Senator Maria Cantwell Remarks to the Washington State Democratic Convention
Cantwell's remarks as delivered below.
"Thank you all very much and thank you for a great group of Washingtonians who are here as part of our efforts.
"Thank you for your generous and kind introduction from Congressman Jim McDermott. It's great to be here with so many Democrats from across our state. And I certainly want to thank former President Bill Clinton for his video address and the fact that he is coming here in July to campaign for myself and Congressman McDermott and the Democratic Party.
"Everyone of you know how important the 2006 election is. And as many of you may know, I grew up in a pretty Democrat household. In fact, my family has been getting out the Democrat vote in elections for over 75 years. And I want to thank Congressman McDermott for his comments. He is right. We met a long time ago, but he and I were both younger, but he knows that we have to continue this battle and fight.
"I don't know how many conventions I've been to. The very first one I've been to was when was 15 years old. But I have to tell you I never saw the convention floor, because my father put me and my siblings in a room to stuff all the bags for over 2000 convention goers. And literally I found out that there was such a thing as hospitality suites. Now mind you all I got was Diet Coke and popcorn, but I understand there are some delegates that aren't here yet this morning because they enjoyed the hospitality suite last night.
"You know our Party has never been more challenged or the future of our country more at risk.
"And it was Robert Kennedy, a great Democrat, who said:
"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, or apathetic towards common problems and their fellow men, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects. But rather it will belong to those who can blend the passion, the reason and the courage in a personal commitment to the ideals of American society.
"And I believe the ideals of the Democrat Party are part of what has made the United States the great country that it is today.
"It was Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who said:
"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.
"Harry Truman said it more simply:
"You know that being an American is not just a matter of where your parents came from. It is a belief that all men are created free and equal and that everyone deserves an equal break.
"Don't get me wrong because I believe in competition and competitiveness and hard work. But as the first person in my family to graduate from college and to go to school on a Pell Grant, I can tell you the Democrat Party in this country believes in opportunity for all Americans, and not just those who were born with opportunity.
"That is what the Democratic Party stand for. We stand for hope and opportunity. For an investment in people. An investment in our future.
"But that dream has never been more challenged than by the administration we have in Washington DC, today.
"You know last night I was jealous to hear the stories of our colleagues in the state legislature, passing all that great legislation. To know that everyday I join my colleague Senator Murray to go to the Senate floor to fight for our Northwest values we hold dear.
"We've had to fight for seniors in this country. As Democrats we stood united to stop the Administration in trying to privatize Social Security, and we were successful. Frankly, the only thing that needs to retire (besides the President) is the idea that investing in Social Security is somehow going to make our country more secure - it's not.
"We also need to make sure that we continue our battle on the issue of prescription drugs. Because we can't have a prescription drug policy with a donut hole, with deadlines, with penalties for late signup, or a policy that is so complicated to understand that you need a college degree to figure it out.
"My own mother took a course at the community college and after two hours of learning about the prescription drug benefit, came home and said "Maria I think it's the mystery of the ages."
"Democrats wanted a simple plan. We want something covered under Medicare. We want something that makes sure the drug companies have real competition and we want to make sure someone pays a fair price for prescription drugs. And by God, when we get the majority, and Ted Kennedy is the chairman of the Senate healthcare committee we will get real prescription drug coverage in America.
"We've had to fight for farmers in Washington state. The President's budget has consistently taken aim at agriculture research dollars, and that money, why would they cut ag research dollars? That's because big agribusiness doesn't need those research dollars. But I'll tell you who needs those research dollars. The family farms of Washington state need those research dollars. Washington farmers know that WSU research dollars have helped grow wheat and potatoes and cherries and raspberries and grapes.
"And that's why I lead the charge with my colleagues to restore those dollars to the federal budget. Because you know what, agriculture is still the number one employer in Washington state and what's good for the Washington farmer is good for the Washington economy.
"We've had to fight for veterans. This Bush Administration has consistently come up short when it comes to honoring the commitment to American veterans.
"It failed in the budget to recognize the increase for veterans coming home. It closed veterans facilities here Washington state, in Walla Walla. We had to fight every attempt to close the medical center there and still have not gotten our answers as to what services are going to be available.
"But cutting veterans budgets, and making those who make as little as $25,000 a year from the veterans health care system pay more, or actually pushing them off the system just isn't right.
"And that's why Democrats led the charge to restore this money in the Senate budget last year. And now the Administration is at it again. This year they are trying to propose a budget that would be a $1000 in increased healthcare costs for veterans across America.
"Well, I have a message for the President, and for the 700,000 veterans families from Washington state. Mr. President, it is unpatriotic to give a tax break to the wealthiest Americans and then ask the military retirees, the bravest of men and women, to pay for their healthcare. And you are going to have a fight on your hands
"We are fighting to give the troops the support that they need.
"Democrats have been saying that after 3 years in Iraq we have less oil than before the war, less electricity since before the war. And that 2006 needs to be the year of transition when the Iraqi people stand on their own and our troops come home.
"The United States must step up our political and diplomatic efforts to stabilize that region of the world.
"But in Iran we must engage in real democracy. With all the oil in the world, I guarantee you, Iran does not need to develop nuclear weapons. But neither does the United States need to be talking about the use of nuclear force. We need to engage in the dialogue that will unite the rest of the world around this important security issue.
"Just think about it. If you need somebody in that dialogue, just send a Democrat. It was Governor Bill Richardson who was sent to North Korea to get the ball rolling there and we are in a better place on that debate today because of his efforts.
"We've had to fight for fiscal responsibility. This administration took office when we had a record surplus and unbelievable job growth in America. But now at the end of the Bush administration we have $5.8 trillion dollar debt. In addition, if we adopt President Bush's policies to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans, we will have a $8.6 trillion debt.
"Please, please, my convention-goers, colleagues, remember the only President to balance the budget in the past 37 years was a Democrat. And 2008 is going to be the year we elect a new Democrat Administration to clean up this fiscal mess.
"We've had to fight for the right to privacy, for a court that represents the mainstream views of Americans. And that's why I voted against Judge Alito and Judge Roberts.
"Because I believe, as William O. Douglas once said, a Yakima County resident who went to the highest court in the land. He said - it's unbelievable that he said it then, but I guarantee it would apply today. "The privacy and dignity of our citizens are being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may seem to be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole there begins to emerge a society quite unlike anything we have seen."
"So you bet that I am going to fight to make sure that I keep this seat, Democrats win control of the United States Senate, and we stop any other Bush nominees to the Supreme Court in the next two years.
"Now I never really expected that I would have to fight for good science. We have an administration that wants to overrule science when it comes to cleaning up Hanford tank waste, or when it came to saying what exactly is wild salmon, or what is the proper reproductive health care choices for women that should be available. Those are basic things this administration has ignored. And we have fought back at every step of the way.
"I never thought I would have to work so hard to protect Washington state's pristine environment. From saving the shores of Puget Sound from oil tankers or saving our National Forests from new road development, or saying something so simple and basic that Superfund polluters like Asarco in Tacoma should clean up their mess.
"But I am sure there is one thing they did not count on in Washington DC. And that was this junior senator from the state of Washington. Because anyone who has the audacity to put on the defense authorization bill, a bill that supports the troops, the men and women who are serving abroad for drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, they are going to have a fight on their hands. This senator will not be bullied and will not be bought.
"And we are going to have an energy policy that truly gets us off our dependence on foreign oil.
"We want investment in our future. We want to see our country improve. But never let the other side criticize our ideals or our ideas.
"But let's not forget the tactics the other side will use in criticizing someone like Senator Max Cleland, a triple amputee from the Vietnam War for simply wanting to vote for an amendment on the Department of Homeland Security. They called him unpatriotic. Well, I would say the real lack of patriotism was probably shown by the Department of Homeland Security when they failed to get thousands of Americans out of the way of a hurricane bearing down on their state. That's what patriotism is in America.
"We are going to fight as Democrats for an investment in our future. Democrats want a GI Bill for the 21st Century. We want an investment in Pell Grants. We want to pass the Dream Act. We want to make sure that tax breaks given to Americans are for tax breaks to save for a college education, so everyone has an opportunity to go to college who wants to go to school.
"And if just like Washington state, we passed a federal minimum wage and indexed it to inflation we'd be taking care of the American worker.
"We want an investment in the future and we want health care. We want portable health care benefits and portable pension benefits. Nowhere in America should we let oil companies make record profits while transportation workers are losing their jobs and losing their pensions. We can take those record profits and put it in investments to make sure the future pensions are there for hard-working Americans regardless.
"And just like the state of Washington, the Federal Government should make a pledge on healthcare, not just to cover all small businesses just like they cover federal employees, that's the legislation that Democrats want passed, but we also want to make a pledge that every child in America will be covered by health insurance in the next ten years, and that's what we're going to work on when we get the majority.
"Now I guarantee you I could go on about energy security and energy independence. I'm just going to tell you I think you already get it in Washington state. We are going to lead the way, because we have wind power and we have solar power - no one believes that Washington has solar power, but I tell them we have solar power.
"Democrats want real security. And we here are making our communities safe. And we know that real international security means that the United States must be a beacon for democracy around the world, but we also know that America must define what it stands for.
"We should be an example of leadership in the world committed to treating people humanely, abiding by the rule of law, be caring and generous neighbors, promoting opportunity and a common vision. That's what we should be fighting for, and those are the things that I think are part of the American Dream.
"Now Democrats want an investment in our future.
"But we have to win in November. And I guarantee you there are a few people in Washington D.C. that would like to make Washington state a red state. I don't care who comes here. I don't care if it's the Senator from Alaska, Karl Rove or whoever it is.
"I'm going to campaign from every corner of this state. From Neah Bay to Asotin County. I'm going to campaign from Newport all the way over to Wahkiakum County. "I'm taking this band, I'm taking these volunteers, and we're marching in every corner of this state. And we are going to say that we want an investment in our future.
"President Kennedy once said:
"Let us think of education as a means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each and every one of us there is a private hope and a dream which fulfilled can be translated into a benefit for everyone and to the strength of or our nation.
"Thank you very much. I look forward to seeing you all. Have a wonderful convention.