Democratic Response to the State of the Union
Democratic Response to State of the Union Address
Washington, D.C. - Last night, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union Address on the need to confront the urgent challenges facing our nation at home and abroad. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Throughout our nation's history, hope and optimism have defined the American spirit. With pride and determination, every generation has passed on a stronger America than the one it inherited. Our greatest responsibility is to leave our children a world that is safer and more secure.
"As House Democratic Leader, I want to speak with you this evening about an issue of grave concern - the national security of our country.
"Any discussion of our national security must begin with recognition and respect for our men and women in uniform. Whether they are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, or delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in Asia, our troops have the gratitude of every American for their courage, their patriotism, and the sacrifice they are willing to make for our country.
"I have seen that sacrifice up close. I've met with our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I've visited our wounded in military hospitals here and overseas. Our troops not only defend us, they inspire us. They remind us of our responsibility to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.
"Because of the courage of our servicemen and women and the determination of the Iraqi people, Iraq's election on Sunday was a significant step toward Iraqis taking their future into their own hands. Now we must consider our future in Iraq.
"We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force. Neither should we slip out the back door, falsely declaring victory but leaving chaos.
"Despite the best efforts of our troops and their Iraqi counterparts, Iraq still faces a violent and persistent insurgency, and the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council said in January that Iraq is now a magnet for international terrorists.
"We have never heard a clear plan from this Administration for ending our presence in Iraq. And we did not hear one tonight. Democrats believe a credible plan to bring our troops home and stabilize Iraq must include three key elements.
"First, responsibility for Iraqi security must be transferred to the Iraqis as soon as possible. This action is long overdue. The top priority for the U.S. military should be training the Iraqi army. We must not be lulled into a false sense of confidence by the Administration's claim that a large number of security personnel have been trained. It simply hasn't happened, but it must.
"Second, Iraq's economic development must be accelerated. Congress has provided billions of dollars for reconstruction, but little of that money has been spent to put Iraqis to work rebuilding their country. Infrastructure improvements in Iraq are more than just projects; they give Iraqis hope for a better future and a stake in achieving it. And they contribute to Iraqi stability.
"Third, regional diplomacy must be intensified. Diplomacy can lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops, and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives.
"If these three steps are taken, the next elections in Iraq, scheduled for December, can be held in a more secure atmosphere, with broader participation, and a much smaller American presence.
"Just as we must transfer greater responsibility to the Iraqi people for their own security, we must embrace a renewed commitment to our security here at home. It's been over three years since the attacks of September 11th. Our hopes and prayers will always be with the 9/11 families, who strengthen our resolve to win the war on terror. The pain and horror of that day will never be forgotten by any of us yet the gaps in our security exposed by those attacks remain.
"Despite the Administration's rhetoric, airline cargo still goes uninspected, shipping containers go unscreened, and our railroads and power plants are not secure. Police officers and firefighters across America have pleaded for the tools they need to prevent or respond to an attack, but the Administration still hasn't delivered for our first responders.
"The greatest threats to our homeland security are the tons of biological, chemical, and even nuclear materials that are unaccounted for or unguarded. The President says the right words about the threat, but he has failed to take action commensurate with it.
"We can and we must keep the world's most gruesome weapons out of the world's most dangerous hands. Nothing is more important to our homeland security, and indeed to the safety of the world.
"For three years, the President has failed to put together a comprehensive plan to protect America from terrorism, and we did not hear one tonight.
"As we strive to close the gaps in our security here at home, we must do more than show our strength as a nation, we must also show our greatness.
"We must extend the hand of friendship to our neighbors in Latin America. We must work to stop the genocide in Sudan. We must reinvigorate the Middle East peace process. And we must bring health and hope to people suffering from disease, devastation, and the fury of despair.
"We are called to do this and more by our faith and our common humanity, and also because these actions will enhance our national security.
"Democrats are committed to a strong national security that keeps America safe, that wins the war on terror, and that never again sends our troops into harm's way without the equipment they need.
"In our New Partnership for America's Future, House Democrats have made a commitment to guarantee a military second to none; to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction; to build strong diplomatic alliances; to collect timely and reliable intelligence to keep us safe at home; and to honor our veterans and their families by making sure they have the health care and benefits they have earned.
"For those returning from military service today - our newest veterans - Democrats are calling for a G.I. Bill of Rights for the 21st Century to guarantee access to education, health care and the opportunity for good jobs.
"And as we protect and defend the American people, we must also protect and defend our Constitution and the civil liberties contained therein. That is our oath of office.
"A strong and secure America was our parents' gift to us. We owe our children and our grandchildren nothing less.
"Thank you, good night, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."