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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the National Press Club this morning to deliver Democrats' national Address on the State of Our Union. The new Democratic Congress is committed to working in a bipartisan fashion to make America energy independent, to express the overwhelming opposition of the American people to the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq, and to take America in a new direction. Below are their remarks as prepared:
It is an honor to be here with my friend Senate Majority Leader Reid for what has become an annual pre-State of the Union tradition.
This year, we come to you as the majority. The American people have called for a new direction for the Congress and for the country. They want to see their leaders focus on American priorities and they want us to work together for the American people.
Change is here. In the first 100 hours:
We have begun to make the American people safer, by passing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
We have begun to make America's families more economically secure, by raising the minimum wage, lowering prescription drug prices, and making college more affordable.
We have brought hope to America's families, by advancing stem cell research.
We have begun to set America on the path toward energy independence, by rolling back multi-billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil and investing in alternative resources.
And, we have created the most open and honest Congress in history by passing tough ethics reform.
I am proud that we passed many of these measures with the broad support of Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and across the country. Under the leadership of Senator Reid, the Senate is working to pass similar bills.
These dramatic successes are just the beginning for this Congress.
Next week, President Bush will come before the Congress and the nation and report on the state of our union.
The state of our union is strong.
We believe that with the hopes and aspirations of our children as our compass, our future is bright.
The founders of this great nation foresaw an America driven by the optimism and creativity of its people. They imagined an America always renewing itself to meet ever-changing challenges and to seize ever-growing opportunities.
We stand on the edge of a new century of discovery, innovation, and solutions. Congress must use the opportunity given to us by the American people to prepare a new America for the 21st century.
A new America that seizes the future and forges 21st century solutions through discovery, creativity, and innovation, sustaining our economic leadership and ensuring our national security.
A new America with a vibrant and strengthened middle class for whom college is affordable, health care accessible, and retirement secure.
A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy, and combats climate change.
A new America that is strong, secure, and a respected leader among the community of nations.
Energy independence is a national security issue. It is also an environmental issue, and an economic issue for our country and for America's families.
Last week, when I met with mayors from all across the nation, Patrick Hays, the Mayor of North Little Rock, Arkansas told me about the hybrid car he drives. He said, 'When I drive that car, I do it for my granddaughter.'
It is important to our children's health and their global competitiveness to rid this nation of our dependence on foreign oil and Big Oil interests. Taking bold measures today to achieve energy independence within 10 years must be the highest priority for this Congress.
In the last Congress, House Democrats' put forth our plan to energize America with homegrown alternative fuels. We must also promote energy efficiency, standards, and effective conservation.
As it says in the Old Testament, 'To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.'
To preserve our planet, God's creation, we must make a serious commitment to combat global warming.
Global warming is an increasing threat to our world, with implications for our health, food supply, and the survival of many species, and perhaps entire ecosystems.
The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal. The American people understand the urgency of the problem of climate change. 2006 was the warmest year on record, capping a nine year warming streak.
Working with the global, religious, business, and scientific communities, we intend to continue robust research on global warming and produce policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously creating good-paying jobs.
We want to work with President Bush on this important issue in a bipartisan way. But we cannot afford to wait.
Therefore, with openness and participation from all parts of our democracy, we will pass groundbreaking legislation that addresses global warming and energy independence.
Essential to our children's future is the economic security of their families now. Preparing for the 21st century means bolstering our commitment to keep our nation number one. In our Innovation Agenda, unveiled more than a year ago here at the Press Club, House Democrats made a commitment to competitiveness. We will provide our nation with the tools necessary to unleash the next generation of growth and jobs.
In his State of the Union address last year, President Bush spoke of keeping America competitive. With Democrats in the majority, we must work together with our Republican colleagues to do so -- nothing less than America's economic leadership and our national security is at stake.
Innovation and economic growth begins in America's classrooms. To create a new generation of innovators, we must fund No Child Left Behind so that we can encourage science and math education, taught by the most qualified and effective teachers.
In order for our children to have a bright future, they must have a healthy start. Today, more than 8 million American children are uninsured. This year, through the State Children's Health Insurance Program, we have an opportunity to reduce the number of uninsured children by millions. This shouldn't be a partisan issue; we should work together to make the wealthiest nation in the world, also the healthiest.
And we must match every aspect of our current policies on education, childcare, and health care for our children against the wealth of new information produced by our leading scientists and scholars.
Great strides have been made in understanding how children's brains are shaped and developed, how positive behaviors can be encouraged, and how investments in early childhood create success in later years.
We will ensure that our policies match the latest research and that families are given what they need to take advantage of these scientific advances.
Innovation also requires federal grants to our universities, which have long been the spark for great breakthroughs: from the Internet, to biosciences, to fiber optics, to nanotechnology.
We must commit to doubling federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences and modernize and expand the research and development tax credit. And we will bring broadband access to every American within five years, creating millions of jobs.
These investments, and initiatives to support a thriving small business environment, will allow us to pursue the long-term, trailblazing research that gives rise to new advances, spawns new industries, and creates good jobs here at home.
In order to be competitive and strong, we must be fiscally responsible. We owe our children boundless opportunity, not mountains of debt.
That is why Democrats have passed the strict standards of pay-as-you-go, no new deficit spending.
For our future to be strong, all of our communities must be strong. It says in the Bible, 'When there is injustice in the world, the poorest people, those with the least power, are injured the most.'
That was certainly true for the people of Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster, compounded by a man-made disaster. It is now 18 months past time to get our response right.
This Congress has begun our hard work of reviewing the response to Katrina, beginning with hearings on housing. Our House Democratic Caucus Katrina Task Force, led by the delegations from the region, is committed to find solutions for the communities of the Gulf Coast.
The response to Katrina is one of the great moral challenges facing our nation. So is ending the war in Iraq.
It was a great President who said, 'America will pay any price...to assure the survival and the success of liberty.'
And we will.
The American people have demonstrated clearly their desire for a new direction in Iraq. The war has produced tens of thousands of U.S. casualties, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and damaged the standing of the United States in the international community. The strain the war is placing on our Army and Marine Corps diminishes our ability to respond to other challenges and thereby threatens our security. Escalating our military involvement in Iraq will not reverse these negative effects, it will only add to them.
The solutions to the issues which divide Iraqis are political and diplomatic, not military. As such, they are beyond the ability of our troops, who have performed their difficult and dangerous missions with great courage, to resolve. The Iraqis and their neighbors have the most at stake in an unsafe Iraq. The sooner we give them the responsibility for their future, the sooner our troops can come home.
That is why, Senator Reid, many House members support the bipartisan resolution in the Senate, that states, 'It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen our involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence.'
We must make this Congress about the future for a new America. Innovation will provide the new ideas to defend America, care for our children, grow our economy, and preserve our planet.
I am honored to present Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, and in doing so acknowledge his great leadership for our country.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Thank you Speaker Pelosi for that introduction and for the leadership you provide our party and our country. You have made history, and Americans - regardless of their partisan perspective -- share joy in your achievement.
In its first 100 hours, the new leadership in the House has shown America that Democrats and Republicans can work together to deliver results. Last night - on the issue of ethics - the Senate scored its first victory of this new year, passing perhaps the most sweeping ethics reform legislation in history.
Now that we have changed the way Washington does business, it's our job -- and the job of every member of Congress -- to keep moving America in a new direction.
The new Congress will confront many difficult issues in 2007, but none more important than keeping America safe. We live in a dangerous world. We face many threats. There are critical challenges around the world America must confront:
In Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al Qaeda are resurgent.
In North Korea and Iran, which continue to march forward with their nuclear programs.
In Darfur, where genocide rages, and elsewhere in Africa, where poverty and sickness are leading to mass human suffering and dangerous instability.
In Latin America, where Chavez and Castro want to put their leftist mark on young democracies.
And in the Middle East and here at home, where, as the Speaker indicated, we need to find a way to free ourselves from our dangerous dependence on oil.
These are just some of the national security challenges we face. Unfortunately, we have yet to adequately confront these or other problems, because this Administration has been all consumed and, frankly, overwhelmed by its own failed policies in Iraq.
The Iraq war has now lasted longer than World War II -- a war that took us to far away Okinawa across North Africa and throughout the continent of Europe.
The costs of the war have been staggering.
We have lost 3,025 of our troops, and seen tens-of-thousands more wounded. The war has strained our military, and depleted our Treasury. Last year, violence claimed the lives of at least 34,000 Iraqis - a rate of almost 100 a day.
Yet despite these tremendous costs, despite this great sacrifice, the Iraq war has made America less safe, not more safe. Our troops in Iraq -- including hundreds of fine Nevadans -- have done everything asked of them. It's their political leaders at home who have failed.
We must change course.
Unfortunately, the President's new plan can be summed up in four words: "more of the same."
Like our military generals, the American people and a growing bipartisan chorus in Congress, I believe escalation is a serious mistake.
As both our top commanders in the region -- Generals Abigail and Casey -- have testified, Iraq is experiencing a violent civil war. Interjecting more U.S. military forces will not end the civil war, only a comprehensive political settlement by the Iraqi government will.
For over a year, Democrats have been proposing a better plan for Iraq: a plan based on what is in the best interest of our country now and in the long- term fight against terror and a plan embraced by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Our plan for Iraq begins by transforming the military mission. The mission of our troops should be transitioned away from combat to training, force protection, logistics and counter-terror. U.S. forces have been given an impossible mission -- policing a civil war. It's Iraqis -- not our troops -- who should be walking the streets of Baghdad, trying to sort friend from foe.
Next, we should begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces within the next four to six months, so Iraqis understand they must lead the fight and take responsibility for their future.
Only Iraqis can ultimately secure Iraq.
A phased redeployment will allow our country to rebuild the military force here at home, and increase the number of troops available to hunt for Osama bin Laden and stabilize Afghanistan.
Third, we need to bring Iraq's neighbors into the process of stabilizing the country. This step will not be easy for an Administration that has failed at diplomacy. Yet, diplomacy is exactly what is needed.
The violence won't stop in Iraq until all factions agree to stop the violence.
It is true, the Iranians and the Syrians have played a destabilizing role in Iraq, but that doesn't mean we can't communicate with them as part of a regional framework. As Secretary Jim Baker of the Iraq Study Group noted, we must talk to our enemies, not just our friends.
Our plan for Iraq will do what this President has been incapable of doing: turning Iraq over to the Iraqi's and bringing our troops home. This is what the majority of Americans voted for last November, and this is what Congress will continue to hold the President accountable to do.
As Speaker Pelosi said, the President's plan will receive an up-or-down vote in both Chambers of Congress. With that vote, our hope -- our prayer -- is that this President will finally listen. Listen to the Generals. Listen to the Iraq Study Group. Listen to the American people. And listen to a bipartisan Congress. The answer in Iraq is not to "double down" -- literally to do more of the same. The answer is to find a new course that brings this war to an end.
Let me say more about votes in Congress. When we hold the up-or-down vote -- and in the many votes that follow -- our troops will get everything they need. It is the President who will find he no longer has a blank check.
The days of a rubberstamp Congress are over. This Congress - unlike the previous Congress -- will always put the needs of our troops first. We'll keep America's promises to our soldiers, our veterans and our National Guard. And after years of overuse and neglect, we'll rebuild and reinvest in the military, so it remains the finest force in the world.
As much as we are convinced the President has chosen the wrong direction in Iraq, we are increasingly concerned he's headed in the wrong direction in Iran and Afghanistan .
Five years after we defeated the Taliban, the extremists are returning. Drug production is soaring. And attacks on U.S. and NATO forces are on the rise. By all measures, the country is at risk of slipping away; yet, some reports suggest the President will be moving some U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and into Iraq. This is a terrible mistake.
Although time is short, there is still an opportunity to defeat our enemies in Afghanistan once and for all. The President must acknowledge what's at stake, and immediately take action to prevent the country from returning to what it was -- a haven for international terrorism.
Much has been made about President Bush's recent saber rattling toward Iran. This morning, I'd like to be clear: The President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking Congressional authorization -- the current use of force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization.
Let there be no doubt, the Iranian regime poses one of the great threats of the new century, but the Iranian people -- 2/3rds of which are under the age of 30 -- present a great opportunity for progress. Regrettably, this Administration has no strategy for connecting with this generation of potential reformers.
One of the reasons Iran is free to thumb its nose at the world community is oil. Iran sends millions of barrels of crude oil to the Western world, and gets billions of dollars in return.
Fortunately, we have the power to turn the tables on Iran. That power is energy independence. If the United States led the world in developing new alternative fuel technologies, we could create new jobs, export new products, slow global warming and reduce Iran's leverage on the international stage.
When it comes to energy, the Congress has already moved forward on a number of fronts -- from reducing global warming to promoting renewable fuels to mandating ethanol from biomass. On Tuesday, we are looking forward to the President finally joining the energy debate. For our security, our economy, and our environment, we must pull together and secure America's energy future.
Fortunately, I know we can.
Like all Americans, I vividly remember September 11, 2001 and the days that followed. Democrats and Republicans stood together as Americans in doing whatever it took to keep our country safe.
9/11 was a terrible day, but it showed our country united and strong, with the world by our side.
Regrettably, bipartisanship -- and the alliances that shined so bright after 9/11 -- have been challenged in recent years: the President's conduct of the war in Iraq has divided our country and our allies. The White House's detainee policy and abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have damaged our moral authority. And this administration's disdain for diplomacy has hardened our enemies, and cost us opportunities in the developing world, where extremists are out-working the U.S. in the battle for hearts and minds.
Together this year, we must reclaim that bipartisan spirit. It shouldn't take a national tragedy to get us to work together. We should be equally inspired by our responsibility to keep America safe.
From Afghanistan to energy, our challenges are great, but we know America can meet them. And we know we must begin by changing course in Iraq.
In Congress, we'll continue working with Republicans to keep America safe, and we'll listen to President Bush Tuesday night. Together, we must move in a new direction, and build a safer, stronger nation.
Jim Manley, Reid, 202-224-2939
Brendan Daly / Jennifer Crider, Pelosi, 202-226-7616
Office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Office of Senate Democratic
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