February 7, 2006: The President's State Of The Union Address
Americans want a clear path out of Iraq and new ideas on health care and energy independence. While the president spoke about these issues in his State of the Union speech last week, he did not offer a new sense of direction for our country.
In Iraq, the president must articulate and implement a plan that inspires the confidence of Congress and the American people. The president speaks of "victory" but has rejected calls for a plan with clear benchmarks for measuring success in training Iraqis, restoring services and ultimately transitioning full sovereignty to the Iraqi people. For my part, I will continue to work for a bipartisan, responsible and strategic withdrawal plan in Iraq.
The president was right to acknowledge our "addiction to oil" and I was heartened to hear him call for new technologies and greater support for renewable energy. In the interest of our national security, our economy and the environment, the president needs to fully fund renewable energy programs in his 2007 budget, which would give a boost to the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden. Over the years, the Administration and the Republican-led Congress have cut funding for alternative fuels and renewable technologies, so I welcome the president's words, but will only believe he is serious when I see that he has proposed funding for these efforts.
Finally, the president spoke about health care, but having presided over a record $300-plus billion deficit, he was unable to point to fundamental reforms to solve the health care crisis. The president's tax proposals will mean higher premiums, higher out-of-pocket costs, less choice, less benefits and less consumer protection. We need health care proposals that put patients first and that make health care insurance more affordable and accessible.
Udall Proposes Constitutional Version Of Line Item Veto And Calls For Term Limits For Appropriators
Responding to President Bush's request for a "line item veto," last week I introduced a new bill to enable the President to force Congress to vote on proposed specific cuts in spending.
Entitled the "Stimulating Leadership in Cutting Expenditures (or SLICE) Act of 2006," the bill is an updated version of legislation I introduced last year to facilitate spending cuts to help pay for responding to Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters. The updated SLICE legislation is specifically designed as a tool to encourage responsible budget cuts and also to put a public spotlight on controversial congressional earmarks. It would require Congress to vote on specific items in previously-passed bills that the President identifies for cancellation.
The President already has authority to seek such spending "rescissions," but under current law Congress can ignore these proposals, and routinely does so. By changing that, the bill will force debate on earmarks of the kind that have raised public concerns about the links between unethical lobbying practices and the appropriations process.
If Congress is forced to vote on presidential rescissions, the administration and Congress will have to share in being more accountable to the public. The SLICE bill could take effect quickly, unlike a line-item veto. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1998 in Clinton v. City of New York that that a statutory line-item veto is unconstitutional. Passing the SLICE bill would immediately give the president authority to identify and force Congress to reconsider specific earmarks. Amending the Constitution not only would take longer, it would be much more disruptive to our system of checks and balances between the President and Congress.
In addition to introducing this new legislation, I also called for term limits for Members of Appropriations Committees in Congress. One way we can reform the legislative process is to fairly rotate membership on these powerful committees. In addition to reforming lobbying rules and strengthening ethical standards in Congress, I believe term limits for Appropriators should be part of the debate. I know this idea will ruffle some feathers, but I also believe term limits would blow some needed fresh air into the legislative process.
Udall To Give Major National Security Speech On February 13
I will give a major national security speech at the Brown Palace Hotel on Monday, February 13, 2006, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:15 p.m. This speech comes on the heels of a national security conference I attended in Munich with Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham over the weekend. My speech will outline the security challenges we face and hopefully offer some new ideas on how we can address national security on a bipartisan basis.
This event is sponsored by the Institute of International Education's (IIE) Denver World Affairs Council. Tickets are $20 for IIE Members, $25 for Non-Members & Guests, and $15 for young ambassadors. To RSVP, call the Events Line at 303-837-0788 X10, fax 303-837-1409, or register online at www.RockyMountainIIE.org. The Denver World Affairs Council is a community service provided by the Institute of International Education
Congressman Mark Udall
Serving Colorado's Front Range and Western Slope