Transcript: Remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell on bill to extend unemployment benefits for 3 months

Partial transcript of press briefing remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) on S. 1845, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, on Jan. 7, 2014:

As you know, we are in a post-cloture period on the unemployment insurance bill the Majority Leader has brought up.

And it raises the question that is all too often raised around here these days – are we going to have amendments or not?

I’m not going to make this into a quiz because I don’t think any of you would get the answer right but you’d be interested to know that there have been 4 – 4 – roll call votes on Republican amendments since July. 4.

This is the Senate under the current Majority Leader.

I expect he said to you he would decide whether we would have any amendments. He would decide whether they were reasonable.

The Senate hadn’t been run this way in its history – it’s been open for amendments and discussions. A number of my members have amendments that they would like to offer related to jobs and employment. Sen. Ayotte, Sen. Paul, Sen. Hatch and I have a proposal.

It’s really not the responsibility of the Majority Leader to tell the minority whether they can have votes. It’s not his job, and to dictate to us whether we can have votes or to decide for himself whether our amendments are appropriate to be considered.

So we begin the Senate New Year the way we ended the Senate last year – the dysfunctional Senate – almost entirely the responsibility of the Majority Leader. This really needs to change.

The American people sent all of us here, expected us to have an opportunity to have an input, to be able to offer amendments, to be able to get votes, and to be able to advance legislation. I hope this will stop in the near future.

Second point I would make is clearly there’s been a full scale effort here by the President and his allies to change the subject away from Obamacare. Obamacare is a catastrophe for the country. Premiums are going up. Jobs are being lost. The new health insurance premium tax is kicking in this month. We obviously intend to continue discussing the number one domestic issue on the minds of the American people and that is Obamacare and what it is doing to their health care.

One other observation. I understand that the Majority Leader said he was open to discussing the issue of paying for an extension of unemployment insurance. I hear the administration’s open to discussing paying for it as well. There may be a way forward here. What we ought to do is to have an open amendment process and plenty of discussion about how we might achieve an outcome.

Why does it need to be paid for at this point? The Democrats keep pointing out that when George W. Bush was President it was not paid for.

Well, when George W. Bush was President, we didn’t have a debt as big as our economy. We’ve added more debt during the Obama years than all the Presidents from George Washington down to George Bush. We have a debt crisis. We ought to be able to find an opening in over $3 billion of annual spending a way to pay for this program. I don’t think that’s unreasonable or outrageous. And I understand the Majority Leader didn’t rule that out and the administration hasn’t either. So I think it’s worth talking about.


We have amendments that would have an offset. That’s why you have an amendments process and we’d be happy to offer amendments just as soon as the guy who’s dictating what the amendments ought to be will let us offer them.

Sen. McConnell, you have 6 Republicans who voted with the Democrats this morning on this bill. How much pressure are you feeling about actually getting unemployment insurance extended?

Well, I think the fact that we’re on the bill indicates that there were enough Republicans interested in discussing the way forward to be on the bill. And the way you’d handle a bill if you’re serious about passing it is you allow amendments and you have a discussion about the terms under which you can pass it. If you’re not serious about passing it, you’d prevent amendments, harden the opposition of the minority because then that means you’re only interested in a show vote not an outcome.

So if you’re interested in an outcome, watch what the Majority Leader does. Is it open for amendments? Are we having discussions about how to pay for it? That would be an indication that they’d actually like to get a result rather than just score political points for the fall election.



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