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Mitch M.
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  • Workforce Investment Act of 2013—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Mitch McConnell

    Posted on 2013-12-10

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    McCONNELL. Mr. President, tens of thousands gathered today in Soweto to pay their last respects to a man who symbolized so much for so many, and it is not hard to see why. Politicians come and go, Presidents rise and fall, but Nelson Mandela was more than a politician, more than just a foreign leader. He was a symbol--a symbol of freedom and hope, not only for his own people but for all people. We also remember Nelson Mandela as a symbol of reconciliation, especially when he had every reason not to be. How many of us could spend so many years in confinement--away from people we love, with little to do but mull the circumstances of our incarceration--and emerge so forgiving toward our captors? To me it was telling to see that one of the many people paying respects to Nelson Mandela this week was an Afrikaner named Christo Brand. The two men struck up an improbable but lasting friendship during Mandela's time on Robben Island. I say ``improbable'' because Brand was his jailer.

    The story goes that years after his release from prison, President Mandela was attending a ceremony and greeting Members of Parliament when he spotted Brand out across the room. Mandela lifted his arms and announced to everyone that this man had been his warden but he was also his friend. Then he asked Brand to join him in a group photo. ``You must stand next to me,'' he insisted. ``We belong together.'' I think that says it all.

    Nelson Mandela could have followed the example of other leaders in the region; he could have led South Africa down the path of Zimbabwe, but he did not. He urged his country to embrace inclusion and freedom and democracy instead. He asked his countrymen to stand with him because he knew that, as he once said to Christo Brand, his people ``belong together.'' So this morning the Senate joins the world in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela. May his commitment to freedom and reconciliation continue to inspire.

    Advancing an Agenda Now, Mr. President, on to the business at hand.

    I want to start out by saying that I think it was important for all of us to get back home and hear from our constituents over the past couple weeks. I talked with a lot of Kentuckians, and I can tell you there is a lot of anxiety and a lot of frustration out there. Folks are frustrated and upset by what is happening with their health care under ObamaCare, and they are outraged at the tactics and the outright deception--deception--that led to its passage.

    It is now clear that the President knew perfectly well that a lot of folks would not be able to keep the plans they had and liked, despite the endless assurances to the contrary they heard from the President himself. Many are also starting to realize that the talking points they heard about their premiums and keeping their doctors were not worth the paper they were written on either.

    The response they have gotten from the White House in the face of all this is just as bad. In the face of all the hardship and disruption this law is causing for literally millions of Americans, the White House is defiant. In the face of all of this, the President is trying to convince people that somehow we are the problem. According to the President, the problem is not the law. The problem is the people who are unhappy with it. The people who are unhappy with it, the President says, are the problem. This is exactly what folks are frustrated with-- the idea that Washington knows best.

    So we are going to keep fighting this fight. If anybody needed any proof that Big Government liberalism does not work, they have gotten a clinic over the past 2 months. It is clearer now than ever that we need to replace this law with commonsense, patient-centered reforms that will actually drive down costs and increase innovation.

    The idea that making our health care system more like the Department of Motor Vehicles will somehow improve the final product has now been thoroughly discredited, and a thousand Presidential speeches are not going to change that.

    But here is the larger story: ObamaCare is not an isolated case. It may be the most obvious example of this administration's determination to advance its agenda by any means possible, but it is one example of many.

    The latest example was the administration's complicity in the power grab we saw last month in the Senate. News reports suggest that the President, who denounced this tactic when Republicans thought about it back in 2005, was actively lobbying for it ahead of the majority leader's fateful decision to pull the trigger.

    So the President and the majority leader were for the protection of minority rights in the Senate until they were no longer in the minority. At that point, minority rights, the rules of the Senate, and the principle of a meaningful check on the Executive became an inconvenience--an inconvenience--that stood in the way of their desire for more power.

    As I indicated last month, this was a pure power grab, plain and simple. If the majority party cannot be expected to follow the rules, then there are not any rules.

    So this was a grave mistake, and it was a grave betrayal of trust, since some of the main players had previously vowed they would never do it, and then they did--just as the President had vowed that if you like your health care you could keep it. For the President and his enablers in Congress, the ends now clearly justify the means, and that is a very dangerous place for us to be.

    So Republicans will continue to speak out against these offenses against our institutions and against the American people, who have a right to expect elected leaders to keep their commitments and respect the rules and our laws. The American people have a right to that.

    The American people have given us divided government. The administration needs to accept that fact. They need to work with the government that the people have given them, not the one they wish they had. They need to stop viewing the rules that govern the rest of us as mere suggestions to follow as they wish, while the American people are left to suffer the consequences.

    As I have indicated, we see the results of this mindset most powerfully with ObamaCare--a law that this administration was determined to force through--determined to force through--by hook or by crook, regardless of what half-truths it had to repeat to get there, regardless of which Senators it had to coax and cajole.

    But the pattern did not end with the law's passage. The administration has repeatedly--repeatedly--invoked executive power to change whatever parts of the law prove inconvenient. Its friends begged for relief from the law, so they carved out special loopholes. Statutory deadlines became an irritation, so they waived them. ``Incorrect promises'' made to sell the law became an embarrassment, so they changed entire sections on the fly.

    To many Washington Democrats, this is all fine--not because they necessarily want to circumvent the law, perhaps, but because they feel justified in doing so if that is what it takes to enact their agenda.

    We have seen Democrats use this same approach with immigration policy, with welfare reform, with recess appointments. We have seen them use it to justify government-sanctioned harassment of entire groups of people over at the IRS.

    Two weeks ago, we saw Washington Democrats take this ends-justifies- the-means approach to a whole new level entirely, by eliminating-- eliminating--the right of the minority party to be heard in the Senate--something they themselves had warned against for [[Page S8583]] years when they were in the minority, something the Vice President called ``a naked power grab'' when he was in the Senate.

    Washington Democrats changed our democracy irrevocably--irrevocably. They did something they basically promised they would never do. And to what end? To what end? To pack the courts with judges they expect will rubberstamp the President's partisan agenda, to eliminate one of the last remaining obstacles standing between the President and the enactment of his agenda through executive fiat. In short, because they wanted power that the voters have denied them at the ballot box, they tried to get it another way.

    So before we all vote this morning, I just want to make sure everybody understands what this vote is all about. Two weeks ago the President and his Democratic allies defied two centuries of tradition, their own prior statements, and--in the case of some Democratic leaders--their own public commitments about following the rules of the Senate.

    They did this for one reason: to advance an agenda the American people do not want. It is an agenda that runs straight through the DC Circuit. So now they are putting their people in place, to quote one member of their leadership, ``one way or another.'' This vote is not about any one nominee. It is not about Patricia Millett. It is about an attitude on the left that says the ends justify the means--whatever it takes. They will do whatever it takes to get what they want. That is why we are here today, and that is why I will be opposing this nomination.

    Washington Democrats, unfortunately, are focusing their energy on saying and doing anything--anything it takes--to circumvent the representatives of the people. But, ultimately--ultimately--they will be accountable to the American people, and the American people will have their say again very soon--sooner than many of our colleagues might hope.

    Reservation of Leader Time The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Booker). Under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved.


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