and Daschle Official State of the Union Response
D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic
Leader Tom Daschle will deliver the official Democratic response
to the President's State of the Union address tonight. Below are
the Leaders' remarks as prepared for delivery:
The Democratic Response to the State of the Union
By the Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Congress
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
A Question of Priorities
Part 1: Protecting American Security at Home and Abroad
By House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi
The state of
our union is indeed strong, due to the spirit of the American people
- the creativity, optimism, hard work, and faith of everyday Americans.
The State of the Union address should offer a vision that unites
us as a people -- and priorities that move us toward the best America.
For inspiration, we look to our brave young men and women in uniform,
especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their noble service reminds
us of our mission as a nation -- to build a future worthy of their
the perspective of ten years of experience on the Intelligence Committee
working on national security issues, I express the Democrats' unbending
determination to make the world safer for America -- for our people,
our interests and our ideals.
an unwavering commitment to ensure that America's armed forces remain
the best trained, best led, best equipped force for peace the world
has ever known. Never before have we been more powerful militarily.
But even the most powerful nation in history must bring other nations
to our side to meet common dangers.
The President's policies do not reflect that. He has pursued a go-it-alone
foreign policy that leaves us isolated abroad and that steals the
resources we need for education and health care here at home.
led us into the Iraq war on the basis of unproven assertions without
evidence; he embraced a radical doctrine of pre-emptive war unprecedented
in our history; and he failed to build a true international coalition.
American taxpayers are bearing almost all the cost -- a colossal
$120 billion and rising. More importantly, American troops are enduring
almost all the casualties -- tragically, 500 killed and thousands
SAFER AND MORE SECURE
As a nation,
we must show our greatness, not just our strength. America must
be a light to the world, not just a missile.
years ago today, as a college student standing in the freezing cold
outside this Capitol Building, I heard President Kennedy issue this
challenge in his Inaugural Address: "My fellow citizens of
the world," he said, "ask not what America will do for
you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
There is great
wisdom in that, but in it there is also greater strength for our
country and the cause of a safer world.
alienating our allies, let us work with them and international institutions
so that together we can prevent the proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction and keep them out of the hands of terrorists.
billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for politically- connected
firms such as Halliburton, and an insistence on American dominance
in Iraq, let us share the burden and responsibility with others,
so that together we can end the sense of American occupation and
bring our troops home safely when their mission is completed.
the diplomatic disengagement that almost destroyed the Middle East
peace process and aggravated the danger posed by North Korea, let
us seek to forge agreements and coalitions - so that, together with
others, we can address challenges before they threaten the security
of the world.
AND HOMELAND SECURITY
We must remain
focused on the greatest threat to the security of the United States
- the clear and present danger of terrorism. We know what we must
do to protect America, but this Administration is failing to meet
the challenge. Democrats have a better way to ensure our homeland
percent of containers coming into our ports or airports must be
inspected. Today, only 3 percent are inspected. One hundred percent
of chemical and nuclear plants in the United States must have high
levels of security. Today, the Bush Administration has tolerated
a much lower standard.
percent communication in real time is needed for our police officers,
firefighters, and all our first responders to prevent or respond
to a terrorist attack. Today, the technology is there, but the resources
are not. One hundred percent of the enriched uranium and other material
for weapons of mass destruction must be secured. Today, the Administration
has refused to commit the resources necessary to prevent it from
falling into the hands of terrorists.
be far safer if we reduce the chances of a terrorist attack in one
of our cities than if we diminish the civil liberties of our own
FORCES AND VETERANS
As a nation,
we must do better to keep faith with our armed forces, their families
and our veterans. Our men and women in uniform show their valor
every day. On the battlefield, our troops pledge to leave no soldier
behind. Here at home, we must leave no veteran behind. We must ensure
their health care, their pensions, and their survivors' benefits.
THE FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN IS AT STAKE
The year ahead
offers great opportunity for progress and perhaps new perils still
hidden in the shadows of an uncertain world. But you, the American
people, have shown again and again that you are equal to any test.
Now your example summons all of us in government, Republicans and
Democrats, to a higher standard.
This is personal
for all of us, in every community across this land. As a mother
of five, and now as a grandmother of five, I came into government
to help make the future brighter for all of America's children.
As much as at any time in my memory, the future of our country and
our children is at stake.
committed to strengthening the state of our union - to reach for
a safer, more prosperous America.
us make America work for all Americans - let us restore our rightful
role of leadership in the world, working with others for "the
freedom of man."
I'm now proud
to introduce my colleague, the outstanding Senate Democratic leader,
Part 2: Building an Opportunity Society for the American People
By Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle
Let there be
no doubt: the state of our union is strong -- stronger than the
terrorists who seek to harm us and stronger than the challenges
that confront us. At the same time, we know that our union can be
spoke of great goals, and America should never hesitate to push
the boundaries of exploration. But neither should we shrink from
the great goal of creating a more perfect union here at home.
In his speech,
the President asked us to make permanent the tax cuts already passed.
He asked us to create more tax shelters for the wealthy, and he
asked us to use Social Security money to pay for it. For the last
couple of weeks, I've been traveling through my home state of South
Dakota, visiting the people and small towns that are America's backbone.
And the folks I met were asking something, too: what about us? When
do our priorities become America's priorities?
a society that restricts its rewards to a privileged few, we need
an "opportunity society" that allows all Americans to
succeed. Our "opportunity society" has at its foundation
good jobs, a solid education and quality health care that is affordable
and available. We believe that we have to honor the promises we've
made to the millions of families who worked hard, played by the
rules and have earned a retirement of dignity.
Our first challenge
is to strengthen the economy -- the right way. The true test of
America's economic recovery is not measured simply in quarterly
profit reports, it's measured in jobs. The massive tax cuts that
were supposed to spark an economic expansion have instead led to
an economic exodus. To make up for the three million private-sector
jobs that have been lost on President Bush's watch, the economy
would have to create 226,000 jobs a month through the end of his
term. Last month, the economy created only 1,000 new jobs. That's
not good enough.
afford to keep rewarding the accumulation of wealth over the dignity
of work. Instead of borrowing even more money to give more tax breaks
to companies so that they can export even more jobs, we propose
tax cuts and policies that will strengthen our manufacturing sector
and create good jobs at good wages here at home. We can also show
our patriotism while strengthening agriculture and rural America
by labeling all food products with their country of origin.
the second key to our "opportunity society." Two years
ago, the President signed a new education law. The heart of that
law was a promise. The federal government would set high standards
for every student, and hold schools responsible for results. In
exchange, schools would receive the resources to meet the new standards.
America's schools are holding up their end of the bargain - the
President has not held up his. Millions of children are being denied
the better teachers, smaller classes, and extra help they were promised.
At the same
time, the President's tax cuts have put states in such a bind that
they're being forced to raise the cost of college. Since President
Bush took office, the average tuition at a four-year public college
has increased by nearly $600. The America our parents gave us was
a place in which everyone had a chance to go to a good school, and
then to college, community college or vocational school, regardless
of family income. Our children deserve nothing less.
AND MEDICARE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
"opportunity society" is built on the belief that affordable,
available health care is not a luxury, but a basic foundation of
a truly compassionate society.
million Americans - almost all of them from working families - have
no health insurance. That's over 3.8 million more than when President
Bush took office. Those Americans lucky enough to have health insurance
have seen their premiums go up each of the last three years. The
increase in premiums that middle- income families have seen over
the past three years is larger than the four-year tax cut they've
been promised. This is an invisible tax increase on middle class
years into his Administration, the President acknowledged that the
rapidly rising cost of health care, and the increasing number of
Americans with no health coverage, are problems. But the solutions
he proposed - more tax cuts - are not the right ones. More tax cuts
will do little to make health care more affordable or reduce the
number of people without insurance, and they will weaken health
coverage for those who now have it.
When I was
driving around South Dakota this summer, I met a nurse in Sioux
Falls who has cancer. She told me that she couldn't afford the $1,500
a month her drugs cost. She told me that she was going to die --
that she was a lost cause. But, she said, we must solve this problem;
don't turn more people into lost causes.
We believe that the federal government should use the power of 40
million Americans to lower prescription drug prices and to allow
us to get more affordable drugs from Canada - instead of forbidding
both. Drug companies and insurance companies are the only ones who
benefit from that restriction - not the American people -- and that's
why we want to change it.
And in our
vision of an "opportunity society," promises made to those
who have worked a lifetime will be honored in retirement. That's
why we believe that America's pension system needs to be strengthened,
and that Social Security's benefit should a guarantee, not a gamble.
Only when every
American who wants to work, can, when every child goes to a good
school and has the opportunity to go further, only when health care
is available and affordable for every American, when a lifetime
of work guarantees a retirement with dignity and when America is
secure at home and our strength abroad is respected and not resented
-- only then will we have a union as strong as the American people.
That's the America we want to build, because that's the union the
American people deserve. Thank you for listening, good night, and
God bless America.