U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement on the Senate floor today regarding the beginning of the 113th Congress and the need to focus on out-of-control spending in Washington:
"I'd like to welcome everybody back after what I realize was a somewhat abbreviated recess. And, in particular, I want to welcome back Senator Kirk, who has made a brilliant recovery since suffering a debilitating stroke early last year. The fact that Mark's here today says a lot about his tenacity, his dedication, and his commitment to the people of Illinois. I'm told that about two-thirds of the patients in the facility where he's been recovering over the past year don't return to work; but true to form, Mark opted for an experimental rehabilitation program so grueling it's been compared to military boot camp. His staff counted 45 steps from the parking lot to the front door of the Senate, and during his treatment, he made walking those steps his goal. Today, he did it. So we admire him for his spirit, and we applaud his achievement. It's wonderful to have him back, ready to work.
"I'd also like to welcome the new members who take their oaths of office today, particularly the four new members of the Republican caucus: Senator Flake of Arizona, Senator Fischer of Nebraska, Senator Cruz of Texas, and Senator Scott of South Carolina. Congratulations to all of you. We welcome the energy and intelligence each of you brings to the challenges we face, and especially to the transcendent challenge of our time: a federal debt so huge it threatens to permanently alter an economy that has provided generations of Americans the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of a better life.
"Four straight years of trillion-dollar deficits and projected spending that no realistic amount of tax revenue could cover have put us at a crossroads: either we tackle our nation's spending problem, or it tackles us. It's that simple. And there is no better time to do the work we need to do than now.
"The bipartisan agreement we reached earlier this week was imperfect. I'm the first to admit it, especially the process. But aside from shielding 99 percent of my constituents and many of yours from the painful effects of a middle-class tax hike the President seemed all too willing to impose, it gave us something else: it settled the revenue debate for good.
"President Obama declared the other night that those he calls "rich' are now paying their "fair share.' So it's time to move on. The President got his revenue, now it's time to turn squarely to the real problem, which is spending. We all knew that the tax hikes the President campaigned on were never going to solve the problem. Now that he's got them, he has a responsibility to put his preoccupation with taxes behind him and to work with us to actually solve the problem at hand. So it's time to face up to the fact that our nation is in grave fiscal danger, and that it has everything to do with spending. This is a debate the American people want to have.
"The President liked to point out on the campaign trail that most Americans supported the idea of taxing the rich. What he conveniently left out is that even more Americans support the idea of cutting spending. One recent survey I saw said about three fourths of all Americans say they want to see major spending cuts in Washington. And when you look at some of the things Washington has been wasting their tax dollars on, it's no wonder.
"I mean, if we can't stop spending taxpayer dollars on robo-squirrels and dancing robot DJs, or hot-air balloon rides for Smokey the Bear, then there's no hope. Because if we can't fix the easy stuff -- the robo-squirrels and the robot DJs -- the things most of us agree on, how are we ever going to get at the hard stuff? And that's why the first step in this debate is for Democrats to get over their fanatical commitment to guarding every dime the government ever got its hands on. It's got to stop. There's also no better time for this debate.
"In a couple of months, the President will ask us to raise the nation's debt limit. We cannot agree to increase that borrowing limit without agreeing to reforms that lower the avalanche of spending that's creating this debt in the first place. It's not fair to the American people. And it's not fair to our children, who we're asking to foot the bill. And the health of our economy requires it.
"So now is the time to get serious about spending. And if the past few weeks have taught us anything, that means the President needs to show up early this time. The American people will not tolerate the kind of last-minute crises that we've seen again and again over the past four years as a result of this President's chronic inactivity and refusal to lead on the pressing issues of the day.
"We don't need speeches. We need action, now. And we need courage. Because the only way we're going to address the spending that's at the root of our nation's fiscal problems is if the President is willing to bring the members of his party to the table, and get them to rise above the partisan voices on the Left who treat every penny of government spending as sacred.
"Hopefully, that kind of cooperation will be forthcoming. But if not, we'll have several opportunities in the coming months to force the conversation that Washington needs to have. The first such opportunity, as I've said, surrounds the President's upcoming request for us to raise the debt ceiling. After that, there's the CR. But let me be clear: there is no need for drama, and we don't want any.
"The President knows as well as I do what needs to be done. He can either engage now to significantly cut government spending or force a crisis later. It's his call. But for the sake of the country, we must have this debate, now.
"So today, I call on the Majority Leader and the rest of my Democrat colleagues to start working with us right now, not one hour or one day or one week before we hit the debt limit, but ahead of time for once -- so we can pass a bipartisan solution on spending that everyone has had an opportunity to weigh in on in early February. We need a plan that can both pass the House and actually begin to get Washington spending under control. And, if we're serious, we will get one done.
"With taxes now off the table, the only way to achieve a "balanced' plan is to focus on the spending side of the equation, particularly -- as the President pointed out -- health-care entitlement programs. Because, as I said, taxes simply can't go high enough to keep pace with the amount of money we're projected to spend on them without crushing our economy. And the best way to reform these programs is to make them work better. The debt isn't exploding because these programs exist; it's exploding because they're inefficient. They were created in a different era, the era of black-and-white TV. They should be updated for the age of the iPad. And we should want to fix them, not just because we want to lower the debt, but because we want to strengthen and improve these programs themselves.
"So over the next few months, it will be up to the President and his party to work with us to deliver the same kind of bipartisan resolution on spending that we have now achieved on taxes -- but it needs to happen before the 11th hour. And for that to happen, the President needs to show up this time.
"The President claims to want a balanced approach. Now that he has the tax rates he wants, his calls for "balance' mean he needs to join us in the effort to achieve meaningful spending reform. The President may not want to have this debate, but it's the one he's going to have, because the country needs it. Republicans are ready to tackle the spending problem, and we start today."