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Public Statements

War on Coal

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, yesterday morning I made a prediction about a speech the President was expected to give later in the day. I said we could expect him to announce a plan to impose the will of some of his most radical backers on the American middle class. I said he would be undeterred by Congress's rejection of his national energy tax even when Democrats held commanding majorities in both Houses. I said he would announce his intention to push through job-crushing regulations anyway but this time largely through the back door over the objections of many working-class Americans rather than through the regular democratic process. Lo and behold, that is essentially what he did.

I was surprised by one thing, though, and that was his continued effort to play politics with the Keystone Pipeline jobs. Remember, we all know that the oil this pipeline would carry is going to come out of the ground either way. It is going to come out of the ground whether or not he approves it. In other words, whether he gives approval to the pipeline or not, the oil is coming out of the ground. The only question is whether that energy and those jobs will go to America or whether they will be allowed to travel across the Pacific to governments that harbor terrible environmental records to begin with.

That is just one reason why the Keystone Pipeline has enjoyed such broad bipartisan support here in the Senate. Even Big Labor--a sector that is usually supportive of the President--is all behind the Keystone Pipeline. Yet, yesterday, when the President had the opportunity to side with the working-class families across the country by approving the pipeline, he took another pass--just took a pass.

Sometimes you have to wonder about this administration. In making decisions such as these, you have to wonder if they truly understand the worries most Americans have to contend with in the Obama economy. I have long warned, for example, that the White House was determined--determined--to wage a war on coal. They denied it, of course, but only just long enough to get through the last election. So it is not a coincidence that the President did not give his speech before the election or that he gave it at a university that symbolizes the DC elite rather than somewhere in coal country. He should have made this speech down at Morehead State University in my State or the University of Pikeville in my State. That would have been the place to make the speech, not here in town.

Now the President's supporters seem all too happy to admit there is a war on coal. Just yesterday an adviser to the White House said, ``A war on coal is exactly what's needed.'' You have to give him points for candor.

Look, Republicans are all for developing the fuels and the energies of the future. We are all for that. We just think it should come about as part of an all-of-the-above strategy, which is exactly what the White House said it supported too back before the election. But now with the election year over, the truth comes out.

In truth, the administration seems to adhere to a dogma that could best be described as ``none of the above''--not ``all of the above'' but ``none of the above, except a couple of things that make our base happy.'' I would note that such an approach is basically nonsense since it ignores what is necessary to keep our country's growing energy needs met in order to move toward a future where renewables look set to play a greater role because it simply tries to pretend that it will not take years, if not decades, for these other types of energy to come online in a way that will truly meet our energy needs.

In a phrase, it is a strategy that subordinates almost everything to politics. That is why Republicans believe a true all-of-the-above strategy means developing wind, solar, natural gas, oil, and coal, and embracing American jobs that come along with producing American energy.

Here is what we believe it absolutely does not mean: It does not mean picking out a class of vulnerable people and declaring war on them. There is a depression in central Appalachia, which includes eastern Kentucky, because of the government itself, this administration. Sometimes people in Washington forget the decisions here actually affect the lives of others. I am often left to wonder, do they not care?

Of course, coal is an important industry to my State, and I am going to defend Kentucky workers from out-of-touch Washington attacks, but it is pretty naive to think it is just about Kentucky, West Virginia, or Pennsylvania. As I said yesterday, a war on coal is actually a war on jobs. Coal is important to our entire country. It is critical to the growth of manufacturing, and it is important to our national economy.

One can say a coal miner in Kentucky relies on coal for their well-being, just as a line worker in a manufacturing plant that uses coal relies on it too. Pretty much everyone who lives or works in a building with electricity relies on coal in some way. That is why even some in the President's party are trying to distance themselves from his approach.

As one of my Senate Democratic colleagues put it yesterday:

The fact is clear: our own Energy Department reports that our country will get 37 percent of our energy from coal until 2040. Removing coal from our energy mix will have disastrous consequences for our recovering economy.

I couldn't agree more with our Democratic colleague.

It is time for the White House to stop pivoting from job-destroying policies to campaign-stop PR pitches for jobs right back to job-destroying policies. It is time for the administration to get serious about pursuing a truly workable strategy for this country, for energy, for the economy, and for jobs.


Briefly, on another matter, another day has gone by. We are still not clear that the majority leader is going to keep his word given back at the beginning of this Congress that the issue of the rules for the Senate of this Congress have been settled. They have been settled as a result of bipartisan discussions that occurred back in January leading to the passing of two rules changes and two standing orders, after which the majority leader had said it had been settled, that we had the rules for this Congress.

Later we learned that maybe we didn't, and there were these implied threats issued to groups around the country that he would exercise a so-called nuclear option. The definition of the nuclear option is to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate.

The minority, and I suspect a reasonable number of the majority, are waiting to find out whether the majority leader intends to keep his word. Your word is the currency of the realm in the Senate. His word has been given. We expect it to be kept.

I yield the floor.

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