McConnell to Senate Democrats: ‘Do Your Job’
‘It seems Democrats are more concerned with funding the acquisition of heavy water from Iran than funding water infrastructure here in America.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding Senate Democrats blocking the appropriations process with a filibuster:
“Let me quote to you from a letter I recently received from our colleagues across the aisle:
We are writing to reiterate our interest in working cooperatively to facilitate the Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations process…As we see it, restoring the regular order promises not only a more open and transparent process, but a chance for senators on both sides of the aisle to participate meaningfully in funding decisions. This is a win-win opportunity and we should seize it together.
“That’s exactly what we’ve been doing.
“The appropriations process was off to a strong start, an ‘excellent kickoff’ in the words of the top Appropriations Committee Democrat, with bills passing through the committee by unanimous, bipartisan votes. ‘If this is the way it is going to be to move appropriations,’ she said just a few days ago, then, quote, ‘I think it is a good day.’
“Democrats lauded the first bill on the floor, and in press releases, for helping promote American jobs and for addressing the cleanup of radioactive and hazardous contamination across the country. They praised its key investments in research and water infrastructure.
“Then, they filibustered it.
“The very same people who wrote that letter. The very same people who praised the bill. The very same people who took credit for amendments to the bill.
“It seems Democrats are more concerned with funding the acquisition of heavy water from Iran than funding water infrastructure here in America.
“As we all know, President Obama concluded a nuclear deal with Iran last year. Tehran is expected to reap approximately $100 billion thanks to that deal, and the Obama Administration itself has admitted that the Iranian regime is likely to use that windfall to invest in its war economy — to defend its regime and to strengthen the hand of the Revolutionary Guards, a group that’s been accused of helping Shi’ite militias attack and kill American soldiers in Iraq.
“Many of us, including myself, warned that this deal made little sense in terms of our regional strategy. We warned that it would enhance Iran’s capability and power. And indeed, since signing President Obama’s deal, Iran has tested ballistic missiles, it’s deployed forces to Syria in support of the Assad regime, and it’s harassed American ships and those of our allies within the Persian Gulf.
“So when the Administration made an announcement over the weekend that it would be purchasing so-called ‘heavy water’ from Iran, a lot of us were concerned. That’s right, U.S. funds would be sent to Iran. Nothing in the President’s deal with Iran required the United States to make that purchase, and it likely will effectively amount to even more money for Iran to invest in its military modernization.
“Senator Cotton filed an amendment to prevent the money we’re appropriating here from being used for more of these purchases in the future. His amendment does not put the Secretary of Energy’s current heavy-water purchase agreement at risk. It simply strives to keep our Treasury from subsidizing the modernization of Iran’s military, or the procurement of ballistic missiles or air defenses that may be used against America or her allies. I support his policy objective.
“Democrats apparently do not. They filibustered the overall bill — a bill that passed committee with unanimous bipartisan support, remember — to prevent even the possibility of voting on this amendment. They could hardly wait a single week before throwing an obstructionist wrench into the appropriations process they claimed to want.
“I certainly hope Democrats are not dusting off the old Filibuster Summer playbook, especially in light of the letter they just sent me about ‘win-win’ opportunities and restoring regular order.
“Perhaps the most galling thing about Democrats again trying to blow up the appropriations process is this. They filibustered this appropriations bill then walked into a press conference about Zika funding. But the appropriations process is the path for that funding!
“Preventing the spread of Zika is something both parties agree is a priority. The Administration currently has funds to address the issue but has requested additional funds by the end of next month. Both Republicans and Democrats have been looking at different approaches to properly address the situation. The Senior Democratic Senator from Washington recently characterized that bipartisan, collaborative process as moving forward ‘in good faith.’ That’s especially notable when you consider how difficult it is for a committee to move forward when the Administration keeps it waiting month after month for information it needs, as has been the case here with Zika. But progress was being made anyway. Then, Democrats filibustered and upended the process.
“So how do we move forward now? The second-ranking Senate Democratic leader once shared some wisdom that seems particularly relevant.
“If you don't want to fight fires, don't be a firefighter.
“If you don't want to come to Congress and vote on tough issues, get another job somewhere else.
“Here’s the message to our Democratic colleagues: Do your job.
“There are other areas where both sides have been able to find common ground. We’ve seen the truth of that in the many important solutions passed by this Republican-led Senate already.
“Permanent tax relief for families and small businesses. Groundbreaking education reform that empowers parents and prevents Washington from imposing Common Core. The first long-term transportation solution in years, a solution that will finally allow us to address crumbling roads and infrastructure.
“Whether it’s pay raises for our troops, help for our veterans, or hope for the victims of human trafficking, we got a lot done last year with hard work and cooperation. We’ve gotten more done this year with hard work and cooperation too.
“In the past few months we’ve passed a comprehensive North Korea sanctions bill, a bill to permanently ban Internet access taxes, a measure to give the public more access to government records, a bill to help safeguard American intellectual property from theft, and critical legislation to help address our nation’s prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Just last week, we passed both the most pro-passenger, pro-security FAA reauthorization in years and the first major energy legislation since the Bush Administration.
“We now have a bipartisan opportunity to responsibly work through individual funding bills. We now have a bipartisan opportunity to responsibly continue addressing funding issues like Zika.
“What it will take is for our Democratic colleagues to end this obstruction and work cooperatively across the aisle instead. That’s not too much to ask. So let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
“I believe that when you give Senators and the people they represent more of a say in the legislative process, they’re bound to take more of a stake in the legislative outcome — regardless of party. That’s why we’ve empowered committees and members to take the lead in more areas. That’s how we’ve gotten the Senate back to work in so many ways. I think members in both parties have seen the benefits of it.
“So yes, some may see a short-term political benefit in blowing up the appropriations process now, but I’d also ask my friends to remember this.
“Restoring the appropriations process is something we all should want.
“Democrats have said it’s what they want. Republicans have said it’s what we want. It’s what I set out to do.
“I think it’s the best way to give individual Senators in both parties more of a voice for their constituents in the funding process, to empower them to make smarter decisions about how taxpayer dollars are spent.
“So we’re going to give our colleagues an opportunity today to reconsider this filibuster. They don’t have to block the appropriations process, which is the path for funding priorities like Zika. I hope they’ll make the right choice.
“We’ve gotten so much done already with hard work and cooperation, I know there’s much more we can accomplish for our country with a little more of each.
“Let’s keep striving to get more done for our country, together.”
Related Issues: Iran Nuclear Deal, Appropriations, Iran, Zika Virus, Senate Democrats