(Senate - June 25, 2013)

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[Pages S5104-S5105]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []

                          NATIONAL ENERGY TAX

  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, in advance of the President's big 
speech today, I read this morning that one of the White House climate 
advisers finally admitted something most of us have suspected all 
along. He said, ``A war on coal is exactly what is needed.''
  A war on coal is exactly what is needed. That is one of the 
President's advisers. It is an astonishing bit of honesty from someone 
that close to the White House, but it really encapsulates the attitude 
this administration holds in regard to States such as mine where coal 
is such an important part of the economic well being of so many middle-
class families. It captures the attitude it holds with regard to 
middle-class Americans all across the country, where affordable energy 
is critical to the operation of so many companies and small businesses, 
and to the ability of those businesses to hire Americans and help build 
a ladder to the middle class for their families.
  Declaring a war on coal is tantamount to declaring a war on jobs. It 
is tantamount to kicking the ladder out from beneath the feet of many 
Americans struggling in today's economy. I will be raising this issue 
with the President at the White House later today.
  One of the sectors the President's war on jobs would hit is 
manufacturing. Ironic, perhaps, because just a few months ago it was 
President Obama himself who said:

       I believe in manufacturing. I think it makes our country 

  Well, of course, that is correct. Manufacturing does make our country 
stronger. Just look at Kentucky. We are the first in the Nation in 
aluminum smelting. We are third in production of auto parts. 
Kentuckians know these types of businesses strengthen not just the 
Bluegrass State but our entire Nation. They provide well-paying jobs, 
economic growth, and tickets to prosperity for workers and their 
families. Yet in the global economy of the 21st century, retaining, 
much less expanding, our manufacturing core has never been more 
challenging than it is now.
  We face relentless competition from all corners of the globe, so 
policymakers have to be careful about the types of policies they enact. 
Obviously, American success in this hypercompetitive world is 
strengthened when we keep taxes low and regulations smart. Perhaps most 
important, it is strengthened when we ensure energy is abundant and 
  These are energy-intensive industries, after all. If the White House 
moves forward with this war on jobs and raises the cost of energy, that 
would almost assuredly raise the cost of doing business. That would 
likely put jobs, growth, and the future of American manufacturing at 
risk. That is one of the many reasons Americans rejected the 
President's attempt to impose a national energy tax in his first term.
  Even with overwhelming majorities in Congress, including a 
filibuster-proof, 60-vote majority in the Senate, Washington Democrats 
were unable to pass the President's energy tax. In the Senate, the 
Democratic majority would not even bring it up for a vote. Think about 
that. They could have pushed it through on their own without a single 
Republican vote, and yet they could not.
  Why? Well, for one, the constituents we serve are a lot smarter than 
some in Washington might like to believe. They know we cannot impose a 
national energy tax without cutting jobs and significantly raising 
energy costs not just on their families, but also on their employers.
  The data seems to bear out such concerns. I remember some projections 
showing that by 2030, the Waxman-Markey proposal could have decreased 
the size of our economy by about $350 billion and reduced net 
employment by 2.5 million jobs, even after taking job creation into 
  So Americans made their opposition to this tax abundantly clear to 
Members of Congress. In the 2010 midterm elections, they ousted a good 
number of those who voted for it in the House. Because of concerns 
about job losses, higher utility bills, and reduced competitiveness, 
Congress is even less inclined today to vote for an energy tax than 
when the President commanded such massive majorities in the first part 
of his first term.
  It is fairly self-evident to say there is no majority for such an 
idea in the 113th Congress. The President shall also push ahead and 
ignore the will of the legislative branch, the branch closest to the 
American people. Whether they want it or not, he says he will do it by 
Presidential fiat.
  I am sure we will find out more details in his speech today. If I am 
right, and I think I am, he is going to lay out a plan to do what he 
wants to do through executive action--in other words, more czars, more 
unaccountable bureaucrats.
  The message this sends should worry anyone who cares about 
constitutional self-government, that the President can simply ignore 
the will of the representatives sent here by the people because he 
wants to, because special interests are lobbying him, and because he 
wants to appease some far-left segment of his base.
  What I am saying is he cannot declare a war on jobs and 
simultaneously claim to care about manufacturing. He cannot claim to 
care about States such as mine where an energy tax would do great 
damage to countless Americans employed in energy sectors such as coal.
  Wages are already failing to keep pace with rising costs for many 
people. Many families have seen their real median income actually 
decline in recent years. A survey released yesterday shows that three-
quarters of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. This is the 
reality of the Obama economy. Even in the best of times, imposing an 
energy tax would be a bad idea. In an era of unacceptably high 
unemployment, an era where Americans are finally desperate to focus on 
growing the middle class rather than throwing scraps to his wealthy 
supporters, ideas such as this border on absurdly self-defeating.

[[Page S5105]]

  He may as well call his plan what it is, a plan to shift jobs 
overseas. Basically, it is unilateral economic surrender. To what end? 
Many experts agree a climate policy that does not include massive 
energy consumers such as China and India is essentially meaningless. 
The damage to our economy would be anything but meaningless. 
Ironically, those are the very types of countries that stand to benefit 
economically from our loss. Nations such as these will probably take 
our jobs, keep pumping more and more carbon into the air, and what will 
we have to show for it? That is a question the President needs to 
answer today.
  Americans want commonsense policies to make energy cleaner and more 
affordable. The operative word is commonsense, because Americans are 
also deeply concerned about jobs and the economy. That is what the 
President should be focused on. Incredibly, it appears to be the 
farthest thing from his mind.

                          Senate Ground Rules

  I have been mentioning on a daily basis the ongoing concern I have 
about the institution in which 100 of us serve, an institution that has 
served America well since the beginning of our country. The 
Constitution was framed back in 1887. George Washington presided over 
that Constitutional Convention. Legend has it he was asked, What do you 
think the Senate is going to be like? He reportedly replied it would be 
like the saucer under the teacup, and the tea that sloshed out of the 
teacup would go down into the saucer and cool off. In other words, the 
Founders of our great country believed the Senate would be a place 
where things slowed down, were thought over, and obviously where 
bipartisan agreements would be the way to move forward.
  Over the period of our history, the idea of unlimited debate has had 
a lot of support in this body from both parties. In fact, during World 
War I, it was agreed there ought to be some way to stop a debate. Prior 
to that, there was no way, actually, to stop a debate. They agreed to 
create a device called cloture that would allow a supermajority of the 
Senate to bring debate to an end.
  Over the years there have been flirtations by majorities of different 
parties to fundamentally change the Senate. Those temptations have been 
avoided. Those temptations arose again at the beginning of the previous 
Congress and at the beginning of this Congress under the current 
majority and the current majority leader. There was a lot of discussion 
about the way forward for the institution that would benefit the 
institution and not penalize either side. In January of 2011 the 
majority leader said the issue was settled for the next two Congresses, 
the previous Congress and this one.
  In spite of that, we entered into a lengthy discussion at the 
beginning of this Congress on a bipartisan basis. As a result of that, 
the Senate passed two rules changes and two standing orders. The 
majority leader once again gave his word that this issue was concluded.
  Last January I asked the majority leader: ``I would confirm with the 
majority leader that the Senate would not consider other resolutions 
relating to any standing order or rules of this Congress unless they 
went through the regular order process?''
  The majority leader said: ``That is correct. Any other resolutions 
related to Senate procedure would be subject to a regular order 
process, including consideration by the Rules Committee.''
  The regular order process takes 67 votes to change the rules of the 
Senate. We did that with the two rules changes earlier this year, 
thereby confirming, again, that is the way you change the rules of the 
  The majority leader, in spite of having given his word, not once but 
twice, continues to suggest that may not be a word that is going to be 
kept and has continued to flirt openly with employing what is called 
the nuclear option.
  My party, when it was in the majority some time ago, 8 or 9 years 
ago, flirted with it as well, but good sense prevailed and we moved 
backward. We moved into a position where we are today, which is it 
takes 60 votes when you have a determined minority to get an outcome.
  The threat has been related to nominations and nominations only, as 
if somehow breaking the rules of the Senate to change the rules of the 
Senate would be confined to nominations in the future. The way that 
would be done, of course, is the Parliamentarian would say it was a 
violation of Senate rules to change the rules of the Senate with 51 
votes. The majority would simply appeal the ruling of the Chair and do 
it with 51 votes. If that is ever done, the Senate as an institution we 
have known is finished, and it would not be confined to nominations in 
the future.
  Senator Alexander and I laid out a few days ago the kind of agenda we 
would probably pursue, almost certainly pursue, were we in the 
majority. It was an agenda that would in many ways horrify the current 
majority, such things as completing Yucca Mountain, repealing 
ObamaCare, national right-to-work--I mean, things I believe probably 
every single Member of the majority party would find abhorrent. But 
that is the point.
  The supermajority threshold is inconvenient to majorities from time 
to time. It requires them to engage in negotiation in order to go 
forward. It is frustrating from time to time. It is important to 
remember--every Senate majority should remember--the shoe will someday 
be on the other foot.
  The institution has served our country well. We have had some big 
debates this year in which we have had amendments, discussions on a 
bipartisan basis, and bills moved forward. We saw it on the farm bill. 
We have seen it on other bills. We may well see it on the bill that is 
on the floor of the Senate now.
  The fundamental point before the Senate is we need to know if the 
majority leader intends to keep his word, because in the Senate your 
word is important. In fact, it is the currency of the realm here in the 
  I am going to continue to raise this issue because we need to resolve 
it. Senators need to know that words will be kept. The word on the 
ground rules of how we operate here in the Senate needs to be kept. We 
are not interested in a majority that says the definition of advise and 
consent is sit down and shut up, do things I want to do when I want to 
do it, or I will threaten to break the rules of the Senate to change 
the rules of the Senate. This is no small matter, and I will continue 
to address it until we get it resolved.
  Mr. President, I yield the floor.