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On Spending and Debt: "If We Don't get a Handle on That, Nothing Else Matters'


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the need to focus on serious solutions to Washington's out-of-control spending problem and our nation's debt:

"I want to start by congratulating President Obama on his inauguration. Presidential inaugurations are always a time for the country to come together. We all feel a certain pride in the event. And we're reminded of how fortunate we are to live in a nation where we have the ability to choose our leaders freely and resolve our differences in peace.

"Inauguration Day is also a time for new beginnings, a chance to learn from the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past as we re-engage in some vitally important debates about our future. Too often over the past four years, political considerations have trumped the need to put our country on a sound financial footing and a path to prosperity.

"Today, we should recommit ourselves to the task of facing up to our problems head on. I understand that the passions of an election can sometimes overshadow the business of governing. But the presidential campaign is now behind us. And so it's my hope that the President will finally be willing to do what Republicans have been asking him to do since his first inauguration four years ago: and that's to work with us on identifying durable solutions to problems that we can only solve together -- to put aside those things we know we can't agree on and focus on what we can.

"And we should start with spending and debt; because if we don't get a handle on that, nothing else matters.

"If we don't work together to strengthen our entitlement programs, they will go bankrupt. Automatic cuts will be forced on seniors already receiving benefits, rendering worthless the promises that they've built their retirements around. It's nice to say, as the President did yesterday, that these programs free us to take the risks that make our country great. But if we don't act to strengthen and protect them now, in a few years they simply won't be there in their current form.

"And if we don't work together to control the debt, then the cost of our interest payments alone will eventually crowd out funding for things we all agree on -- from defense, to infrastructure and assistance for those who need it most.

"In short, the debate we're now engaged in over the growing federal debt is about much more than numbers on a page. It's about the cost of inaction in terms of promises broken, jobs lost, and dreams deferred. And that's why there's simply no more time to waste.

"Over the past four years, while the President focused on re-election and too many Senate Democrats focused on avoiding tough decisions, the debt grew by more than six trillion dollars. We saw the President blast House Republicans for doing their job and passing a budget while Senate Democrats didn't even propose one.

"And rather than work with us to save existing entitlements, we saw the President team up with Democrats in Congress to force through a brand new entitlement that will make it even harder to cover the cost of programs that we already have.

"In short, Democrats have put off all the hard stuff until now. And our problems have only gotten worse. But that was the first term.

"A second term presents the opportunity to do things differently, and in the Senate that means a return to regular order. Later this week, the House plans to send the Senate a bill to address the debt limit in a timely manner.

"Once we get it, the Senate should quickly respond. If the Senate version is different than the one the House sends over, send it off to conference. That's how things are supposed to work around here. We used to call it legislating.

"I know a lot of Democrats are afraid of a process that exposes their priorities, particularly on spending and debt. After nearly four years of refusing to pass a budget, they've only now reluctantly agreed to develop a spending plan for the coming fiscal year. All I would say to that is that, since the revenue question has been settled, I'm sure the American people are eager to see what other ideas Democrats might have to bring down our ruinous deficits.

"And let me just say that one thing Americans will no longer tolerate is an attitude that says we can put off our work until the last minute. They're tired of the eleventh hour deals, they're tired of careening from crisis to crisis -- and so am I.

"The good news is, a return to regular order is the surest way to solve the problems we face. And I hope some of my friends on the other side will agree that there is value in this body actually functioning the way it was intended to.

"Let's face it: the status quo isn't working. The Senate isn't functioning as it should, and it has nothing to do with a process that has served us well for a very long time. But if we work together and strive to avoid some of bad habits that have developed around here, I truly believe that we'll be able to achieve the kinds of solutions that have eluded us for the past four years. And deliver some positive results for the people who sent us here, with time to spare.

"We can do better. I know my constituents expect better than what they've been getting from Congress in recent years. So should we."

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