The Horizon of a New Era

‘The challenges ahead are great and the work to come will be hard, but — just as we heard the voices of the American people in 2014 — we heard their message this last election too. Americans called for change from the last eight years and for hope at long last, and each of us — regardless of party — has a mandate to help and a role to play.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor today regarding the start of the new Congress:

“Two years ago the American people sent a new majority to the Senate.

“They called for a change in direction.

“They called for the Senate to get to work.

“So we got committees functioning again, we gave members of both parties a say again, and we put the Senate back to work again — and back on the side of the American people.

“Because we did, we were able to get important things done with a president of a different party.

“We put an end to a number of Washington’s artificial cliffs and punts.

“We helped make our infrastructure stronger.

“We helped make our communities healthier and our country safer.

“We gave our children more opportunities to succeed in school, and we helped ensure that those who suffer exploitation and abuse — whether veterans or the victims of human trafficking — can know more of the justice, and hope, and care they deserve.

“I’m proud of what we were able to achieve in a time of divided government, just as I’m excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

“We now stand on the horizon of a new era.

“We seated a new Congress yesterday.

“We’ll inaugurate a new president later this month.

“The challenges ahead are great and the work to come will be hard, but — just as we heard the voices of the American people in 2014 — we heard their message this last election too.

“Americans called for change from the last eight years and for hope at long last, and each of us — regardless of party — has a mandate to help and a role to play.

“The first way to begin realizing that hope, in my view, is to remove the things that are hurting families right now.

“The president-elect will have an important role to play there, especially in addressing overbearing, ideologically driven regulations. Congress will have its role too. And, in terms of what we can do here most immediately, Obamacare is at the top of the list.

“It’s the very first item we’ll consider this session. We’ll continue to devote significant time to it as well.

“I know some of our Democratic friends would prefer we didn’t act — that we just sit on our hands as premiums jump higher, as more Americans lose plans, as others continue to struggle with insurance too costly to actually use.

“That’s essentially the message the outgoing president came this morning to deliver.

“The incoming vice president came this morning too, and delivered an entirely different message.

“But repeal is just the first step. We know it will take time to undo the damage of this partisan law.

“We want, and we will need, the contributions of all colleagues as we turn to the development of lasting, durable reforms.

“The same is true of our economy.

“We know the economy of the last eight years hasn’t lived up to its potential.

“Not for working people.

“Not for small businesses.

“And certainly not for the next generation.

“We’ll have disagreements about the best way forward. That’s entirely natural. But, if we look, we’ll continue to find areas of agreement too. There are important contributions for each of us to make.

“That’s the lesson of the 114th Congress.

“A more open Senate is a more empowering Senate, but it is also a more demanding Senate. It gives each of us more of a say in the development of legislation just as it requires more of a responsibility in cooperating.

“In short, it gives the minority party a stake in governing and thus the obligations that come with it.

“I welcome our colleague from New York in his new role as Democratic leader.

“The role of leading a party is never easy. He’s got a tough job ahead of him. I respect him for that. And while I know we will often disagree, I’m also reminded of his words just before the election: ‘We have a moral obligation,’ the Democratic leader said, ‘even beyond the economy and politics, to avoid gridlock and get the country to work again.’

“’We have to get things done,’ he said.

“If that is our guiding principle, then I know we can make this session a success.

“It’s what will allow us to get the appropriations process moving, for example.

“We can set the pace now by working towards a smooth nomination process.

“I ask our Democratic friends to remember the consideration we showed President-elect Obama’s nominees in 2009. We approved seven — seven— members of his Cabinet unanimously, within hours of his inauguration. Seven nominees of President Obama’s cabinet approved unanimously within hours of his inauguration.

“Some nominations will be more contentious.

“I’m sure that will be true of the Supreme Court.

“It’s been clear throughout that the next president would name the next Supreme Court justice. I maintained that position even when many thought a president of a different party would be taking the oath this month. Now, the president who won the election will make the nomination, and the Senate the American people just re-elected will consider that nomination.

“But not everything need become so contentious.

“We’ll have many opportunities to cooperate.

“I mentioned several already.

“We’ll see many more in committee.

“Shortly, we hope to see an example of that in the Intelligence Committee, where Chairman Burr will lead members of both parties in a serious, comprehensive, and responsible review of any Russian involvement in our elections. Leader Schumer will join the committee as an ex officio member and will be able to review the reports of the intelligence community. And the Armed Services committee will review how best to tie our cyber capabilities to our war-fighting doctrine.

“It’s just this type of issue — something both parties say is too important to become a partisan football — where we often see the hard work of legislating and oversight transcend party.

“We saw it last Congress when, for example, members of both parties came together — and held together — on highways, on efforts to help cure incurable diseases, on providing TPA authority to both the current president and the next one.

“I hope we’ll see similar cooperation on many issues to come.

“The American people are watching us.

“They’re hurting.

“They’re calling for a change in direction.

“It’s now our united responsibility to move forward with their needs and their priorities as our guide.

“Let me again welcome every new member of the Senate.

“Let me again congratulate the Democratic leader.

“And let me again acknowledge President-elect Trump for an impressive victory. He heard the voices of Americans in every part of the country in a way others hadn’t. He now carries a heavy burden.

“We will work with him to help the American people feel confident again — confident in themselves and confident in their futures.

“We look forward to the inauguration in just over two weeks. There is now much serious work to be done.

“I look forward to working with each of you to achieve it.”

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