Good morning. I’m Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic Leader of the United States Senate.
I went to college in the 1960s and studied government. I remember discussing a quote by Lord Acton – “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”
It’s been many years since I graduated college, but I finally understand what Lord Acton meant.
Republicans today control the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House. They have absolute power, and it has corrupted their Party and led to the culture of corruption that we now have in Washington, DC.
There’s the former Republican leader of the House of Representatives, admonished three times for ethics violations and under indictment for money laundering.
There’s the White House, where for the first time in 135 years a White House employee has been indicted.
There’s Karl Rove, who is under investigation. There’s also the man appointed by President Bush to be charge in charge of hundreds of billions of dollars in government contracts who was led away in handcuffs because of his dealings with Jack Abramoff and others.
And then, there’s the Republican “K-Street Project,” which grants special interests the ability to “play” in Republican controlled Washington – - as long as they are willing to “pay.”
There is a price to pay for this Republican abuse or power, and it can be seen in the present state of our union. Special interests and the well-connected have been rewarded by Republicans… while everyone else has been left behind.
What is the state of our union in 2006?
We have a national security policy that protects Halliburton’s bottom-line with no-bid contracts but does not protect our troops with body armor.
We have Vice President Cheney’s energy policy that helped Big Oil make 100 billion dollars in profit in 2005, but this same policy has families feeling the financial pinch every time they fill their gas tanks or heat their homes.
And then there is the state of the Medicare prescription drug program.
Democrats have always supported adding a drug benefit to Medicare, but nearly all of us voted against the Medicare Bill of 2003 because it was clear that President Bush’s plan would help drug companies more than seniors.
Unfortunately, time has proven us right.
The state of the union today is that we have low-income Americans begging for their prescription drugs, and seniors going without any coverage.
America can do better. We need to fix Medicare and do it now.
Senate Democrats have a plan to address the Medicare crisis, and we are asking Republicans to join us. Our plan would allow those in their golden years to immediately get their prescription drugs, not confusion and red-tape.
The fact that Republicans call their drug plan a “benefit” reminds me of another lesson from college, this one taken from George Orwell’s book, 1984.
The President has botched the Medicare program so badly that it doesn’t resemble a “benefit” for most seniors. Calling it that is Orwellian doublespeak, naming something just the opposite in order to cover how unpleasant it really is.
Republicans have been giving us doublespeak for years. They speak in platitudes about helping Americans, when they are really helping their special interest friends.
When they wanted to let energy companies release more pollution into the air, they called it the “Clear Skies Initiative.”
When they wanted to let loggers cut down more trees and weaken environmental laws, they called it the “Healthy Forests Initiative.”
Their “Leave No Child Behind Act” is leaving children behind every day.
And my favorite Republican doublespeak is when they wanted to give tax breaks to their special interest friends – even though it meant adding more than $50 billion to our deficit, they called their effort the “Deficit Reduction Act.”
It is time now for the President to put an end to this pattern of deceit, and he can do so when he gives his State of the Union address at the end of this month. The American people need to hear him denounce the Republican culture of corruption, and tell us how he is going to reform our nation’s capital.
Honest government is the Democrats’ top priority, and we unveiled our plan for reform on Wednesday.
This legislation not only treats the symptoms of corruption, it also treats the disease. It eliminates cronyism like Michael “Brownie” Brown at FEMA. It ends pay-to-play politics like the K-Street Project. And it creates an Office of Public Integrity that will strictly enforce the law.
The honest leadership we seek is not a partisan goal. It is the key to a stronger union. When leaders are accountable to people, not lobbyists, there is no limit to what America can do.
We can be energy independent… have affordable health care… and a strong economy. All it takes is a commitment in Washington to put progress, not politics, first.
That’s the government Democrats are fighting for, and we’re asking everyone to join us, so we can have a state of the union as honest and strong as the American people.
I’m Senator Harry Reid. Thanks for listening.