The President’s State of the Union Addressby Senator Mitch McConnell
Posted on 2016-01-12
McCONNELL. Mr. President, tonight we will welcome the President
of the United States for the State of the Union Address. It is his
final address, and it gives us cause for reflection.
Many of us recall the moment in Boston when a State senator became a national star. His rhetorical gift was undeniable. It was a soaring elocution bathed in confetti that promised a new and more inclusive beginning. It inspired many. It propelled Barack Obama to the highest office in the land.
Americans assumed the campaigning would eventually come to a close and the serious work of governing would eventually commence, but it is now many years later, and the Obama for President campaign never really ended. Speeches still substitute for substance. Straw men still stand in for serious debate. Slogans still surrogate for governing.
We have been promised even more campaigning tonight, this time for the candidate President Obama would like to see succeed him. It leads Americans to wonder: When is the serious work of governing ever going to begin? Governing isn't easy. Governing often requires serious engagement with the Congress the American people elected, not the one the President wishes they had elected.
Here is a simple fact. ``You don't make change through slogans.'' That is something President Obama once said. I wish he had taken his own advice because here is what we know as we enter the twilight of his Presidency. He has presided over a sluggish and uneven economic recovery that is failing too many of our citizens.
Health premiums and deductibles have continued to shoot ever higher. Wages have flatlined for too many. Inequality has grown. Manufacturing has shrunk. Poverty seems to entrench. The middle class has continued to collapse, to the point where it no longer even constitutes a majority of our country.
The Obama administration says it wants to help the middle class, but its policies often tell a different story. We have seen the negative impact ObamaCare has had on so many middle-class families. We have also seen this administration declare a war on coal families who just want to get ahead.
I have invited a Kentucky miner from Pikeville, Howard Abshire, as my State of the Union guest tonight. He has watched as the Obama administration's heartless approach has helped contribute to devastation in his community and to the loss of thousands of jobs in Kentucky, one of which was his own job.
Here is what his message has been to President Obama. Howard Abshire said: ``We're hurting [and] we need help,'' but ``we don't want to be bailed out, we want to work.'' Many Kentuckians feel the very same way. Many Americans feel similarly too. Today only 20 percent of our citizens think things are headed in the right direction in their country. Nearly three-quarters want the next President to take a totally different approach from the current one. These are the simple facts, and they present the President with a choice.
President Obama can try to blame others for it. He can try to convince Americans they are wrong to feel the way they do or he can take responsibility and chart a new course. Americans are losing faith in the future. They are losing hope that their children can lead a better life. They watch as challenges continue to mount around the world--like those from ISIL, Iran, Russia, Al Qaeda, an ever-aggressive China, North Korea, and of course the Taliban--while this administration seems to have no plan to deal with any of it.
This hurt in our country and the failing approach from the White House should be disheartening to all of us. Perhaps the worst part is, it didn't have to be like this. It really didn't have to be like this. I believe that when the American people elect divided government, they are not telling us to do nothing. They are telling us to work together in the areas where we [[Page S40]] can agree so we can make progress for our country.
This Congress has racked up a growing list of bipartisan accomplishments for the American people over the past year. Some thought the major reforms we passed in areas such as education, transportation, Medicare, and tax relief were all impossible in the current political climate. We proved those pundits wrong. We showed how significant bipartisan accomplishments can be achieved when good policy is the goal.
Perhaps we have inspired the President to finally try his hand at bipartisan achievement as well. We will see tonight when he delivers his last State of the Union Address. If he proposes real plans to do things such as defeat ISIL, grow economic opportunity, and strengthen the middle class--plans actually designed to pass this Congress, not just provide talking points for the next campaign--we will know he is ready to join us in meeting the challenges of tomorrow because Republicans aren't afraid of the future, and we don't think President Obama should be either. We want him to join us in recognizing the challenges of today while working for the solutions of tomorrow. It is true that we as a nation have a lot of challenges to confront. The pain and the worry in our country is real, it is palpable, but none of it is insurmountable.
That is the hopeful message I expect Governor Haley to deliver tonight. I expect her to contrast a failing Presidency that is stuck in the past with a Republican Party that is oriented to the future. Nikki Haley knows the American dream. She has lived the American dream. She believes in the continuing promise of our country, and she understands the importance of opportunity and upward mobility for our middle class. When Governor Haley talks about hope and change, she means it because she has actually worked to deliver it.
There is nothing wrong with inspirational speeches. We all need to be inspired, especially in trying times such as these. Soaring rhetoric matched with the right policies and hard work to actually achieve them is usually good for our country--just ask Ronald Reagan or Jack Kemp. Empty eloquence wrapped in leftwing ideas of yesterday that hurt the middle class--it is time to leave that behind. It is time to look to the future. We will see tonight if President Obama is ready to do so and move beyond the failed policies of the past.