Bipartisanship, Progress Up to Obama

Last week, members of the 114th Congress took the oath of office and ushered in a new Republican majority. It's a fresh beginning for our country that I'm optimistic about. And I was honored and humbled to be elected unanimously by my Republican colleagues as Senate majority leader – only the second Senate majority leader from Kentucky in history.

The first was Alben Barkley, who led the Democrats from 1937 to 1949. His portrait hangs on the wall in my Capitol office. So does a portrait of Kentucky Republican Sen. John Sherman Cooper, whom I was proud to intern for when he was in office. I also have a bust of the great 19th-century Kentucky statesman, Sen. Henry Clay.

Each of these Kentuckians governed in a different era, and they belonged to different parties. But all of them believed in the Senate. All of them worked to strengthen it as an institution, to make it worthy of the American people's respect.

Today we in the Senate must do no less. It is time to end Washington's dysfunction and pass common-sense jobs bills for the middle class again.

As I traveled throughout Kentucky last year, the message from voters was clear: They want a government that works again. And they want it to focus on more jobs, more opportunity, and more flexibility for a middle class that feels squeezed.

A good start would be for Congress to take up jobs proposals with strong bipartisan support – such as simplifying our broken tax system, opening more markets to American-made products, and approving bipartisan infrastructure projects like the Keystone Pipeline – and sending that kind of legislation to the president for his signature.

That's just what we plan to do. But to ensure the best outcome, two things will have to happen.

First, we need a Congress that functions again.

The era we've just been through – where bipartisan jobs bills sent over from the House were routinely killed by a Senate Democrat majority, and where senators' serious jobs ideas were regularly silenced – has to end. As Senate majority leader, I'm determined to ensure it does.

Second, both parties need to make divided government work. As the past has shown, divided government isn't a reason to do nothing; it has often been a spur to achieve big things.

Ronald Reagan worked with Democratic leaders to pass bold tax and Social Security reform. A Republican Congress worked with Bill Clinton to pass ground-breaking welfare reform.

If President Obama is interested in historic achievement, this can be his time, too. But bipartisan progress can only be achieved if he wants it. He's the only one who can bring his party on board or sign what Congress passes.

I know it won't be easy for him. The president's supporters are pressing for militancy, not compromise. But they need to understand that democracy isn't about what you can get away with, but about what you can achieve together.

Whatever the president decides, this Congress is going to function again. It's going to legislate for the middle class again. And while we're always going to be looking for areas where we can agree, it's OK if the president doesn't love every bill Congress passes. Few presidents do.

The point is, our job is not to protect a president from good ideas. Our job is to get the Senate back to work and focused on passing serious ideas designed to boost jobs for the middle class and help restore our nation's promise for future generations.

That's just what we intend to do, starting now.

By:  Mitch McConnell
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer

Related Issues: History, Restoring the Senate