ABC News' Matthew Jaffe reports: The Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell today sounded off on President Obama’s plan to encourage investments in tonight’s State of the Union address.
“When the government decides to pick winners and losers without considering what the marketplace really wants, competitors are left out in the cold, employees get a false sense of security, and taxpayers are left holding the bag. Unfortunately, the President doesn’t seem to have learned this lesson yet. But taxpayers now know that when Democrats talk about investments, they should grab their wallets. So I’m all for the President changing his tune, but unless he has a time machine he can’t change his record,” McConnell said on the Senate floor this morning.
“And if we’re going to make any real progress in the areas of spending, debt, and reining in government, the President will have to acknowledge that the policies of the past two years are not only largely to blame for the situation we find ourselves in, but that unless we do something to reverse their ill-effects, the road to recovery and prosperity will be a bumpy one. The President has spoken in the tones of a moderate many times. He did so in his campaign. He’s done so in countless speeches. He’s got a knack for it. I have no doubt he’ll do so again tonight. But speeches only last for as long as they’re delivered. Americans are more interested in what follows the speech. And in the case of this administration, Americans have good reason to be skeptical.”
Earlier today McConnell said he wants people to count the number of times Obama uses the word “investment.”
“Count how many times the President uses the word investment. Investment as you know is a Latin term for Washington spending,” McConnell said in an interview with Politico’s Mike Allen at a breakfast this morning in Washington. “Our good friends on the other side, whenever they want to spend, call it an investment. I may just keep my own count tonight.”
McConnell also continued to throw cold water on the bipartisan seating plans at tonight’s address.
“The American people are a lot more interested in whether we will actually do something than they are in the seating arrangement for the State of the Union. I mean, the seating arrangement during the State of the Union in the end is going to mean absolutely nothing. The question is can we come together on some of the issues we’ve been talking about.”
He said there is “a window of six to nine months” to make legislative progress on issues such as debt, entitlements, and corporate taxes before Congress starts focusing on the 2012 elections.
“The time to do it is now,” he said.
Much of this morning’s question-and-answer session was devoted to Washington parlor talk.
On the administration’s work over the past two years, McConnell said they had been “busy trying to turn America into a Western European country.” He said it is “smart” that the President is now “pivoting on a whole bunch of things.” He reiterated that the Senate will vote on the health care repeal, saying, “Just trust me – there will be a vote.”
When Allen asked McConnell what his favorite thing was about the President, McConnell replied, “He’s supposedly given up smoking.” Asked his favorite cabinet member, “If his chief of staff qualifies, I'd say Bill Daley,” McConnell said. On the President’s war strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, McConnell said “virtually” every Senate Republican supports it and the war has not become “a political football” like the Iraq war. And his Super Bowl pick? The Packers.
On Sen. John Thune’s chances in 2012, McConnell said Thune should run for the White House. “I’m a big John Thune fan,” he said. And on the two GOP responses to tonight’s address – the official one from Rep. Paul Ryan and another from Rep. Michele Bachmann – McConnell shrugged it off, saying, “I find it not particularly noteworthy.”
But the funniest moment came when a group from Washington & Lee University asked McConnell to attend their mock convention. The Kentucky senator responded that former vice president and Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley had died after suffering a heart attack at the school’s 1956 convention.
So to answer the question, McConnell said, “There’s not a snowball’s chance in hell,” drawing laughs from the audience.