September 25, 2006
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
United States House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Hastert:
More than three weeks ago, we wrote to you requesting action on key issues facing the American people. Though we have yet to receive a response from you, the urgency to act remains: from national security to economic security, from the cost of health care and college tuition to the price at the pump, our country is heading in the wrong direction.
Based on the concerns of all Americans, Congress must act on five key issues that have an immediate impact on the lives of the American people before adjourning for the November election. As Majority Leader Boehner continues to say that Congress will adjourn by Friday, September 29th, this leaves less than one week in which to act. We reject assertions that the people's business can wait until after the November election, and therefore, unless you address the following issues, Democrats will actively resist adjournment.
Five years after 9/11, our nation is not as safe as it should be. We must do a better job at protecting Americans at home and abroad. 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.
As several reports continue to make clear, 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 year, Americans have been paying soaring gas prices, increasing the bottom line for 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.
Congress has less than a week to act on these critical issues before you intend to recess. Democrats stand ready to work with you at any time to address these urgent national needs; anything less would be a serious abdication of our responsibilities as elected officials. Therefore, until Congress passes legislation that meets the real needs of the American people, House Democrats will actively resist adjournment.
Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer
House Democratic Leader House Democratic Whip
James E. Clyburn John B. Larson
House Democratic Caucus Chair House Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair