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Unanimous Consent Agreement -- Executive Calendar --

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, yesterday the American people actually scored a victory in the ongoing battle against government overreach. They literally rose, spoke out, and they forced the Obama administration to withdraw the latest gem from the ``department of terrible ideas'' over at the Environmental Protection Agency.

They showed two things in the process; first, the need for constant vigilance when it comes to protecting our liberties, especially with the current crowd down at the White House; and, second, the impact ordinary citizens can actually have.

The proposal in question was a uniquely awful idea. The goal was for the EPA to grant itself the authority to garnish the wages of private citizens without even giving them a day in court. Imagine. You received a letter from the government accusing you of violating some obscure regulation, a regulation most likely you never heard of and did not even know you were violating. The government then hits you with massive fines, sometimes on the order of tens of thousands of dollars a day, as you weigh your legal options and whether to fight it in court.

If you cannot or will not pay these fines in the meantime, too bad. Bureaucrats in Washington will take them out of your paycheck anyway--out of our paycheck anyway--without even the option of contesting the government's actions in court for it. This is certainly government overreach at its very worst. That is why I joined Senators THUNE, VITTER, and BARRASSO in speaking out against it. That is why we developed a resolution of disapproval to block it.

But the real key to our success was the action of the American people themselves. They got our help, but they did not sit back and wait. They let their outrage be known. They fought back against this brazen power grab. Thanks to all of those efforts, the administration finally literally threw in the towel yesterday. Certainly we were glad to see it.

But look, the fact that the Obama administration's EPA even introduced this rule in the first place should concern all of us. It was truly outrageous, but it is also not surprising because this is the same administration that just proposed a so-called waters of the U.S. regulation that would expand the government's authority so broadly that the Agency could regulate and fine almost every pothole and ditch in our backyards.

This is the same administration that has been waging a costly war on coal jobs in my State through similarly onerous and arbitrary regulations aimed at pleasing hard-core activists in Washington without any regard for real-world consequences.

It is as though these distant elites in Washington view their mission as ideological warfare. They do not seem the least bit concerned about the casualties they leave behind in the process. I have tried to get some of these bureaucratic foot soldiers down to Kentucky to see the impact of their efforts firsthand, but of course they are not interested. They are not interested in people such as the 32-year-old unemployed miner who walked into a Pikeville pregnancy center to ask for baby clothes. An employee at the center wrote to tell me what this miner had to say.

Here is what he said:

I don't come from a family that has ever had to ask for help. I feel humiliated, but my baby is suffering.

That pregnancy center employee wrote that the look on his face broke her heart. She wrote: ``[But] this is the plight of many of our families in Eastern Kentucky, their livelihood is being taken away by the War on Coal.''

These are the people whom distant bureaucrats in Washington should be forced to meet before they draft their rules. This guy just wants to put food on the table, to keep the lights on, and to give his kids a better life. But the war on coal jobs is taking away more than just his livelihood and that of so many others. It is taking away his dignity as well. Maybe that is why the administration doesn't want to meet Kentuckians like him. Maybe that is why they don't want to look my constituents in the eye. It is a big problem, and that is why I am so proud of the people who stood up to this latest ominous regulation.

Yesterday the EPA confirmed that it won't hold a single hearing within hours of my State as it works to finalize national energy tax regulations that could devastate the lives of tens of thousands of Kentuckians. They don't care, and they are not listening.

Well, I care. I see these folks when I go home. I hear their stories. My heart breaks for them. I am going to keep fighting. I am going to keep fighting against the Obama administration's various power grabs and its regulatory overreach. I am going to keep fighting against the national energy tax. I am going to keep fighting for practical ideas that aim to help struggling families for once--a marked departure from the administration's constant attacks against them--ideas such as the Coal Country Protection Act and the Saving Coal Jobs Act.

These proposals are common sense. If the majority leader would stop blocking them, we could deliver some relief to middle-class families for once. So he should know I am not going to let up and neither are the American people who won this important victory yesterday on another subject over the EPA's latest power grab because, as we also saw with the administration's recent withdrawal of an IRS regulation aimed at restricting free speech, the people can still win with enough determination. Civic involvement works--and given the pattern of abuse we keep seeing with this administration, it is absolutely critical.


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