government has an important role to play. We recognize the need for commonsense regulations to ensure the safety of our citizens and the preservation of our resources. But it has become increasingly clear to many Americans that Democrats in Washington have lost all sense of balance when it comes to both the size and the scope of the Federal Government in Washington.
Based on the letters I get and the people I meet, there is a growing sense out there that government regulations are simply and completely out of control and that this is one of the main reasons we are in this jobs crisis. There is a growing sense the reason for this is that lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington have completely lost touch--completely and totally lost touch--with the struggles folks outside the beltway are going through.
I saw yesterday that the Washington, DC, area now has the highest median income in the country. Washington, DC, the Nation's Capital, has the highest median income in the country. I have no doubt many of these people do good work, but the point is they are weathering this economic downturn pretty well. Not only are they making big salaries relative to the private sector, they are also holding on to their jobs. The unemployment rate for the country as a whole is 9.1 percent. For government workers it is about half that--4.7 percent.
With all due respect to my friends on the other side, it is the private sector that has been begging for mercy. It is the private sector that is being crushed by regulators in Washington. I don't think the solution to the crisis is to make the Federal Government even bigger.
When it comes to jobs, the primary role of government is to create an environment in which Americans and American businesses can grow and flourish without the heavy hand of government on their backs. We shouldn't be making it harder for people to do business and to prosper. We should be making it easier. Yet everywhere I go, from Silicon Valley to Kentucky coal mines, I hear the same thing: Get Washington off our backs. They are killing us with all these impossible demands.
It is not the commonsense regulations they complain about; it is all the new burdensome, duplicative and, in some cases, impossible to comply with regulations. I have small business owners in Kentucky writing me to say they can barely get by as it is, and the EPA is harassing them with paperwork and threatening them with fines.
I mentioned a paper company the other day in Ohio that is shutting down because the EPA demanded they upgrade their boilers with a technology that doesn't even exist yet.
I know my Democratic colleagues hear these same complaints because they literally cut across party lines. One story I saw this week featured a Democratic mayor in Massachusetts telling Washington to back off.
Here is a woman who went to the President's inauguration, an Obama supporter, stood in the cold to witness it with her kids. And now she says she is losing her faith in government because the overzealous enforcement of brutal new fishing regulations is destroying jobs and forcing smaller players out of the business altogether.
Democrats hear stories such as this too, and their solution is that we should hire even more people who wake up every morning thinking about yet new ways to regulate private industry until they cry uncle. Our view is that we should actually listen to what people are asking us to do and to help them out, give them a break. It is time for government to help private sector job creators instead of looking for ways to punish them.
What we are doing is we are asking the Democrats to work with us on ways to help the private sector grow, because the fact is we are not going to get this economy going again by growing the government. It is the private sector that is ultimately going to drive this recovery.
Look, if big government were the key to economic growth, then countries such as Greece would be booming right now. If big government were the key to economic growth, Greece would be booming.
What we need to do is to focus on helping the private sector grow. I know the Democratic plan is to focus on their government jobs bill instead, to punish private sector job creators with yet another tax to subsidize even more temporary government jobs at the State level. But what I am saying is, let's put the government stimulus bills aside for a change and do something for the small business men and women in this country who are begging for mercy from their own government, right here in Washington.
There is a lot we can do. As I noted yesterday, the House has already passed three pieces of legislation this year alone, one as recently as last week, that would send an entirely different message to businesses. Every one of these bills to roll back excessive regulations by bureaucrats here in Washington got solid bipartisan support in the House of Representatives.
Last night, Senate Republicans also moved ahead on legislation that private contractors who do work for Federal, State, and local governments have been asking us to enact as a way to protect jobs. At a time when so many businesses are struggling to stay afloat--to literally stay afloat--the government shouldn't burden them even more by taking money out of businesses that they could use to invest and hire.
The best thing about this proposal is not only is it bipartisan, it is also part of the President's bill. So here is another example of something we could do for job creators that we know will actually be signed into law. And there is no reason I can think of that this legislation shouldn't get 100 votes in the Senate--a proposal supported by the President of the United States, passed with a large bipartisan majority in the House. Why don't we pass it? It is in the President's own bill, for goodness sake.
The White House said yesterday that every part of the President's bill is equally important. If that is true, let's pass this measure. This legislation should get unanimous support. So let's vote on this and the other bipartisan jobs legislation I have mentioned and then send them to the President for an actual signature, making a law instead of making a point.
It is time we showed people who are struggling out there that we are on their side, because right now I know a lot of them are having serious doubts. It is time we do something serious about jobs. The proposal I offered last night, with the support of my Republican colleagues, supported by the President of the United States, passed by a bipartisan majority in the House, would be a good step in the right direction.
Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, the Senate Republican team is losing a key player today as we say goodbye to Lisa Wolski, chief of staff to the Republican whip, Senator Kyl.
Lisa has been a greatly valued adviser to me as well and to my entire team. We have always valued her intelligence, good strategic sense, and her sound judgment. She has worked extremely hard to make sure we always knew where the votes were, which is very important in this line of work. And, most of all, we appreciate very much the fact that she has done all this with great team spirit.
I want to thank Lisa for her hard work, for me and for the entire Republican team, and we wish her all the best in her future endeavors.