Pelosi Delivers Democratic Pre-Buttal to the President's State of the Union
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Assistant Leader Dick Durbin delivered the Democratic pre-buttal to the President's State of the Union Address today at the National Press Club. Below are Pelosi's remarks as prepared.
"Thank you, Jonathan. Congratulations on your election as President of the National Press Club.
"I also want to thank my friend, Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles for being here. Mayor Villaraigosa will be giving the Democratic Response in Spanish to the State of the Union on Tuesday night.
"It's a pleasure to be back at the National Press Club for what has become a pre-State of the Union tradition.
"Next week, President Bush will once again come before the Congress and report on the state of our union. We will be told that the state of our union is strong. And, if our measure is the optimism, entrepreneurial spirit, and talent of the American people, our strength is boundless. But on key policies, from health care costs, to energy prices, to college tuition, to the budget deficit, to national security, the policies we have seen from Republicans in power do not match the priorities of the American people. And the American people want to know: why?'. They have tough questions and deserve real answers.
"For example, I heard from one woman that when she opened her energy bill, she thought she would faint. She asked, What is being done in Washington to reduce the cost of my heating bills and the price of gas at the pump?' I met a man who was struggling to care for his bedridden wife. He told me he was afraid that paying for his wife's costly prescriptions could mean losing their home. He was embarrassed to ask their children for help. He wants to know, How could Congress pass a law that actually raises the cost of my wife's prescriptions?'
"Workers are asking, Why is Congress making it easier for plants and jobs to move overseas and harder for me to keep my pension?' The survivors of Hurricane Katrina who are still living in tents, trailers, and hotel rooms want to know, Why wasn't the federal government there for me from day one?' And all Americans see the heroic sacrifices our soldiers are making and ask: Is the war in Iraq making Americans safer, our military stronger, and strengthening our ability to fight the war on terror?'
"Democrats hear the American people and we have answers, which are designed to meet the challenges of the present and the future. We have laid out a series of specific goals, proposals and timelines that, taken together, chart a clear path to a new era of American security and prosperity.
"First and foremost, America must remain pre-eminent in the world, with a strong national security that keeps America safe and a strong economy that produces good jobs. Nothing is more urgent than keeping America #1. For over a year, Democrats have been working with leaders in business and the academic community to put together an aggressive plan to maintain America's leadership in innovation, and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention and growth. This is our Democratic Innovation Agenda - our commitment to competitiveness to keep America #1.
"Nothing less is at stake than America's economic leadership. The dynamic cycle of investment, leading to innovation, leading to jobs is what has secured our status as world leader. That status has remained unchallenged - until now. As our competitors copy our blueprint for preeminence - with investments in education, long-term research & development, and cutting-edge technologies - we are departing from it.
"Our innovation agenda begins with a serious, sustained commitment to America's schools. Nothing could be more important than providing opportunity for our children, and to secure America's leadership in the world. In a globalized, knowledge-based economy, America's greatest resource for innovation and economic growth resides within America's classrooms. We've pledged to create a new generation of innovators by calling for a qualified teacher in every math and science K-12 classroom and by issuing a Call to Action' to engineers and scientists to join the ranks of America's teachers. Along with other Democratic proposals such as the Teach Act and the Strengthen our Schools Act, we intend to make sure young children have qualified teachers and supportive environments in which to learn.
"We recognize that independent scientific research provides the foundation for innovation and future technologies. That is why we pledge to double federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences.
"High-speed, always-on broadband will create millions of good jobs. Our agenda guarantees that every American will have affordable access to broadband - within five years.
"We also need to direct America's entrepreneurial spirit and creativity toward one of our greatest national challenges - the need to free ourselves from our dangerous and unhealthy reliance on foreign oil. Americans agree - we should be spending our energy dollars in America's Midwest, not in the Middle East. Only innovation and technology can lead America to energy independence.
"Democrats have proposed the development of clean, sustainable energy alternatives, such as bio-based fuels, as well as new engine technologies for flex-fuel, hybrid, and bio-diesel cars and trucks. Our economic future and our national security both demand that we achieve energy independence, and we intend to do so in 10 years.
"Essential to our competitiveness is a healthy environment for small businesses, so they can turn entrepreneurial ideas into marketable products, and create good jobs. We propose helping small businesses succeed by providing more financial support and technical assistance, reducing regulation, and helping them overcome one of the greatest challenges they face: the cost of health care.
"Taken together, our Democratic innovation agenda, - education, R&D, public-private partnerships, energy independence - is a decision in favor of the future.
"But we can't move forward if we have a healthcare system that is stuck in the past. Health care is not only a competitiveness issue, it is also one of necessity for all Americans. It has been reported that in his State of the Union address, the President's health care proposal will be an expansion of Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans.
"Let's be clear about what the President may propose: Republicans claim that Association Health Plans make it easier for small businesses to afford health insurance. In reality, AHPs would allow companies to drop coverage for procedures that today, must be covered, such as mammography, prostate screenings, and mental-health services. Regrettably, AHP's increase the costs for small businesses, strip consumers of rights and protections, and do nothing to reduce the number of Americans without health insurance.
"In our innovation agenda, Democrats have a plan that would make it easier for small businesses to purchase health care at reduced costs - but to do so in a way that protects consumers.
"Another of the President's proposals - Health Savings Accounts - are a continuing effort on the part of the Bush Administration to leave more Americans to fend for themselves. These provisions are not consumer-driven, and they defy the principle of insurance - which is to spread the risk. Any health care initiative should be measured by whether it increases access to health care, slows the growth of health care costs, and does not increase the deficit. By all three of these measures, the President's proposals fail. They may try to sell them as good health care, but in reality they're bad medicine.
"Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans are brought to you by the same people who brought you the confusing, special-interest driven, Medicare prescription drug bill. These ideas should go the way of the President Bush's privatization of Social Security.
"One of the factors most responsible for the rising cost of health care is the rising cost of prescription drugs. Democrats insist on the Federal Government having the authority to negotiate with drug companies for lower drug prices. Right now, we now have a prescription drug plan that caters to the pharmaceutical industry, and adds cost and confusion for everyone else. We must replace this misguided Republican prescription drug plan with one that is clear, fair, and puts seniors first.
"Putting the needs of seniors first also means protecting Social Security, and then going further: providing real plans for pension security, and increasing personal savings through the AmeriSave proposal put forth by House Democrats.
"Meeting all these challenges to keep America #1 requires two additional commitments to the American people: a responsible budget and an honest government.
"Next week, when Congress returns, the first bill we will vote on is the Republican budget. Regardless of what the President may say on Tuesday night, the Republican budget tells an alarming story: It includes policies that increase the deficit by nearly 300 billion dollars, heaping mountains of debt on our children. It increases the cost of student loans while cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. It cuts funding for the basic research vital to creating jobs. It cuts funding for health care for our children.
"Why, the American people ask us, are we considering a budget that is so out-of-step with our values and our priorities?' The answer is the Republican culture of corruption that has permeated the White House and the Capitol.
"How many times have you heard of a special-interest provision that was slipped into a bill in the dead of night?' or a thousand-page bill that no one was given time to read before voting on it. That's because Republicans have been doing the bidding of special-interest lobbyists who have purchased access to the legislative process.
"The American people pay the cost of corruption. That's why we have a confusing Medicare prescription drug bill that actually raises the cost of prescription drugs for middle income seniors. That's why we have an energy bill that gives huge tax breaks to oil and gas companies that are making record profits, while Americans pay record energy prices. And that's why we have legislation larded up with special-interest earmarks and bridges to nowhere' that increase the deficit.
"Last week House and Senate Democrats stood together as we announced our plan to turn the most closed, corrupt Congress in history into the most open and honest Congress in history. This is our promise, and we have put it in writing.
"Next week, when Congress reconvenes, we will demand a vote on these reforms, so we can put power back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people, in the hands of families who are struggling with the cost of health care, and their energy bills, parents and students worried about the cost of college, workers worried about their jobs and pensions, residents of the Gulf Coast who are desperate to rebuild their communities and restore their lives, our men and women in uniform and our veterans, who expect the protection they need when in harm's way, and the benefits they've earned when they return home.
"Only with honest leadership and open government can we build a future worthy of the vision of our founding fathers, the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, and the aspirations of our children. Only then will the policies of Washington reflect the priorities of the American people. And only then will the state of our union be as strong as the American people. Thank you."