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John B.
Republican WY

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  • Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014—Motion to Proceed—Continued

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2014-01-28

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    BARRASSO. Madam President, tonight President Obama is going to deliver his State of the Union Address. It will be in front of Congress and the TV cameras, and he will be talking to the American people as well. He and his advisers are probably working right now on some last- minute sound bites and applause lines. But I would say, instead of that, they should be working on an agenda that actually helps unemployed Americans, an agenda that will get our economy back on track.

    The President doesn't have very many big opportunities left to do this. He is quickly becoming a lameduck President. The President is going to become a lameduck even faster if he comes to the Capitol tonight and delivers a lengthy speech that just attacks Republicans.

    The economic recession ended 4\1/2\ years ago. Many Americans have still not seen their careers or their finances or their quality of life improve. That is what Americans are looking for. Unfortunately, they haven't found it because of the Obama economy. That is what the Obama economy has done to Americans.

    Millions of Americans have actually, regrettably, given up looking for work. They are falling further and further behind, further and further away from achieving the dreams they have had. Is the President going to tell those people he has no new ideas about how to actually help them? President Obama is failing. He is failing to make it easier for the American economy to recover and he is failing to help Americans who desperately want to work. He is failing because he is focused on things such as extending emergency unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage. While an unemployment check can be a vital safety net for families, it is not a long-term solution for what is becoming a part- time economy under President Obama.

    Tonight the President can deliver yet another partisan political speech--he may get a standing ovation here and there from the most liberal side of the aisle--or he can do what he should do as President: focus on solutions with proven bipartisan support.

    The President has made a point of saying lately that 2014 will be, as he calls it, a year of action. He said he intends to act on his own, without waiting for Congress. I believe that would be the wrong course. President Obama has had trouble getting some of his policies through Congress, and the main reason is the American people do [[Page S510]] not support his policies. He should use this speech tonight to move to the center, to show he is willing to work with others. He shouldn't give a speech that shows he is moving further to the left. We have had too much of the President's politics of division.

    The politics of division is hurting the economy and it is hurting the country. Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill already agree on ideas to get America and Americans back to work.

    There are many policies that President Obama can talk about in his speech tonight that will not require him to go around Congress but, rather, to come to Congress. I would like to suggest three of them that he should announce tonight.

    First is the Keystone XL Pipeline. The President should say he will stop blocking construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. His own State Department says that the pipeline construction could support over 42,000 jobs across the country, and a bipartisan group of 62 Senators, 62 Members of this body, backs the project. Early in 2013 President Obama met with Senate Republicans. He told us we would have an answer about the pipeline by the end of the year. That was 2013. The year has come, gone, and the Keystone XL Pipeline approval is still sitting on the President's desk. The American people deserve an answer, and the answer should be yes.

    Second, the President really should address his reckless Environmental Protection Agency--the EPA--and how its regulations are putting Americans out of work. Recently the EPA released new requirements for powerplants. The requirements are unachievable and they are unnecessary. Ironically, the EPA did this on the exact same day as the 50th anniversary of the start of the war on poverty declared by LBJ. These harsh new regulations are going to cause energy costs to go up, and they are going to cause people to lose their jobs as coal plants are forced to close. The job losses and higher prices are going to fall most heavily on people struggling in Appalachia and across coal country. Higher energy costs clearly hurt our economy. The President must sensibly rein in his EPA before it does even more economic damage.

    Third, the President should support bipartisan efforts to repeal his medical device tax. This is a destructive tax, and it was part of the health care law. It has been estimated by some that the tax puts thousands of American jobs at risk because it helps to push manufacturing overseas. An amendment to repeal that medical device tax passed right here in the Senate last year with a bipartisan vote of 79 to 20. With all the changes President Obama has made to his health care law, it is barely recognizable. Repealing this tax would be a change that actually helps Americans and not just the President's poll numbers.

    There are many things the President can talk about tonight that have this sort of bipartisan support. These are just three, but they would be a good place to start.

    When the President leaves here after the State of the Union, he is going to go visit four States: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and then Tennessee--four States, eight U.S. Senators. When we take a look at who they are, four are Republicans, four are Democrats. All 8 of them--4 Democrats and 4 Republicans--were part of the 79 Members of this body who voted to repeal the medical device tax.

    When the President's spokesman the other day on Sunday's TV shows said the President is going to use his phone and his pen, I would say he ought to use the phone to call the eight Senators to say: I am going to use my pen, after you vote to repeal the medical device tax, to sign that into law. That is something which would show bipartisanship on the part of the President as well as really help with our economy.

    Nearly 21 million Americans are out of work or they are trapped in part-time jobs. It is time for President Obama to talk less about divisive ways to redistribute Americans' prosperity and more about helping all Americans increase their own prosperity. America is a strong and resilient nation. We can overcome the Obama economy, and we will. We can overcome--and we will--the bad policies of this administration. The President should come tonight to the Capitol and say he is willing to help Americans return to prosperity.

    If the President announces these three policies tonight, the country and the economy will benefit and a bipartisan group of Republicans and Democrats will all be able to stand and applaud.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Manchin.) The Republican whip.

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