McConnell: Bill ‘represents a missed opportunity’

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday regarding the omnibus spending bill:

“The bill that the Senate will vote on later today represents a missed opportunity.

“In the midst of a serious economic downturn, the Senate had a chance to show it could impose the same kind of restraint on itself that millions of American are being forced to impose on themselves at the moment. The bill costs far too much for a government that should be watching every dime.

“If the President is looking for a first bill to veto, this is it.

“The original version of the bill showed no recognition whatsoever of the current economic climate. With the stock market plunging, unemployment at a 25-year high, and millions struggling just to pay their mortgages, the bill sent over from the House included an across-the-board eight percent increase in spending over last year — twice the rate of inflation.

“Republicans in the Senate tried to cut the bill’s cost. Our ideas would have saved billions of taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately, every one was turned aside.

“The Senior Senator from Arizona proposed an amendment that would have held spending in the Omnibus at last year’s level. The Senior Senator from Texas offered an amendment that would have cut spending on the 122 programs that were already funded in the Stimulus bill — the so called “double-dipping” that many of us warned would take place if Congress moved the Stimulus before the Omnibus. Remarkably, even that was too much for some.

“The Junior Senator from Oklahoma proposed an amendment that would have cut projects that benefited a lobbying firm under federal investigation. That too was rejected.

“These Republican ideas were sensible, commonsense ways to cut spending. Unfortunately, the Majority didn’t like any of them. This would have been irresponsible in good economic times. At the moment, this total unwillingness to cut a single dollar from this bill is simply indefensible.

“Just as troubling as the lack of restraint is a provision to shut down the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which helped 1,700 students in D.C. attend private schools last year at a fraction of what the city spends per pupil on public education. This program is clearly popular among parents, since the city receives four applications for every available opening.

“Yet our friends on the other side will reject an amendment to preserve it.

“On this issue, it is increasingly difficult to see how the Majority can match their rhetoric with their actions. It should be unthinkable to terminate a program aimed at giving inner-city students the same educational opportunities that middle-class or affluent students enjoy.

“Republicans tried to improve the Omnibus with commonsense proposals that Americans support.

“The Junior Senator from Arizona proposed an amendment that would have required the Secretary of State to certify that none of the funds made available for reconstruction efforts in Gaza are diverted to Hamas or other entities controlled by Hamas. The Junior Senator from South Dakota offered an amendment that prohibits the use of funds for any effort aimed at reviving the Fairness Doctrine, which limited free speech until its repeal more than two decades ago. Unfortunately, the Majority says no.

“In the midst of an economic crisis, government has an obligation to show restraint. But as our friends turned aside every effort to trim back spending on the Omnibus bill, it has become clear that many in Congress still think government operates in a different realm of reality than the rest of the country. Apparently, they don’t think the federal government is obligated to make any of the tough decisions that millions of American families are making every day.

“Mr. President: spending and borrowing at this dizzying rate is simply unsustainable.

“We need to be thinking about the long-term sustainability of our economy and creating jobs and opportunity for future generations. We should have started on this bill by insisting that it include some of the hard choices on spending that Americans are making every day.”