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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, first I wish to welcome everybody back. I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.

Shortly before we all left last week, we got some disappointing news when the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction announced it was unable to reach the kind of bipartisan agreement many of us had been hoping for. As I said then, this was a major disappointment to those of us who had hoped the joint committee would ultimately agree to the kinds of serious entitlement reforms and job-creating tax reforms that all of us know would have been a big help in getting our fiscal house in order and in jolting this economy back to life. Such an agreement would have also sent a clear message to the American people and to the world that despite our many differences, lawmakers here are capable of coming together and making the kinds of very tough decisions about our Nation's economic future that continue to elude lawmakers in Europe.

I know for a fact that Republicans wanted this committee to deliver, and the good news is that we will still see $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. But, frankly, it is hard to escape the conclusion that some in the White House and even some Democrats here in the Senate were rooting for failure and doing what they could to ensure that failure occurred. I mean, what else are we supposed to think when the Democrats' top political strategist here in the Senate goes on national television and predicts failure 2 weeks ahead of the deadline and then comes right out and says--yesterday--that he thinks the outcome he predicted is good politically for the President? This stuff isn't rocket science, but it is a big mistake. It might seem like a good political strategy to some, but it is bad for the country.

That is why I am continuing my call today for the Democrats who control the Senate to work with us on jobs legislation that can actually pass here in the Senate and that can get us beyond the permanent campaign by actually getting something done by working together. For the past several weeks, I have implored the Democratic majority here in the Senate to work with us on a number of job-creating bills that have already attracted strong bipartisan support over in the House. It seems to me that if the two parties share control of power in Washington, we should spend our time and our energies identifying job-creating measures the two parties do agree on and make them law.

It is no secret that many people at the White House and a number of Democrats here in the Senate would still rather spend their time designing legislation to fail in the hopes of trying to frame up next year's election. But with all due respect to the political strategists over at the White House, I think most Americans would rather we took an entirely different approach. That is why I think we should put aside the massive stimulus bills along with the permanent tax hikes Democrats are calling for in order to pay for them. In fact, I think it is safe to say that any attempt to pass another temporary stimulus funded by a permanent tax hike on the very people we are counting on to create the private sector jobs we need in this country is purely political and not intended to do a thing to help the economy since we already know it is likely to fail with bipartisan opposition.

Let's focus instead on the kinds of targeted bipartisan bills the President quietly agreed to last month: the 3-percent withholding bill, championed by Senator Scott Brown, and the veterans hiring bill. As I have pointed out again and again, the House has been busy all year passing bipartisan jobs bills just like these that we can rally around in a sign of unity and common concern for the millions of Americans who are looking for jobs. There is no reason we shouldn't focus on passing these bills rather than using the Senate floor as the stage for symbolic show votes that we know won't lead to anything except more tension and political acrimony. We should do what we were sent here to do, and that means more bill signings and fewer bus tours.

At the moment, the Senate business is the Defense authorization bill, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. We have a lot of amendments pending on this important legislation. Members on both sides would like to see these amendments taken up and voted on. So let's stay on this legislation and focus on doing it right. Let's show we can actually legislate around here. Once we are finished, I am hoping we will be able to find a bipartisan path to resolve the other issues before us before the end of the year.

Americans are growing tired of the same old political shouting matches and political brinkmanship that has marked this Democratic-led Senate over the past few years. They are tired of careening from one crisis to another, holding their breath in the hopes that the two parties will put their differences aside and work something out at the eleventh hour, only to be disappointed when Democrats decide they would prefer to have a political issue to run on rather than solutions to vote on.

At last count, House Republicans had passed 22 jobs bills which were designed not only to incentivize the private sector to create jobs but which were also designed to attract strong bipartisan support. In other words, they have been designing legislation to actually pass. They have been legislating with an eye toward making a difference instead of simply making a point. What I am saying is let's follow their lead. Let's come together and pass more bipartisan jobs bills and show the American people we are not going to settle for the easy way out. The economic crisis we face is much too serious for more of the same.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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