Senate Democrats

SENATOR REID ADDRESSES SENATE ON THE STATE OF THE UNION

Calls on President Bush to offer real solutions for problems of ordinary Americans

Washington, DCSenate Democratic Leader Harry Reid spoke today from the floor of the Senate about President Bush’ upcoming State of the Union. Reid called on the President to offer the American people an honest look at the state of the country today, and a credible path toward a stronger America in the future. The text of Senator Reid’s speech is attached below.

Past mistakes – including Katrina, Iraq, Intelligence, Terry Schiavo, Harriet Miers, Medicare, and more – have made this State of the Union a test of President Bush’s credibility. Past addresses have featured lofty rhetoric but resulted in broken promises. Senator Reid called on the President to break with his tradition and offer a credible path forward.

“Empty promises will no longer cut it,” said Senator Reid. “We need a credible roadmap for our future, and we need the President to tell us how together, we can move forward towards the better America that we all envision. ”

Americans are looking to the President for a new direction this year and will not accept the same brand of misplaced Republican priorities. America can do better than national security policies that have made Iraq a mess and let North Korea and Iran develop nuclear weapons while leaving the country vulnerable to Katrina. And from economic policies that squeeze the middle class to benefit the wealthy and healthcare policies that deny seniors their medicine and force the middle class to pay more to get less, Americans are expecting more. Senator Reid called on the President to begin with ethics reform, the only way Americans can be sure their government is working on the challenges facing the country with their interests, not the special interests, in mind.

“Because of connections to the culture of corruption and stonewalling about Jack Abramoff, it is not credible for President Bush to claim the moral high ground on values and honest government,” Senator Reid said. “President Bush needs to set an example if he’s going to lead our country forward Tuesday night. He needs to come clean about his connections to corruption and join Democrats in uniting behind the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, introduced in the Senate two weeks ago.”

Along with Senator Reid’s speech, Democrats released a new report on President Bush’s expected proposals and the impact each will have on building a stronger America.

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Floor Remarks by Senator Reid, as prepared for delivery Monday, January 30, 2006

Tomorrow night, President Bush will come to the Capitol and deliver his fifth State of the Union Address. It is an important moment for President Bush and America. In fact, this may be the most difficult speech the President will ever give.

The president comes to the Capitol in the midst of the greatest culture of corruption since Watergate. Republican corruption has destroyed the public’s trust in our government and taken a great toll on the state of our union.

In his speech, it will be up to President Bush to show he is committed to restoring the bonds of trust and repairing the damage done by Republican corruption.

Americans know our country can do better than today, and after the year we just had – a year of Katrina, unending violence in Iraq, Terri Schiavo, Social Security Privatization, Harriet Meirs, the Medicare mess – Americans will no longer be willing to blindly accept the President’s promises and give him the benefit of the doubt.

Americans will be looking past the President’s rhetoric tomorrow night and taking a hard look at the results he intends to deliver.

The President’s State of the Union speech is a credibility test.

Will he acknowledge the real state of our union and offer to take our country down a path that unites us and makes us stronger?

Or will he give us more of the same empty promises and partisanship that have weakened our country and divided Americans for the last five years?

If he takes the first approach, together, we can build a stronger America.

If he gives us more of the same, we’ll know he intends to spend 2006 putting his political fortunes ahead of America’s future.

America needs a fresh start, and I hope President Bush realizes that Tuesday night. There is so much more at stake in this speech than the President’s poll numbers.

Empty promises will no longer cut it.

We need a credible roadmap for our future. And we need the President to tell us how together, we can achieve the better America that we all envision.

Our first signal that the president intends to move our country forward will come in his assessment of the state of our union.

It’s not credible for the President to suggest the state of our union is as strong as it should be.

The fact is, America can do better. From health care to national security, Republican corruption has taken its toll on our country, and we can see it in the state of our union.

We are less safe in the world than we were four and half years ago, because the White House has decided protecting its political power is more important than protecting the American people.

We are the wealthiest nation on earth, but not the healthiest, because Republicans in Congress have decided to take care of Big Drug Companies and HMOs instead of the 46 million uninsured.

We have a national debt climbing past 8 trillion dollars, because the president squandered the strongest economy of our lifetime with reckless spending and irresponsible tax breaks for special interests and multi-millionaires.

We have an addiction to foreign oil that has climbed steadily and doubled the price of heat and gas since late 2001, because the Vice President let Big Oil companies write our energy policy.

And we have too many middle-class families living on a financial cliff, because Republican economic policies place the needs of the wealthy and well-connected ahead of working Americans.

If President Bush is committed to making America stronger, he will acknowledge these facts. He will admit the steep price Americans have paid for Republican corruption, and he will proceed to tell us how he will make our country stronger.

Our second clue that President Bush is committed to moving America forward will come in his remarks about national security.

Tomorrow night, it’s not credible for the President to tell us that he has done all he can to keep America safe for the last five years and that he should be allowed to proceed down the same path unchecked.

The truth is exactly the opposite. For all his tough talk, President Bush’s policies have made America less safe.

His failed record speaks for itself.

Osama bin Laden – the man who attacked us on 9/11 – remains on the loose, because – in his rush to invade Iraq – the President took his eye of the ball when we had bin Laden cornered in Afghanistan. As a result, Bin Laden escaped and continues to threaten us today.

Then, there’s the President’s Axis of Evil.

Four years ago, the President declared Iraq, Iran, and North Korea an “axis of evil,” whose nuclear threats posed a risk to the American people. He was right. But, instead of pursuing the correct policies to make us safe, he invaded Iraq. Now, two members of the axis of evil – North Korea and Iran – are more dangerous, and – after spending billions of dollars and losing 2300 American lives – we’ve found out the third – Iraq – didn’t pose a nuclear threat.

Then, there’s what this president has done to our military.

Not only has the president failed to properly equip our troops for battle, but he’s also stretched the force entirely too thin.

Mr. President, the national security failures go on and on.

The President’s poor planning and refusal to change course in Iraq has made progress in 2006 harder to achieve…

As Katrina made clear, he failed to prepare our homeland for a possible attack following 9/11.

And the President has made it more difficult to spread democracy around the world, because he’s been undermining it at home – – – through his executive power grabs and his “trust me its legal” approach to the NSA domestic eavesdropping program.

America can do better.

Tomorrow night, we need the President to rally the country around our most important goal – protecting our people and way of life.

Democrats have always been willing to work with President Bush to make America more secure.

Tuesday, it’s not enough for the President to display the swagger of the Campaigner in Chief. We need to see honesty and candor from the Commander in Chief.

Our third signal that President Bush understands what it will take to make the state of our union strong will come when he talks about health care.

Because of the President’s inaction on health care for the last five years, America faces a health care crisis of staggering proportions. We have 46 million Americans uninsured. The cost of health care premiums has almost doubled since 2001. Companies like Ford and GM are finding it difficult to compete in the world because they’re crippled by skyrocketing health care costs.

With a record like that, it’s not credible for the President to claim he has a vision to make health care affordable. He needs to present us new ideas that will move America forward, not trot out the same tired, old policies that serve special interests and not the American people.

From press reports, I fear we will only hear tired, old ideas, like the President’s plan for Health Savings Accounts.

Health Savings Accounts – – that’s classic Bush doublespeak, and it’s not a credible solution to the health care crisis. Here’s all you need to know about HSAs – you’ll pay more and get less.

This plan is another giveaway to the same people the president has favored over hard working Americans for the last five years.

In fact, remember Social Security privatization? HSAs are a lot like that. They do nothing to solve the real problem. They make the situation worse for the American people. And they create a financial windfall for the President’s friends.

We don’t need to hear the President to offer more of the same on health care.

What we need is a new direction – one that puts families first.

Democrats believe that addressing the health care crisis is not just a moral imperative, but it’s also vital to our economic security and leadership in the world. Every day we go without reform is another day America takes a step backward from its position as a global leader.

For our families, we must make health care affordable and accessible. For our businesses, we must remove the burden of skyrocketing costs that is holding our businesses, our economy and our workers back in the global marketplace.

Our fourth clue that President Bush knows what America needs will come in his remarks about the economy.

After all we’ve seen in the last five years, it will not be credible for the President to claim that our economy is growing… that his “plan” to reduce “his” deficits is working… and that Congress is to blame for overspending and bad decision making.

The truth is, the fiscal nightmare we see today belongs to President Bush and President Bush alone.

Here’s another doublespeak we’re likely to hear tomorrow night – the Bush Competitive Agenda.

This president can talk all he wants about making America competitive, but for five years, he’s done nothing to keep America in the game.

From what we’ve read in the press, this plan sounds like more empty rhetoric from a president that has spent five years slashing the funding we need to stay on the cutting edge.

President Bush has shut the doors of college to thousands of students by supporting the largest student aid cut in history.

He’s allowed our country to fall further behind our trading partners.

And he’s lavished billion on Big Oil, instead of investing in American technology and know-how that would make us energy independent.

We need to hear new economic ideas.

The President needs to tell us how he’s going to stop increasing the debt and start paying it down, so our children and grandchildren don’t pay the price for his reckless fiscal record.

We need to hear how he’s going to help middle-class families deal with rising energy prices.

And we need him to speak honestly about tax relief.

Here’s the truth about the Bush tax breaks. Multi-millionaires stand to receive over 100,000 dollars, while the average working family will receive less than 1,000 dollars.

The President’s priorities are upside down. It’s time for him to join Democrats and bring fairness to our tax code.

Democrats are ready to work with President Bush, but he needs to commit to policies that put the needs of hardworking Americans first.

Our final signal that President Bush is committed to making America stronger will come on the issue of reform.

Because of connections to the culture of corruption and stonewalling about Jack Abramoff, it is not credible for President Bush to claim the moral high ground on values and honest government.

President Bush needs to set an example if he’s going to lead our country forward. He needs to come clean about his connections to corruption and join Democrats in uniting behind the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, introduced in the Senate two weeks ago.

Too many Republicans have shown in recent days that they are more interested in throwing mud and obscuring the facts, than cleaning up Washington. If our country is going to make progress in 2006, President Bush needs to set them straight.

Democrats have a plan to reform Washington. We’re trying to bring it to the Senate Floor for an up-or-down vote. Unfortunately, the Republican Majority is blocking our effort.

If President Bush is going to pass the credibility test tomorrow night, he needs to direct the Republican leadership of the House and the Senate to make real, meaningful reform the first item of business next week.

It’s so important that President Bush lead by example. Remember, it’s Republicans – not Democrats – who have abandoned values like community and opportunity, and embraced vices like greed and arrogance instead.

It’s Republicans who control the White House, where men are willing to break the law and ignore America’s best interest so they can protect their political power.

It’s Republicans on K-Street who have conspired with lawmakers to put the well-connected first.

And it’s Republicans who control the Congress, which has sold its soul to special interests and the Republican right-wing base, a base that has its sights set on stacking our courts with extremist judges.

Tomorrow night, the president will undoubtedly praise the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito.

Let me be clear: Democrats stand united against Judge Alito because he too protects special interests over America’s interest and has failed to demonstrate that he will be a check on presidential power.

Mr. President, the President faces a tremendous test tomorrow night.

It’s up to him to prove to the American people that he intends to denounce the culture of corruption and change direction in 2006.

Democrats are ready to work with President Bush in order move our country forward, because we believe that together, America can do better.

Tomorrow night, I hope President Bush will join us in putting progress ahead of politics, so we can have a state of the union as honest and strong as the American people.

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