SOTU: A Missed Opportunity for Bipartisan, Constructive Engagement

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the President’s State of the Union last night:

“Last night, the American people heard two very different addresses.

“One was focused on the middle class, and how Washington can work together in a serious way for better jobs, higher wages, and more opportunity. It was a call for constructive cooperation. It was a call for new ideas.
“I commend Senator Ernst for her thoughtful address. She understands the needs of working people in a way those of a particular mindset in Washington don’t. She knows that the middle class is looking for Washington to function again, and that hardworking Americans want D.C. to focus on their needs instead of the demands of powerful special interests. That’s just what they told us in November when they sent this new Republican Congress here on their behalf.
“I was hoping for something similar from President Obama.  Not identical of course. We don’t agree on all the issues, that’s clear enough. But there are enough areas of common ground where we should be able to work together. It would have been most constructive if he’d put the focus of his address there.
“The moment of high purpose called for the leader of the free world to show Americans what could be accomplished through constructive, bipartisan engagement. The State of the Union can be about more than veto threats or strident partisanship.
“We know the president may not be wild about the people’s choice of a Congress. But he owes it to the American people to find a serious way to work with the representatives they elected.
“On some issues, like cybersecurity, he sent positive signals. He also began what I hope will be a sustained effort to move his own party forward — to encourage them to work with us to help create more jobs by breaking down foreign trade barriers and allowing America to sell more of what it makes and grows.

“Those were good signs. But that was only part of the speech. There’s not a lot serious lawmakers can do with talking points designed specifically not to pass.
“Members in both parties would have welcomed serious ideas about how to save and strengthen Medicare, and how to protect Social Security for future generations, and how to balance the budget without tired tax hikes.
“We listened closely for specific details on how he’d work with both parties to achieve comprehensive tax simplification that focuses not on growing government, but creating jobs. The president has expressed some support for ideas like this previously. He should have expanded on it last night.
“There’s still time for him to do it.  But whatever he chooses, the new Congress will continue working to send good ideas to his desk.
“One of those good ideas is a bipartisan infrastructure project the Senate will resume working on today: the Keystone jobs bill.
“It’s heartening to see a real debate and amendment process on the floor of the Senate again. It’s the result of the new spirit of reform that’s being brought to Congress. It aims to give members of both parties a stake in positive solutions, so we can get Washington functioning again on behalf of the American people.
“We’re looking to the president to join us in our positive mission for the middle class. It’s what the American people just voted for. It’s what Senator Ernst articulated so well last night. And if the president is willing to put the veto threats away and the designed-to-fail talking points aside, we can still cooperate to get smart things done for the people we represent.”

Related Issues: Free Trade, Keystone XL Pipeline, Cybersecurity, Jobs, State of the Union, Restoring the Senate