Paris Climate Change Agreement and Senate Accomplishmentsby Senator John Barrasso
Posted on 2015-12-15
BARRASSO. Mr. President, over the weekend, countries meeting in
Paris signed a broad new climate agreement. President Obama called the
agreement a success. He said it was a ``strong agreement.''
Despite the fanfare, let's keep some things in perspective. There are
important parts of this agreement that can
do a great deal of damage to American jobs and the American economy.
That should be and is a big concern to the American people. Parts of
the agreement can do damage to our jobs and our economy. At the same
time, important parts are not binding on other countries. The American
people are right to wonder if the White House has signed yet another
terrible deal just to try to shore up the President's legacy.
Earlier this year, President Obama was so anxious, so desperate to get a deal with Iran over its nuclear program that the President signed a terrible deal. Since then, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iran has ``seriously undermined'' the agency's ability to verify what Iran has done. Here we are again. It is another bad deal, and other countries that signed it are already ignoring it.
India is the world's third largest emitter of carbon. The agreement was on Saturday. This agreement tied plans to meet their emissions targets to getting U.S. taxpayer dollars. Then on Monday--just yesterday--India said it has plans to double its coal output by 2020. Is that what President Obama calls, in his mind, a success? A Gallup poll came out yesterday that showed that the American people's biggest concern is not climate change; it is terrorism. Only 3 percent of all Americans said that pollution or the environment was the most important problem facing America today.
President Obama says climate change is our biggest threat. President Obama continues to put a priority on things that he expects to help his legacy, not on the issues the American public actually are concerned about. As elected representatives, we should not allow the President to buy a legacy for himself using American taxpayer dollars. I am willing to sit down with any Democrat who wants to work on a realistic, responsible, and achievable plan to make American energy as clean as we can, as fast as we can, without raising costs on American families. That should be our goal: coming together to find a real solution, real- world solutions, things that work, not just signing a symbolic agreement that does not solve anything, something that may make the President feel good but doesn't actually do good.
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate can do it. Just look at all we have accomplished this year working together. It has been a very productive year in the Senate. I am not the only one saying it. Last Wednesday, U.S. News & World Report said: ``There's reason for optimism on Capitol Hill ahead of a looming deadline to pass a trillion-dollar omnibus funding measure.'' The magazine asked: ``What is behind it?'' Well, they said: ``After years of partisan gridlock, Congress has seemingly regained its ability to get things done.'' After years of partisan gridlock, Congress has seemingly regained its ability to get things done. The bipartisan policy committee said the same thing recently. They pointed out that the House and Senate have both made important progress this year. They said: ``Both chambers have reinvigorated a robust committee process.'' Getting committees back to work is essential to getting Congress back to work, and that is what Republicans have done this year. So far this year, the total number of days worked is up from last year by almost an additional 3 weeks of work on the Senate floor. This is in comparison to when Harry Reid was in charge. We have been considering a lot more amendments this year as well. For all of last year, there were only 15 up-and-down votes on amendments--15 for the entire year. So far this year, we have voted on over 200 amendments. These are amendments both by Democrats and Republicans. These are opportunities for individual Senators to stand up, offer their ideas, and be heard--ideas that they think will make America better, make legislation better, not just what the leader of the party wants, Senator Reid, who blocked so many amendments--not just what Senator Reid might think is best for the President, no; what the American people think is important.
So when you look into the substance of what we have done, the news is even better for the American people. So far this year we passed major legislation that has been helping Americans all across the country. We passed an important law on Medicare to make much needed reforms and to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program. We passed the first multiyear highway bill since 2005. We passed the longest reauthorization of the highway trust fund in almost a decade.
These aren't just short-term patches for a few months or a year. That is what happened when the Democrats were in charge. These are long-term fixes that create the certainty and the stability our economy needs. This year the Senate passed the most significant education reform since 2002. We passed an important human trafficking law. We passed a budget. Can you imagine that? There hasn't been a budget passed in both Houses of Congress since 2009. We passed one this year.
As chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, I can tell you that we have made a lot of progress this year on legislation to improve the lives of people across Indian Country. We passed a measure that will help make crucial and long overdue improvements on roads on tribal lands. Last week we passed legislation that helps give tribes more economic opportunities. It gives them more control over developing their natural resources.
Republicans are eager to work with Democrats and to produce legislation the President will sign. We are proud of the accomplishments of this year. At the same time, we are not afraid to challenge President Obama's most misguided and dangerous policies. That is why the Senate passed legislation repealing ObamaCare to ease Americans' pain under this law. We passed a measure on the Keystone XL Pipeline to create jobs, energy security, and economic growth, and we put that bill on the President's desk to force him to finally make a decision.
We challenged President Obama's job-crushing energy regulations by voting to block his power plan and his devastating rules on waters of the United States. I wish to point out, looking at a headline from yesterday's New York Times, that EPA broke the law with regard to pushing their water rule. The EPA broke the law, which is this issue of this whole waters of the United States. The EPA must be held accountable--accountable for breaking the law, accountable for misuse of government funds. We will hold this administration accountable.
Of course we also oppose the President's nuclear deal with Iran. We have shown the American people we can get things done, and there is a viable alternative to the reckless policies coming out of the White House.
Looking back on what we have been able to do this year, I think there is real reason for optimism. The Senate doesn't need to be the place of gridlock that it had become under Harry Reid. In 2016 the Senate will be taking more votes on important legislation and on amendments. There will be more debates, more consideration of ideas from both sides of the aisle. That is what the American people have sent us to do. That is what they expect from us. The American people have seen it is possible to govern and that not everything in Washington is broken. It takes leaders who are committed to getting things done and committed to looking out for the best interests of the American people.
This is the end of the year, but it is not the end of this Congress. It is not the end of what the Senate can do to make the lives of the American people better. We have done a lot. There is still a lot of work to be done over the next month and the next year. We will continue to work to relieve the burden and the expense of excess government regulations, to reduce the power of unelected, unaccountable Washington bureaucrats, and to return to the States and to the people more of the control that belongs to them. The goal is to give people at home the power to make their own decisions about what is best for them, their communities, and their families.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rounds). The Senator from New Mexico.