So, as we begin this new Congress together, one fact is abundantly clear: the American people need Democrats and Republicans to work together. Today illustrates that very point.
Last November, voters expanded our Republican majority here in the Senate - but ensured that 60 votes will only be attainable by working across the aisle. And incoming Speaker Pelosi will be leading a new Democratic majority over in the House. This is the landscape in which we’ll be operating. Fortunately, the record of the 115th Congress illustrates just how much is possible when both sides make bipartisan collaboration a priority.
Here in the Senate, our good faith efforts yielded an historic tally of legislative accomplishments on behalf of the American people. We passed landmark legislation to help heal the wounds of the opioid epidemic. We delivered measures to help lower prescription drug prices and expand access to safe treatments.
We reached a major agreement to rebuild America’s military and designed VA reforms that will help our nation better keep its solemn promises to the brave men and women who have served. We brought a bipartisan scalpel to financial regulations, so that fewer of Main Street’s local lenders will get trapped in the maze of Wall Street’s rule book.
We reasserted a commitment to regular order appropriations. We laid the groundwork for rebuilding American infrastructure. We delivered certainty and predictability to farming communities across the nation.
So we know that the Senate, with this Republican majority, is fertile soil for big bipartisan accomplishments. The question is: Will the newly Democratic House join in this good momentum, or bring it to a standstill? It’s a clear choice, and it will be clear to the American people watching at home. Good governance, or political performance art? The public interest, or political spite? Policymaking, or presidential harassment?
The first test case is already upon us. Just yesterday, I was glad to join House and Senate leaders of both parties in a meeting with President Trump at the White House to discuss border security and outstanding appropriations. This meeting included a briefing on the urgent crisis at our southern border. The facts on the ground are striking.
As the Border Patrol Chief testified before the Judiciary Committee a few weeks ago, the border patrol apprehended more than 800 gang members last year - a 50 percent increase over the previous year. Methamphetamine seizures are up 75 percent since Fiscal 2015. Importantly, we also know that in each of four CBP sectors where physical barriers have been improved or expanded, illegal traffic has dropped by at least - now listen to this – 90 percent.
In these areas where there are physical barriers, illegal traffic has dropped by 90 percent. These are the facts on which the entire conversation must turn. And yet, as yesterday marked the 12th day of this ongoing partial government shutdown, my Democratic colleagues seemed less concerned with these facts than with their unreasonable political standoff with the president.
So, for the benefit of all involved, let me restate the terms of engagement. In other words, where we are. We need a bicameral, bipartisan, compromise solution. We need an arrangement that can check these three boxes: passage in the House; achieve the support of at least 60 Senators; and the president’s signature. It’s not complicated – that’s how you make a law.
The legislation that House Democrats reportedly plan to vote on later today is not a serious attempt to check all three of those boxes. In fact, it ignores the bipartisan conference negotiations and progress made on these spending bills over the last month. So, I would call it political theater; not productive lawmaking.
I’ve made it clear on several occasions and let me say it again: The Senate will not take up any proposal that does not have a real chance of passing this chamber and getting a presidential signature. Let’s not waste the time. Let’s not get off on the wrong foot, with House Democrats using their new platform to produce political statements rather than serious solutions. Let’s pick up where we left off and dedicate this 116th Congress to the spirit of bipartisan collaboration to create more victories for the American people.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the Senate Majority Leader.
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