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Weekly remarks: Mitch McConnell on jobs, tax cuts, debt; Obama wants start to START treaty vote

November 20, 2010 |  3:00 am

>Capitol Dome

Weekly remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell, as provided by Republican Party leadership 

Good Morning. I’m Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky.

As Americans across the country prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this coming week, we’re reminded of the many blessings we enjoy as a nation.

We’re grateful for the sacrifices of the brave men and women in our armed forces who will not be home with their families next week, and who make these blessings possible. 

And we’re also conscious this Thanksgiving of the many Americans who are struggling with serious hardships, including the many millions of Americans who are struggling to find work.

At the moment, about 15 million of our fellow citizens are looking for jobs and can’t find one. The unemployment rate has remained stubbornly close to ten percent for a year and a half. We are experiencing what can only.... described as a jobs crisis, a sustained period of chronic unemployment; and two years of policies that have vastly increased the size and scope of government and added trillions to the debt and have done little to alleviate this problem.

Take the stimulus, for example.

Here was a bill that was supposed to create millions of jobs and keep unemployment from rising above 8%. Yet, since Democrats passed it nearly two years ago, more than 3 million people have lost jobs and the economy barely has a pulse. The American people delivered a clear verdict on this and other failed experiments in the government-as-economic-stimulator on Election Day. But Democratic leaders in Washington continue to act as if nothing has changed, including their priorities.

The top priority of most Americans is to create jobs and get the economy moving. And the single best thing we could do in Washington to achieve that goal is to prevent a tax hike that’s about to hit every taxpayer and hundreds of thousands of small businesses at the stroke of Midnight on December 31st.

And that’s what I proposed a bill in September that would take care of this giant tax hike and prevent it from going into effect.Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky 11-4-10 Unfortunately, Democratic leaders have shown little interest in the idea.

After adding trillions to the debt on big-government policies most Americans didn’t ask for and which we couldn’t afford, Democratic leaders say they need more money, which they intend to take from small business, even though small businesses create the majority of new jobs.

Americans don’t think we should be raising taxes on anybody, especially in the middle of a recession.

But instead of giving Americans what they want, Democratic leaders plan to use the last few days that lawmakers expect to spend in Washington this year focusing on everything except preventing this tax hike, which will cost us even more jobs: immigration, a repeal of the ‘don't ask, don't tell,’ a reorganization of the FDA, more environmental regulations.

Democrats put off all these things until after the election, along with the most basic task of funding the government. By focusing on them now, and not on legislation to promote job creation and reduce spending, they’re showing where their priorities lie.

This should be an easy one. The bill that job creators and out-of-work Americans need us to pass is the one that ensures taxes won’t go up — one that says Americans and small-business owners won’t get hit with more bad news at the end of the year.

It's time Congress got its priorities straight. It's time Congress focused on job creation — and that means preventing tax hikes. It's time to set aside the political votes and government spending that the administration and Democratic leaders have put above all other priorities for two years.

Time is running out. But it’s not too late for both parties to work together and prevent this massive tax hike from going into effect. It’s not too late to focus on the priorities of the American people. And Republicans in Congress are eager to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, who is willing to do so.

Americans spoke loudly and clearly on Election Day. We owe it to them to show we heard them — to work together to get this done. Thanks for listening.    ####

Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the road again at NATO meeting in Lisbon 11-19-10

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

Today, I’d like to speak with you about an issue that is fundamental to America’s national security: the need for the Senate to approve the New START Treaty this year.

This treaty is rooted in a practice that dates back to Ronald Reagan. The idea is simple -- as the two nations with over 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia have a responsibility to work together to reduce our arsenals. And to ensure that our national security is protected, the United States has an interest in tracking Russia’s nuclear arsenal through a verification effort that puts U.S. inspectors on the ground. As President Reagan said when he signed a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union in 1987, “Trust, but verify.”

That is precisely what the New START Treaty does. After nearly a full year of negotiations, we completed an agreement earlier this year that cuts by a third the number of long-range nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles that the United States and Russia can deploy, while ensuring that America retains a strong nuclear deterrent and can put inspectors back on the ground in Russia.

The Treaty also helped us reset our relations with Russia, which led to concrete benefits. For instance, Russia has been indispensable to our efforts to enforce strong sanctions on Iran, to secure loose nuclear material from terrorists, and to equip our troops in Afghanistan.

All of this will be put to risk if the Senate does not pass the New START Treaty.

Without ratification this year, the United States will have no inspectors on the ground, and no ability to verify Russian nuclear activities. So those who would block this treaty are breaking President Reagan’s rule –- they want to trust, but not verify.

Without ratification, we put at risk the coalition that we have built to put pressure on Iran and the transit route through Russia that we use to equip our troops in Afghanistan. And without ratification, we risk undoing decades of American leadership on nuclear security and decades of bipartisanship on this issue. Our security and our position in the world are at stake.

Indeed, since the Reagan years, every president has pursued a negotiated, verified arms reduction treaty. And every time that these treaties have been reviewed by the Senate, they have passed with over 85 votes. Bipartisan support for New START could not be stronger. It has been endorsed by Republicans from the Reagan administration and both Bush administrations –- including Colin Powell, George Shultz, Jim Baker and Henry Kissinger. And it was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a strong bipartisan vote of 14-4.

Over the last several months, several questions have been asked about New START, and we have answered every single one. Some have asked whether it will limit our missile defense -- it will not. Some, including Senator Jon Kyl, have asked that we modernize our nuclear infrastructure for the 21st century -- we are doing so, and plan to invest at least $85 billion in that effort over the next ten years, a significant increase from the Bush administration.

Finally, some make no argument against the treaty. They just ask for more time. But remember this: It has already been 11 months since we’ve had inspectors in Russia, and every day that goes by without ratification is a day that we lose confidence in our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons. If the Senate doesn’t act this year -- after six months, 18 hearings, and nearly a thousand questions answered -- it would have to start over from scratch in January.

The choice is clear: A failure to ratify New START would be a dangerous gamble with America’s national security, setting back our understanding of Russia’s nuclear weapons, as well as our leadership in the world. That is not what the American people sent us to Washington to do.

There is enough gridlock, enough bickering. If there is one issue that should unite us -- as Republicans and Democrats -- it should be our national security.

Some things are bigger than politics. As Republican Dick Lugar said the other day, “Every Senator has an obligation in the national security interest to take a stand, to do his or her duty.”

Senator Lugar is right. And if the Senate passes this treaty, it will not be an achievement for Democrats or Republicans -- it will be a win for America. Thanks.     ####

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Photos: Manuel Balce Cene / Associated Press; Jonathan Ernst / Reuters (McConnell); Dominique Faget / AFP /Getty Images (Hillary Clinton and Obama at NATO meeting in Lisbon, 11/19/10).