Pelosi delivers democratic pre-buttal to the President's
State of the Union
From the Office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
January 26, 2006
Washington, D.C. - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
and Senate Assistant Leader Dick Durbin delivered the Democratic
pre-buttal to the President's State of the Union Address today
at the National Press Club. Below are Pelosi's remarks as prepared.
"Thank you, Jonathan. Congratulations on your election as
President of the National Press Club.
"I also want to thank my friend, Mayor Villaraigosa of Los
Angeles for being here. Mayor Villaraigosa will be giving the
Democratic Response in Spanish to the State of the Union on Tuesday
"It's a pleasure to be back at the National Press Club for
what has become a pre-State of the Union tradition.
"Next week, President Bush will once again come before the
Congress and report on the state of our union. We will be told
that the state of our union is strong. And, if our measure is
the optimism, entrepreneurial spirit, and talent of the American
people, our strength is boundless. But on key policies, from health
care costs, to energy prices, to college tuition, to the budget
deficit, to national security, the policies we have seen from
Republicans in power do not match the priorities of the American
people. And the American people want to know: 'why?'. They have
tough questions and deserve real answers.
"For example, I heard from one woman that when she opened
her energy bill, she thought she would faint. She asked, 'What
is being done in Washington to reduce the cost of my heating bills
and the price of gas at the pump?' I met a man who was struggling
to care for his bedridden wife. He told me he was afraid that
paying for his wife's costly prescriptions could mean losing their
home. He was embarrassed to ask their children for help. He wants
to know, 'How could Congress pass a law that actually raises the
cost of my wife's prescriptions?'
"Workers are asking, 'Why is Congress making it easier for
plants and jobs to move overseas and harder for me to keep my
pension?' The survivors of Hurricane Katrina who are still living
in tents, trailers, and hotel rooms want to know, 'Why wasn't
the federal government there for me from day one?' And all Americans
see the heroic sacrifices our soldiers are making and ask: 'Is
the war in Iraq making Americans safer, our military stronger,
and strengthening our ability to fight the war on terror?'
"Democrats hear the American people and we have answers,
which are designed to meet the challenges of the present and the
future. We have laid out a series of specific goals, proposals
and timelines that, taken together, chart a clear path to a new
era of American security and prosperity.
"First and foremost, America must remain pre-eminent in
the world, with a strong national security that keeps America
safe and a strong economy that produces good jobs. Nothing is
more urgent than keeping America #1. For over a year, Democrats
have been working with leaders in business and the academic community
to put together an aggressive plan to maintain America's leadership
in innovation, and unleash the next generation of discovery, invention
and growth. This is our Democratic Innovation Agenda - our commitment
to competitiveness to keep America #1.
"Nothing less is at stake than America's economic leadership.
The dynamic cycle of investment, leading to innovation, leading
to jobs is what has secured our status as world leader. That status
has remained unchallenged - until now. As our competitors copy
our blueprint for preeminence - with investments in education,
long-term research & development, and cutting-edge technologies
- we are departing from it.
"Our innovation agenda begins with a serious, sustained
commitment to America's schools. Nothing could be more important
than providing opportunity for our children, and to secure America's
leadership in the world. In a globalized, knowledge-based economy,
America's greatest resource for innovation and economic growth
resides within America's classrooms. We've pledged to create a
new generation of innovators by calling for a qualified teacher
in every math and science K-12 classroom and by issuing a 'Call
to Action' to engineers and scientists to join the ranks of America's
teachers. Along with other Democratic proposals such as the Teach
Act and the Strengthen our Schools Act, we intend to make sure
young children have qualified teachers and supportive environments
in which to learn.
"We recognize that independent scientific research provides
the foundation for innovation and future technologies. That is
why we pledge to double federal funding for basic research and
development in the physical sciences.
"High-speed, always-on broadband will create millions of
good jobs. Our agenda guarantees that every American will have
affordable access to broadband - within five years.
"We also need to direct America's entrepreneurial spirit
and creativity toward one of our greatest national challenges
- the need to free ourselves from our dangerous and unhealthy
reliance on foreign oil. Americans agree - we should be spending
our energy dollars in America's Midwest, not in the Middle East.
Only innovation and technology can lead America to energy independence.
"Democrats have proposed the development of clean, sustainable
energy alternatives, such as bio-based fuels, as well as new engine
technologies for flex-fuel, hybrid, and bio-diesel cars and trucks.
Our economic future and our national security both demand that
we achieve energy independence, and we intend to do so in 10 years.
"Essential to our competitiveness is a healthy environment
for small businesses, so they can turn entrepreneurial ideas into
marketable products, and create good jobs. We propose helping
small businesses succeed by providing more financial support and
technical assistance, reducing regulation, and helping them overcome
one of the greatest challenges they face: the cost of health care.
"Taken together, our Democratic innovation agenda, - education,
R&D, public-private partnerships, energy independence - is
a decision in favor of the future.
"But we can't move forward if we have a healthcare system
that is stuck in the past. Health care is not only a competitiveness
issue, it is also one of necessity for all Americans. It has been
reported that in his State of the Union address, the President's
health care proposal will be an expansion of Health Savings Accounts
and Association Health Plans.
"Let's be clear about what the President may propose: Republicans
claim that Association Health Plans make it easier for small businesses
to afford health insurance. In reality, AHPs would allow companies
to drop coverage for procedures that today, must be covered, such
as mammography, prostate screenings, and mental-health services.
Regrettably, AHP's increase the costs for small businesses, strip
consumers of rights and protections, and do nothing to reduce
the number of Americans without health insurance.
"In our innovation agenda, Democrats have a plan that would
make it easier for small businesses to purchase health care at
reduced costs - but to do so in a way that protects consumers.
"Another of the President's proposals - Health Savings Accounts
- are a continuing effort on the part of the Bush Administration
to leave more Americans to fend for themselves. These provisions
are not consumer-driven, and they defy the principle of insurance
- which is to spread the risk. Any health care initiative should
be measured by whether it increases access to health care, slows
the growth of health care costs, and does not increase the deficit.
By all three of these measures, the President's proposals fail.
They may try to sell them as good health care, but in reality
they're bad medicine.
"Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans are
brought to you by the same people who brought you the confusing,
special-interest driven, Medicare prescription drug bill. These
ideas should go the way of the President Bush's privatization
of Social Security.
"One of the factors most responsible for the rising cost
of health care is the rising cost of prescription drugs. Democrats
insist on the Federal Government having the authority to negotiate
with drug companies for lower drug prices. Right now, we now have
a prescription drug plan that caters to the pharmaceutical industry,
and adds cost and confusion for everyone else. We must replace
this misguided Republican prescription drug plan with one that
is clear, fair, and puts seniors first.
"Putting the needs of seniors first also means protecting
Social Security, and then going further: providing real plans
for pension security, and increasing personal savings through
the AmeriSave proposal put forth by House Democrats.
"Meeting all these challenges to keep America #1 requires
two additional commitments to the American people: a responsible
budget and an honest government.
"Next week, when Congress returns, the first bill we will
vote on is the Republican budget. Regardless of what the President
may say on Tuesday night, the Republican budget tells an alarming
story: It includes policies that increase the deficit by nearly
300 billion dollars, heaping mountains of debt on our children.
It increases the cost of student loans while cutting taxes on
the wealthiest Americans. It cuts funding for the basic research
vital to creating jobs. It cuts funding for health care for our
"Why, the American people ask us, 'are we considering a
budget that is so out-of-step with our values and our priorities?'
The answer is the Republican culture of corruption that has permeated
the White House and the Capitol.
"How many times have you heard of a special-interest provision
that was slipped into a bill in 'the dead of night?' or a thousand-page
bill that no one was given time to read before voting on it. That's
because Republicans have been doing the bidding of special-interest
lobbyists who have purchased access to the legislative process.
"The American people pay the cost of corruption. That's
why we have a confusing Medicare prescription drug bill that actually
raises the cost of prescription drugs for middle income seniors.
That's why we have an energy bill that gives huge tax breaks to
oil and gas companies that are making record profits, while Americans
pay record energy prices. And that's why we have legislation larded
up with special-interest earmarks and 'bridges to nowhere' that
increase the deficit.
"Last week House and Senate Democrats stood together as
we announced our plan to turn the most closed, corrupt Congress
in history into the most open and honest Congress in history.
This is our promise, and we have put it in writing.
"Next week, when Congress reconvenes, we will demand a vote
on these reforms, so we can put power back where it belongs: in
the hands of the American people, in the hands of families who
are struggling with the cost of health care, and their energy
bills, parents and students worried about the cost of college,
workers worried about their jobs and pensions, residents of the
Gulf Coast who are desperate to rebuild their communities and
restore their lives, our men and women in uniform and our veterans,
who expect the protection they need when in harm's way, and the
benefits they've earned when they return home.
"Only with honest leadership and open government can we
build a future worthy of the vision of our founding fathers, the
sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, and the aspirations
of our children. Only then will the policies of Washington reflect
the priorities of the American people. And only then will the
state of our union be as strong as the American people. Thank