Accomplishments of the New Senateby Senator Mitch McConnell
Posted on 2015-12-10
McCONNELL. Mr. President, what a difference a new Senate can
make--what a difference.
Some may have thought Washington would never agree on a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Years of inaction on the Senate floor gave ample cause for doubt. Some may have been skeptical when a new Senate with a new approach resolved to finally solve the problem--but no longer.
Yesterday, the new Senate voted overwhelmingly to deliver the most significant K-12 education reform in well over a decade. The President will sign the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act later this morning.
Here is what this bipartisan law will do: replace a broken law with conservative reform that will help students succeed instead of helping Washington grow. That means swapping one-size-fits-all Federal mandates for greater State and local flexibility. That means bringing an end to the ability of faraway bureaucrats to impose common core. That means strengthening charter schools. That means putting education back in the hands of those who know students' needs best--parents, teachers, States, and school boards.
The Every Student Succeeds Act is conservative reform passed on a bipartisan basis. The Wall Street Journal calls it ``the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century,'' and it is an important achievement for our kids and for our country.
So I want to thank again the Senators who worked together to make this possible--Senator Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, and Senator Murray, a Democrat from Washington. They took advantage of the opportunities a new and more open Senate provided. They put good legislation together and then placed personal stakes in its success. They worked hard. They labored over many months, and they didn't lose sight of what a legislative exercise like this one should really be about: good policy, better outcomes for our country, and, with the bill we passed yesterday--the bill the President will sign today--greater opportunities for every student to succeed.
Senator Alexander was right when he said that ``this bill is just one more example that Congress is back to work.'' It is worth noting a point he made the other day as well: ``This has [[Page S8565]] been one of the most productive Senate years in a long time,'' he said. ``The Republican Senate majority is making a real difference, particularly [for] 100,000 public schools, [for] 3.5 million teachers, and [for] 50 million children.'' But perhaps the American people are wondering why. Perhaps they are wondering why the Senate is suddenly back to work this year. Perhaps they are wondering why some issues are suddenly passing now when they weren't passing previously. Let me turn back to the rest of what Senator Alexander said, because I think the answer for a bill like ESSA is really quite simple. ``We're doing it,'' he said, ``by working in a bipartisan way with our colleagues, which is, I think, the way the American people want us to govern.'' Here is the idea. Give Senators of both parties more of a say in the process, and Senators of both parties are likely to take more of a stake in the outcome. That is why, on this bill, we saw a more open process that started way back in the committee stage. Senator Alexander and Senator Murray, the top Republican and the top Democrat on the education committee, understood that No Child Left Behind had to be fixed after years of inaction. So they worked together on a bipartisan basis, and the Senate passed the most significant K-12 education reform in years.
Take another example. Senator Inhofe and Senator Boxer, the top Republican and top Democrat on the public works committee, understood that crumbling roads and bridges had to be fixed after years of inaction. So they worked together on a bipartisan basis, and the Senate passed the first long-term transportation bill in a decade.
How about this one: Senator Burr and Senator Feinstein, the top Republican and top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, understood that Americans' online privacy and financial transactions deserved some protection after years of inaction. So they worked together on a bipartisan basis, and the Senate passed an important cyber security bill.
Across the new Congress, we saw several other stuck issues come unstuck too: a decisive end to Washington's annual doc fix drama, strong action to help knock down foreign trade barriers, and extending a hand of compassion to victims of modern slavery. All of it passed in the new Congress, and all of it passed on a bipartisan basis.
Now, let me be clear. No one is saying that all of the Senate's challenges have been ironed out. Of course we know that our work is ongoing. Of course we know there will always be bumps along the way.
But here is what we can say for sure. The new Senate has taken serious steps to foster a more open atmosphere on many issues. The new Senate has seen real progress made for our country, often on a bipartisan basis, and we are proud of that. We are proud of that. Whether we are Republican or Democrat, I think that is something we can all take pride in as Americans.
Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rounds). Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mrs. CAPITO. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to speak in morning business for up to 15 minutes.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.