‘Americans are challenging this Congress and this president to work for them. They’re challenging lawmakers in Washington to work for jobs for Americans, not just jobs for themselves. It seems simple enough. But in an era of divided political control, we’re going to have to work hard to meet expectations, and we’re going to have to work together. Step one is getting Congress functioning again. That means fixing the Senate.’
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement today outlining the goals for the 114th Congress:
“Yesterday, we inaugurated the 114th Senate of the United States Congress.
“We welcomed back many dedicated members and swore in many new ones. I have high hopes for our new colleagues. They share the resolve of my conference to restore the Senate to a place of high purpose. And they’re determined to make a positive difference in the lives of the people who sent them here.
“The men and women we just swore in have inaugurated one significant change already: the majority we seated yesterday.
“I look to this new beginning with optimism and a profound sense of purpose.
“And I look to my colleagues with gratitude for their trust.
“Next to serving the people of Kentucky, this is the greatest of honors. I recognize the serious expectations of the American people. I know they’re counting on us.
“And I do mean us. Every member of this body. We’re in a moment of great anxiety as a nation.
“The people we represent have lost faith in their government. They no longer trust Washington to do the right thing.
“Many faced the reality of losing health plans after being told otherwise. Many struggle with rising medical costs after Washington officials repeatedly said they’d be lower.
“Confidence in the American Dream has plunged. Anxiety about the type of country we leave to the next generation is widespread. And for many, it’s never seemed more difficult just to get by.
“When Americans look overseas, they see a world filled with chaos: instability roiling the Middle East, terrorists pressing an aggressive agenda, and autocrats scoffing at a superpower that doesn’t seem to have a real plan.
“At home, they see a government that’s either uninterested or incapable of addressing their concerns — a government that seems to be working for itself instead of them.
“Whether it’s Washington’s dysfunction or a bureaucracy that’s grown so byzantine and unaccountable it tried to muzzle political opponents and ignore the needs of veterans.
“The American people have had enough. And this November, they had their say.
“The message they sent was clear.
“If voters hit the brakes four years ago, this time they spun the wheel.
“They said they want the Administration to change course and move to the middle. They said they want Congress to send legislation to the president that addresses their concerns.
“This November, the American people didn’t ask for a government that tries to do everything, and fails. And they didn’t demand a government that aims to do nothing, and succeeds.
“They asked for a government that works.
“They want a government of the 21st Century: one that functions with efficiency and accountability, competence and purpose.
“They want a Washington that’s more interested in modernizing and streamlining government than adding more layers to it. And they want more jobs, more opportunity for the Middle Class, and more flexibility in a complex age with complex demands.
“That’s why we plan to pursue common-sense jobs ideas, including those with bipartisan support. Things like: Reforming a broken tax system to make it simpler and friendlier to job creation. Opening more markets to American-made products so we can create jobs at home. And moving forward with bipartisan infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline.
“Americans are challenging this Congress and this president to work for them. They’re challenging lawmakers in Washington to work for jobs for Americans, not just jobs for themselves.
“It seems simple enough. But in an era of divided political control, we’re going to have to work hard to meet expectations, and we’re going to have to work together.
“Step one is getting Congress functioning again. That means fixing the Senate.
“Last session, the House sent over countless common-sense, bipartisan bills.
“Too many of them died here without so much as a hearing. And senators from both parties with ideas for jobs and growth were routinely silenced.
“So it’s time to change the business model.
“We need to return to regular order.
“We need to get committees working again.
“We need to recommit to a rational, functioning appropriations process.
“We need to open up the legislative process in a way that allows more amendments from both sides.
“Sometimes, it’s going to mean working more often. Sometimes, it’s going to mean working late.
“But restoring the Senate is the right thing to do. And it’s the practical thing to do.
“Because we’re only going to pass meaningful legislation if members from both parties are given a stake in the outcome.
“That’s the genius of regular order.
“That’s the genius of the Senate.
“I’m reminded of this every time I walk into my office.
“There on the wall are portraits of John Sherman Cooper, a Republican, and Alben Barkley, a Democrat. Keeping watch from below is a bust of Henry Clay.
“Each of these senators — each of these Kentuckians — came from a different political party. Each viewed the world through a different ideological lens. But all of them believed in the Senate. And all of them left behind important lessons for today.
“Clay: about putting country first, and pursuing principled compromise.
“Cooper: about choosing when to make a stand, and making it.
“And Barkley: about having the courage to think differently from a president of the same political party he’d served dutifully for years.
“Lessons like these echo into the present. And they help point the way toward a better-functioning government.
“A Senate and a Congress that function again will help move us past an era of government by crisis.
“It doesn’t mean everything will be perfect. It doesn’t mean we’ll never come up against a deadline. And it doesn’t mean we’ll always agree.
“But together, we can commit to changing the way Washington operates. It can be done.
“This Senate has seemed imperfect at moments. But it has proven a place of high purpose at many others — a place where our country has come together to confront great challenges and advance solutions that once seemed out of reach.
“That’s the Senate I saw when I watched Senator Cooper whip votes for a Civil Rights Act many believed would never pass.
“That’s the Senate I saw when President Reagan worked with Democratic leaders to pass major reforms to taxes and Social Security.
“And that’s the Senate I saw when a Republican Congress worked with President Clinton to pass historic welfare reform.
“The promise of the Senate is real. Time and time again, it has been an engine for bipartisan achievement to which both parties can assume either credit or blame. And that’s how we should view it today.
“So yes, the American people elected divided government. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want us to accomplish anything. If there’s a will to do so, we can come together to achieve great things. And if President Obama is interested in a historic achievement of his own, this can be his time as well.
“He’s already indicated a willingness to work with us on trade and infrastructure and comprehensive tax reform. These efforts will require a lot of hard work. Navigating the political pitfalls won’t be easy. But passing these types of things would represent a win for the American people.
“Wins we could all be proud of.
“The truth is, we could work for bigger things too.
“We could work together to save and strengthen Medicare, to protect Social Security for future generations, and to balance the budget and put our growing national debt on a path to elimination.
“But bipartisan reform can only be achieved if President Obama is interested in it. The president is the only one who can bring his party on board. He’s the only one who can sign what Congress passes.
“And I assure you, threatening to veto a jobs and infrastructure bill within minutes of a new Congress taking the oath of office — a bill with strong bipartisan support — is anything but productive.
“Now, I appreciate that bipartisan compromise may not come easily for the president. The president’s supporters are pressing for militancy these days, not compromise. They’re demanding the comforts of purity over the duties of progress.
“From D.C. to Montpelier, they see the limits of an exhausted 20th Century mindset asserting itself — even when nearly every lever of power has been in hand.
“And across the Atlantic, they see the sun setting on the social-democratic idea — they see tragic legacies of welfare states: empty promises and fear of the future.
“So it’s understandable why the president’s supporters might want to retreat to past comforts. But now is the time to accept reality. Now is the time to move forward.
“Americans know that democracy isn’t about what you can get away with, it’s about what you can achieve together.
“Many in this body understand that on both sides.
“We’re calling on the president to ignore the voices of reaction and join us.
“Whatever he decides though, this Congress is going to function again.
“Let’s pass legislation that focuses on jobs and the real concerns of the Middle Class.
“After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope; the uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress. So this is precisely the right time to advance a positive, pro-growth agenda.
“Some of the measures the new Congress passes may seem significant. Others may seem modest. That’s okay.
“As we’ve seen in recent years, a bigger bill doesn’t always mean a better bill.
“And while we’re always going to search for areas where we can agree, the president may not be enamored of every bill we pass. That’s okay too.
“It’s not our job to protect the president from good ideas. A little creative tension between the executive and the legislature can be healthy in a democracy like ours.
“Presidents and Congresses have disagreed before. They’ve confronted challenges that eclipse the ones we see today.
“What is important to remember is that the Senate has always endured. And we have a duty to restore it now so that we can meet the mandate of the people who sent us here.
“Former Majority Leader Howard Baker once noted that making the Senate work is like ‘trying to make ninety-nine independent souls act in concert under rules that encourage polite anarchy...’
“And yet, as he also reminded us, ‘It doesn't take Clays and Websters and Calhouns to make the Senate work.’
“It takes men and women of honor working in a spirit of good faith.
“It may be difficult. But it’s been done before. It can be done again.
“And if we’re going to get there, it helps to recall in whose footsteps we walk today.
“This is the same chamber where Dirksen and Mansfield allied for historic progress.
“This is where Byrd drew from antiquity to rouse colleagues to present challenges — and where, in later years, he would critique successors on the finer points of procedure.
“This is where Mitchell honed the skills he’d need to help bring warring communities together — enemies who responded to critics not just with floor speeches or press conferences, but live ammunition.
“This is where Dole shared war stories with Inouye and, with a fateful tap of the shoulder, where he would partner with Moynihan in their effort to reform Social Security.
“The names of many senators who’ve come before are etched into the desks we sit at today.
“The men and women who precede us include future presidents and vice-presidents. They include former athletes, veterans, and astronauts.
“We’ve forgotten some, we remember others. But their legacies live on.
“Here’s how Senator Claude Pepper put it. ‘The Senate,’ he said, ‘is inefficient, unwieldy, [and] inconsistent; it has its foibles, its vanities, its members who are great…and those who think they are great. But like democracy…it is strong…it has survived many changes, it has saved the country [from] many catastrophes, [and] it is a safeguard against any form of tyranny.’
“‘In the last analysis,’ Pepper noted, the Senate ‘is probably the price we in America have to pay for liberty.’
“For everything Senator Pepper and I may not have agreed on, we certainty agree on that.
“In the same way, each of us here may not agree on every issue. We may be a Republican. We may be a Democrat. But we are all Americans. We each have a responsibility to make the Senate function. And we each have a duty to work for the people who sent us here in serious times to get serious results.
“So let’s restore the Senate we love. Let’s look for areas of agreement when we can, and — above all — let’s make Washington work again for the people that we serve.”