September 1, 2006
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Hastert:
Over the August recess, we have continued to hear from our constituents that our nation is heading in the wrong direction. From national security to economic security, from the cost of health care and college tuition to the price at the pump, Americans are demanding change. We must take the country in a New Direction.
Based on the concerns of constituents across America, we propose Congress act on five key issues that have an immediate impact on the lives of the American people before adjourning for the November election.
Five years after 9/11, our nation is not as safe as it should be. Recent events in London remind us all too clearly of the need to do a better job at protecting Americans at home and abroad. Yet, glaring deficiencies exist in our homeland security - as evident in the federal government's response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and the failure to secure our ports and airports. The urgent recommendations of the independent and bipartisan 9/11 Commission have not been passed or fully implemented. Our first responsibility is to keep the American people safe. Before we recess, Congress must pass legislation to implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations.
This week, the Census Bureau reported that wages have not kept pace with rising costs, resulting in a decline in real wages that worsens the middle class squeeze. Lower-income workers are suffering even more because Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage for nine years. Before Congress adjourns, we must have a straight up or down vote on increasing the minimum wage, free from the usual Republican efforts to attach tax cuts for the wealthiest few that doom these bills. Democrats will not support a Congressional pay raise until we give 7 million American workers a raise by either passing H.R. 2429, Congressman George Miller's Fair Minimum Wage Act, or the Hoyer Amendment to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill that increases the minimum wage.
Hundreds of thousands of seniors and the disabled are falling into the "Donut Hole" of the flawed Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit, which requires them to continue to pay premiums while receiving no benefits. Before Congress recesses, we must give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices for seniors and people with disabilities.
Students returning to college continue to confront skyrocketing tuition costs, and yet the Republican Congress recently cut $12 billion in student aid. Before Congress recesses, we must restore the massive cuts in college tuition assistance imposed by the Congress and expand the size and availability of Pell Grants by passing an improved Labor-HHS appropriations bill.
This summer, Americans are paying record gas prices to oil companies that already enjoy historic profits. Taxpayers should not be forced to give tax breaks to Big Oil companies. Democrats insist on an energy agenda that works for all Americans, not just the oil industry. We can begin by rolling back tax breaks for Big Oil and investing the savings in alternative fuels to achieve energy independence.
For Members of Congress to hit the campaign trail while urgent national needs remain unmet would be a serious abdication of our responsibilities as elected officials. We reject assertions that the people's business can wait until after the November election. Therefore, until Congress passes legislation that meets the real needs of the American people, House Democrats will actively resist adjournment.
Thank you for your attention. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
House Democratic Leader
House Democratic Whip
James E. Clyburn
House Democratic Caucus Chair
House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair