State of the Union Addressby Senator John Cornyn
Posted on 2015-01-21
CORNYN. Mr. President, similar to the rest of the country, I
listened with close attention to the President's State of the Union
Address last night. I had a pretty good seat down front. I got to
listen to the President very closely. Of course I was interested
because this presented a great opportunity for the President, following
a very eventful election on November 4, to state his vision for the
country and most particularly to talk about his plans for working with
the new Congress that was elected in November.
It was a big election for a lot of reasons but one was that we got nine new Republican Members of the Senate. I have been in the Senate in the minority and I have been in the Senate in the majority. I can tell you I like it a lot better in the majority. But the fact is that notwithstanding a very good election, from my perspective, on November 4, one that sent a real clear message, I was left to wonder whether the President got that message.
While I believe this was a referendum on Washington's dysfunction in dealing with so many of the issues that face hard-working American families, what the President seemed to promise was more dysfunction. But I for one am here to say we are not going to follow the President down this low road. We will try to find areas where we can work with the President. He did mention a few: things such as trade, things such as criminal justice reform. There are a few things the President seemed to indicate were not partisan issues. We look forward to working with him on those issues.
But the biggest problem we have and which still faces our country is the fact that notwithstanding one pretty good quarter of economic growth, our economy and our recovery are still pretty fragile. We know the number of people, the percentage of Americans in the workforce is at about a 30-year low. Some of that is because they have looked for work and they cannot find work, Americans who are seeking full-time work and have to settle for part-time work. Part of it is because of the President's own policies, things such as the Affordable Care Act-- ObamaCare--which incentivizes employers to put people on part-time work in order to avoid some of the penalties.
But notwithstanding my optimism after this important election we had in November and the potential we have working together--the President and Congress--to try to address the challenges that face our country, my optimism was quickly tempered. Why only tempered optimism? I heard, as the Senator from Wyoming, my friend Mr. Barrasso, mentioned, the President has issued seven veto threats since the election--seven veto threats; this from a President who in the first 6 years of his term of office has only vetoed one bill.
But the first thing he does after this election, where it should have been a wake-up call to him and others--should have been a wake-up call to all of us--he is issuing seven veto threats to bills that have not even been voted out of the Senate, that have not even made their way to his desk. To me that sends a very disturbing message that the President, instead of just being Commander in Chief, wants to be the obstructionist in chief. I do not know how else to interpret that.
Then there is the President's disquieting tendency to take credit for things other people have done, and for his own failures, to blame them on someone else. It is truly disturbing. Since this new Congress has convened, it seems to me it has been a tale of two branches of government.
While the Congress has shown a commitment to working together--and in my private conversations with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, many of them are eager to work with us to try to find solutions to these challenges on a bipartisan basis.
This is one reason why the majority leader, Senator McConnell, chose the Keystone XL Pipeline legislation, because it enjoys broad, bipartisan support. We thought it was important to demonstrate, right out of the starting gates, that we actually listened to what the American people told us on November 4--that they want us to work together and they are tired of the dysfunction. But it appears the President hasn't noticed or, perhaps more accurately, he doesn't really care what the American people said on November 4.
If the President isn't going to listen to the American people and the voters who voted in a referendum on his policies--those are not my words; those are his--I wish he would at least listen to what he himself has said. He has said time and again that elections have consequences.
[[Page S306]] Well, I agree with that. Who wouldn't. But this is the same President who 22 times said he did not have the authority to issue an Executive action on immigration and then turned around and did it. Twenty-two times he said he didn't have the authority, and then he did it.
What I have learned in Washington is we can't just listen to what people say. We have to watch what they do. We have a track record of the past 6 years of what this President has done and not just what he has said.
As I say, the intransigence and the tone deafness was pretty shocking last night. Notwithstanding, the President gave a good speech. What I think the President really hadn't cracked the code on--as anybody in elected office has to understand--is that there is a difference between running for office and actually governing once the election is over. But this President seems to be in a perpetual campaign mode, making promises that sound like campaign promises rather than recognizing the reality of divided government and looking for opportunities to work together to actually solve problems.
So he is back on the campaign trail again. I think he is going to Idaho and other places around the country touting his new agenda-- hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes. Of course, somebody has to pay the bills, but the President mainly talked about free stuff last night. Free stuff is always pretty popular. I am surprised he didn't offer Americans free beer and pizza while he was at it. It is very popular.
But the American people are not dumb. They understand somebody is going to have to pay the bill, and the President ignored that entirely. He also ignored that for the past 6 years this President has added $7 trillion to the national debt. It is now over $18 trillion.
Now, I know that it is impossible for the human mind to wrap itself around a figure that big. That is so big that it is incomprehensible in many ways. But we didn't hear a thing about the President adding $7 trillion to the national debt.
What he did take credit for--this is interesting because I have mentioned he takes credit for things he had nothing to do with and he blames other people for his own failures. But here is where he was half right. He did say that the deficit--the difference between the money we bring in and the money we spend--actually had gone down a little bit.
That is true, but the fact remains that we are still adding to the national debt for every dollar of deficit spending. But what the President also did not say is the main reason why the annual deficit had gone down was because he advocated one of the largest tax increases in recent history--perhaps in all of American history--during the fiscal cliff debate. Then, of course, there was the sequester, which are the caps put on discretionary spending, which the President railed against even though he was the one who thought this up during the so- called supercommittee deliberations.
I couldn't help but think, as the President kept talking about raising taxes, increasing spending, and not dealing with problems such as the looming debt, that he was turning us more into Europe, a welfare state, where everybody would look to the government to take care of them, not a country that we were left by our parents and grandparents, where we could exercise our individual freedom and seek opportunities to rise above what we had been left by previous generations.
To me that is the most important difference in what the President said last night and what he might have said, because our children do deserve more opportunities. The truth is that for most of us who are people my age, we are going to be OK. But the fact is the next generation, my children and beyond, have been bequeathed more debt.
Now the President wants to add on to that debt--more taxes, more spending, bigger government.
If there was one thing that was rejected in this last election, it was what we have had for the past 6 years. What we have had for the past 6 years was a grand experiment in government. We have always had this debate about the size and the role of the Federal Government, but we have never had such an aggressive attempt to grow the size of the government in recent memory, certainly since the New Deal, as under the past 6 years. What the American people, I believe, rejected was this experiment in big government.
Perhaps that would be understandable if there weren't examples of what actually does work, what does grow the economy, what does put more money in hard-working taxpayers' pockets, and what does provide more jobs and opportunity. One reason why it seems somewhat obvious to me is because I see what has been done in places such as my home State of Texas, and it has been done in other States where they put their trust in people and not in bigger government that somebody has to pay for.
The formula is not all that unique. Governor Perry, who just left office after 14 years, when people talked about the ``Texas miracle,'' said: No, it is not a miracle; a miracle is a supernatural event. This is the Texas model. It is a conscious effort to choose policies that actually work, that grow the economy and create jobs, lower taxes, and result in less red tape and a balanced budget.
Wouldn't that be nice? We haven't had a balanced budget in Washington since 2009. It is really malpractice.
There are other policies that would foster a better business environment and encourage businesses to invest and grow because that creates jobs, that creates rising wages and a successful middle class. So the fact is that if it works in the States, it can work here too.
Now, measures such as reforming the Tax Code to provide tax relief in a way that incentivizes people to work harder and produce more are pro- growth tax policies--not regressive policies such as the President has proposed, which would make it harder.
Improving infrastructure projects--the President talked about infrastructure last night, but he has also issued a veto threat on the Keystone XL Pipeline. We are--I agree with the Senator from Wyoming-- going to approve it, put it on his desk, and then it is up to him. Then, of course, there is putting Americans back to work and repealing oppressive government overreach--such as ObamaCare.
There is a difference between governing and campaigning. The President--there is no doubt about it--is a world class campaigner. He is right that he won two elections by running very successful campaigns, but he seems absolutely disinterested, detached, and, indeed, actually an obstacle to governing, which is the job in front of us.
In closing, I would say the state of the Union is always a work in progress, but it should always be improving. It is my sincere hope the President will realize the hand he has been dealt, which is one of divided government, and that rather than campaigning perpetually, making promises for free stuff, higher taxes, and bigger government, that he would work with us to solve some of the very clear challenges that confront us, primarily ones that will help grow our economy and put Americans back to work.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.