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Public Statements

Dueling Highway Bills

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, we are going to see very different approaches to infrastructure and job creation today. The American people can decide for themselves which one makes more sense.

The Republican proposal extends the current highway bill for another 2 years, giving States and contractors the certainty they need to start new infrastructure projects and to create jobs.

The legislation Senator Hatch is proposing today puts an end to the uncertainty for the next 2 years. This proposal also gives States the authority to decide how this money is spent. If folks in Ohio or Kentucky want to build a bridge, Washington can't force them to build a bike path.

The Republican proposal accelerates the review period and clears away the bureaucratic redtape. The President admitted a few months ago that the shovel-ready projects in his first stimulus bill didn't turn out to be as shovel ready as he thought. Our proposal helps make sure they are.

Our bill prohibits the EPA from imposing burdensome and unnecessary new regulations on American cement producers and domestic boilers, so the cost of American-made materials for the projects paid for through this highway bill don't skyrocket just as they are set to begin. The bill keeps those costs down.

Best of all, it is fully paid for through funds that were originally appropriated for another purpose but not spent. Whatever is left over after these projects are funded goes to pay down the deficit.

The Democrats are taking a different approach. First, according to the CBO, the Democrats' proposal will do little for the economy and putting people back to work in the short term, because the money will be spent very gradually. According to the CBO, less than one-tenth of the funds in the Democrats' proposal will be spent next year. Less than one-tenth of the funds in the Democrats' proposal, which we will be voting on today, will be spent next year, and roughly 40 percent won't be spent until after 2015. This hardly matches the President's call for doing something ``right away.''

Second, it costs another $57 billion we don't have.

Third, they want to pay for this temporary spending bill with a permanent tax increase on job creators. Again, they want to pay for a temporary spending bill with a permanent tax hike on job creators.

Fourth, they already know that Republicans and, yes, some Democrats, don't think we should be taxing job creators, particularly at a time when 14 million Americans are looking for a job--and that we will vote against any proposal that does so.

In other words, the Democrats have deliberately designed this bill to fail.

So the truth is that Democrats are more interested in building a campaign message than in rebuilding roads and bridges. Frankly, the American people deserve a lot better than that. The people of Kentucky deserve a lot better than that. The people in my State have serious, time-sensitive bridge projects--the Brent Spence bridge, I-69 bridge, Louisville bridges, and Sherman Minton bridge, which is currently shut down. They deserve better than that.

The Associated General Contractors of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have already spoken out against the Democrats' proposal.

The rest of the American people can decide which approach they prefer: our proposal, which doesn't add to the deficit, doesn't raise taxes, empowers the States to make decisions on the local level, and is designed to gain bipartisan support or the Democrats' top-down approach, which perpetuates uncertainty, raises taxes on businesses at a time when we should be giving them more reasons to hire, not less, and which was designed in coordination with the White House political team to fail.

These are the two approaches on display in the Senate today. The choice should be obvious.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The majority leader.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, the highway bill has been worked on for months by Senator Boxer, who is the chairman, and the ranking member, Senator Inhofe. They have arrived at a conclusion.

I had a conversation yesterday with Senator Inhofe, and they have worked out almost all of the details on the bill. We have to do something on this bill because it expires at the end of this year--the 1st of February, I believe.

My friend, the Republican leader, whom I care a great deal about personally, is absolutely wrong. The American people support our approach. Seventy-six percent of the American people like it. People of all political definitions support it. Why? Because it is so fair.

We are asking the top two-tenths of 1 percent of people who make money in this country to contribute a surtax of seven-tenths of 1 percent of money they make over $1 million.

Job creators? I don't think so. The funding mechanism the Republicans use this time is in violation of the agreement we made last July. We have an agreement. We have cut domestic discretionary spending enough. That was the agreement we made. What they have done is come back to whack it more, which, I repeat, is going back on our agreement on how much we are spending on appropriations.

Not only that, but the Republicans do what they have done time and time again. We all know we would be better off if we didn't have as many regulations as we have. That is why every President, including Presidents Bush and Clinton, have done their best to eliminate unnecessary regulations. President Obama is doing the same thing. The Republicans come here and say that the way to create jobs is to get rid of regulations. On this way of paying for this--this smoke and mirrors that they have--they want to block implementation of health care reform, leading to higher costs and more uninsured Americans; block Wall Street reform, increasing the risk of future financial crises and taxpayer bailouts. Can you imagine, at this stage, that we would want to increase the power of those on Wall Street? I don't think the American people care about that. Also, they want to block antipollution protections, leading to dirtier air and more premature deaths and illness.

They want to weaken food safety protections and weaken worker safety protections. I, of course, will urge my entire caucus to vote against this because it is the typical approach the Republicans have used, and it has not created a single job--a single job.

There is commentary in today's newspapers about what the House has been doing. They haven't done anything to create jobs. With that extremely powerful Republican caucus, they have done nothing--nothing--to create jobs.

Now, Mr. President, I am glad we have a motto that says ``In God We Trust.'' But can you imagine, they voted yesterday whether we wanted to emphasize, to underline and underscore ``In God We Trust.'' They spent yesterday debating that issue in the House of Representatives. That didn't create a single job.

There is not a single Senator who does not trust in God, that I know of. Yet that is what they are debating. People such as Arthur Fraijo are desperate for work, have been out of work all these years. Yet not a single thing they do creates jobs.

The legislation we will vote on at 3 o'clock will produce hundreds of thousands of jobs now.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Republican leader.

Mr. McCONNELL. My good friend has made a great campaign speech, but the election is in November of next year. If we want to accomplish something, we have to do it together. We have had a series of votes over the last few weeks clearly designed to fail. The proposal my good friend is talking about, in all likelihood, is going to have bipartisan opposition. It was not developed with Republican input, and it was not designed to get a positive outcome.

The House of Representatives, on 15 different occasions recently, has passed bills with bipartisan support--bipartisan support--that we are not taking up. One of them--the 3-percent withholding bill--enjoys the support of the President of the United States as well. So it is my hope that in the very near future we can figure a way to actually pass something together that would become law.

I wish we could put off the election until next year because these efforts to do these messaging amendments, as politically invigorating as it may be to the base of the Democratic Party, don't have anything to do with actually passing legislation that could have a positive impact. So we will have the two votes today, but I would urge my good friend to join me in looking for things on which there is enough bipartisan support to actually make a law, not just try to make a point.

I am sure it is the case that most Americans support raising taxes on high-income individuals. My guess is they might have a different view if they knew that four out of five of those individuals were actually business owners. Nevertheless, it is time, it seems to me, for us to quit making the campaign speeches and remember the election is in November 2012, not this month of 2011, and see if we can't work together to pass legislation the President can sign and that will help move the country in a different direction.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The majority leader.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, my friend, the Republican leader, comes before this body today and says we should do our campaign speeches next year when the world knows my friend has said his No. 1 priority in this Congress is to defeat President Obama.

We have had on the Senate floor for the last 10 months a campaign speech every day directed by my friend and his Republican colleagues in his caucus doing everything they can to make President Obama look bad and doing nothing to help our economy. Their goal is to do everything they can to drag down this economy, to do anything they can to focus attention negatively on the President of the United States in hopes the minority leader can get my job, perhaps, and that President Obama will be defeated.

So let's not talk about campaign speeches on the Senate floor. Let's talk about reality. I do not believe we should be concerned about a piece of legislation that asks the richest of the rich to pay a few pennies of their vast fortunes to put people like my friend back to work. That is what this is all about. The American people agree with what we are doing. We are trying to have this government involved in things that create jobs, not slogans, not ``let's get rid of those regulations'' or do we believe in God or that kind of stuff.

That has not created a single job. What we want to do is create jobs. We also don't want to go back on the agreement we worked on for months regarding the deficit reduction plan and raising the debt ceiling, where we agreed on what our spending should be for this coming year. We will see how sincere my Republican colleagues are. The CR expires in 2 more weeks. The CR is the continuing resolution. Let's see if they go back on their word in that regard; that they will begin threatening to shut down the government if they do not get whatever slogan looks good during any specific period of time.

We have the FAA that is about to go out of business again because the Republicans are unwilling to pass a bill without some labor issue that has nothing to do with the bill that was passed--zero to do with it. Even the person who runs Delta Air Lines, that has been the focus of this, wants the FAA bill done. They recognize they have been hurt very badly by what the Republicans have done to focus attention on them--attention they do not want focused on them.

So I hope we can, on a bipartisan basis, do the things that are good for the country, and I think creating jobs is one of the most important things we should do. I would say to my friend: We can stay here all day, and I will get in the last word. We can extend to 11:20 now, but I will get in the last word in our conversation today.

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, it is certainly the case the majority leader can always have the last word, but I would say, with all due respect to my friend, he just made another campaign speech.

I think what the American people would like to see us do is actually pass something together that will become law--pass something together that will become law. That is how to get an accomplishment out of the U.S. Constitution. That is how to send something to the President.

We know how to work together to make things happen. We have done that in the past. All I am suggesting is that the exercise we are going to have later today has nothing to do with making law and making a difference. It is about making a point. We both know how to do that. We both know how to make points and make laws. What we are doing later today is not about making laws.

I am told by staff I need to move to proceed to S. 1786.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The motion will be pending.

The majority leader.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I would finally say this: I hope we will have a new dawn arising soon where we will see my Republican friends break away from this lockstep they have been in. I can't imagine they believe they are doing the right thing by voting against asking the richest of the rich--.02 percent of the richest people in America--to contribute a small amount toward creating jobs in America. That is what this is all about.

I would hope someday we will see a few Republicans break from the pack and vote to create jobs rather than trying to defeat President Obama come next November.

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