TIME FOR BOLD ACTION -- (Senate - January 28, 2010)
Mr. BURRIS. Madam President, last night, just down the hall from this Chamber, my colleagues and I assembled with our friends in the House of Representatives to take part in a tradition as old as our Republic.
This is more than just a Presidential address.
It is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and it is one of the great rituals of modern democracy, the practice of bringing the major officers of our government together to assess our national priorities.
Last night, President Obama laid out a bold vision for the years ahead, and a renewed commitment to the uniquely American ideals that make this country great.
So today, I would like to take this opportunity to discuss a few of the things we heard in yesterday's speech, and how our agenda will benefit the people of Illinois.
I am glad the President recognizes that this is not a time to change our priorities it is a time to recommit ourselves to the values and the ideas that the American people voted for in 2008.
The mandate for better policy could not have been more clear.
Voters want us to focus on job creation. They want us to help small businesses, repair our national economy, and invest in clean energy.
They want us to pass real health care reform, reduce the deficit, and keep corporate money separate from politics.
Under President Obama's leadership, my colleagues and I have already made significant progress on a number of these issues.
A year ago, we passed far-reaching economic recovery legislation that brought us back from the brink of disaster.
We voted to extend unemployment benefits, and keep sending help to the people who need it most during these difficult times.
Even today, we are poised to take up job creation and climate change bills, and are closer to passing comprehensive health reform than ever in our history.
We are examining ways to address the deficit, and in pursuit of that goal I believe we need to keep all options on the table.
And in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, which dealt a major blow to campaign finance reform, I believe we need to take steps to minimize the ability of giant corporations to influence elections. We need to keep companies from overriding the voice of the people in Congress.
Our system is designed for incremental change, so none of these things will come easily.
But the agenda set by this President, and the demands of this trying moment in history, dictate that we must set aside our partisan differences and come together to solve big problems.
We have made gains over the last year, and we are continuing to make tangible strides almost every single day.
So I would like to talk about what this means for my home State of Illinois.
When Congress passed a sweeping economic recovery plan about a year ago, this country was losing more than 700,000 jobs a month, and the economy was in freefall.
Today, the economy is growing for the first time in 2 years, and job losses have fallen to a tenth of what they were last year.
For ordinary Illinoisans, this has made a real difference.
In Danville, IL, recovery act funding created 20 jobs at the East Central Illinois Community Agency. It put additional police officers on the street and created 14 jobs at the local housing authority.
It created summer jobs that allowed local kids to help support their families. It helped fund a Head Start program in neighboring Gibson City, and it funded three local projects through the Illinois Department of Transportation.
This is the measurable impact our legislation has had on only one community in Illinois.
But letters and phone calls and news stories have been pouring into my office from across the State, and the message is always the same.
From Danville, to Chicago, to Rockford, to Elmwood Park, I have heard from Illinoisans who have felt the positive effects of our new economic foundation.
We must not forget that America is still on the road to recovery. But our policies have already made a real difference in people's lives.
One Danville business owner even said: ``I was leery of the whole stimulus thing at first, but they got it right.''
That is why it is time to look ahead.
It is time to redouble our efforts and prove our commitment to the values the American people voted for in the last election.
The national economy is no longer in freefall, but there are still far too many people without jobs and far too many families that are struggling to make ends meet.
We need to use the remaining recovery act funds to create more jobs in cities such as Danville, IL, and across America.
We need to provide tangible help to the small businesses that form the backbone of our economy, and the local banks that are essential to our national prosperity.
As a former banker myself, I understand how important these institutions are to the communities they serve. And I know they are hurting badly right now.
I am grateful that the President shares my support for these initiatives. And I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and with the administration to take action.
Already, President Obama's speech is being analyzed by the media as a partisan rallying cry, a recap of the administration's record, and a dozen other things.
But as I sat on the House floor last night, I heard more than that.
I heard a bipartisan call to arms, a sober recognition of the current situation, and a strong vision for job creation, continued economic recovery, and healthcare reform in the coming year.
The truth is, the American people do not need politicians in Washington to tell them about the current State of the Union.
They are the Union. They know about the challenges we face, and the distance we have yet to go.
They do not care about partisan politics, or electoral math, or which party has the majority in Congress.
The American people are interested in the answer to one question: Where do we go from here?
So, as we set out to tackle the ambitious agenda that was laid out last night, we must approach these proposals with the same mindset.
We must draw our energy and our strength from the American people, and summon the principles and ideas that can make that vision a reality.
This is not about scoring political points or winning elections.
It is about how we move forward together as a Congress, as a nation, and as a people.
It is about making a difference for the hard-working people of Illinois, and every other State in the country.
This is a time to be thoughtful and reflective and forward-thinking, but it is also a time to roll up our sleeves.
Colleagues, as President Obama reminded us last night, this is a time for bold action.
So today, let us get to work.