“Good evening. I’m Harry Reid from Nevada, the new Democratic Leader in the United States Senate. Now that you’ve heard from the President, I appreciate your spending a few minutes with us as we give our views on how we can live up to the American promise.
“I was born and raised in the high desert of Nevada in a tiny town called Searchlight. My dad was a hard rock miner. My mom took in wash. I grew up around people of strong values – even if they rarely talked about them.
“They loved their country, worshiped God, never shunned hard work, and never asked for special favors. My life has been very different from what I imagined growing up, but no matter how far I’ve traveled, Searchlight is still the place I go back to and still the place I call home.
“A few weeks ago, I joined some friends of mine for a bite to eat at The Nugget – Searchlight’s only restaurant. We were sitting down in a booth, when a young boy, about ten years old, named Devon walked up to us.
“Carrying a skateboard under his arm, he said, ‘Senator Reid, when I grow up I want to be just like you.’
“Well, the truth is Devon could probably do a lot better. But the point still holds and it is this: no one ever had to tell young Devon to dream big dreams, no one ever had to teach him that America is a place of possibility.
“He knows those things because they are born deep in all Americans.
“In the coming year, I believe we can make sure America lives up to its legacy as a land of opportunity if the President is willing to join hands and build from the center.
“It’s important that we succeed. It’s time that America’s government lived by the same values as America’s families. It’s time we invested in America’s future and made sure our people have the skills to compete and thrive in a 21st century economy. That’s what Democrats believe. That’s where we stand. That’s what we’ll fight for.
“Too many of the President’s economic policies have left Americans and American companies struggling. And after we worked so hard to eliminate the deficit, his policies have added trillions to the debt – in effect, a ‘birth tax’ of $36,000 on every child that is born.
“We Democrats have a different vision: Spurring research and development in new technologies to help create the jobs of the future. Rolling up our sleeves and fighting for today’s jobs by ending the special tax breaks that encourage big corporations to ship jobs overseas. A trade policy that enforces the rules of the road so that we play to win in the global marketplace instead of sitting by and getting played for fools.
“After World War II, through the Marshall Plan, we rebuilt Europe and they went from poverty to an economic powerhouse. Today, we need to invest in our nation’s future with a Marshall Plan for America – to build the infrastructure our economy needs to go – and grow. President Eisenhower did that in the 1950s with the interstate highways. National investment created the Internet in the 1970s. We need to build the next economy – and we need to start now.
“This 21st century economy holds great promise for our people. But unless we give all Americans the skills they need to succeed, countries like India and China will take good-paying jobs that should be ours. From early childhood education to better elementary and high schools to making college more affordable to training workers so they can get better jobs, Democrats believe every American should have a world-class education and the skills they need in a world-wide economy.
“Health care costs have shot up double-digits year after year of the Bush Administration and that’s costing us jobs, costing us our competitiveness, and costing families their peace of mind. We need to make health care and prescription drugs affordable for all so that our families and our small businesses will no longer have to shoulder this dead weight.
“Good, new jobs. World-class education. Affordable health care. These things matter. Unfortunately, much of what the President offered weren’t real answers. You know, today is Groundhog Day. And what we saw and heard tonight was a little like that movie, Groundhog Day. The same-old ideology that we’ve heard before – over and over again. We can do better.
“I want you to know that when we believe the President is on the right track, we won’t let partisan interests get in the way of what’s good for the country. We will be first in line to work with him. But when he gets off track, we will be there to hold him accountable.
“And that’s why we so strongly disagree with the President’s plan to privatize Social Security. Let me share with you why I believe the President’s plan is so dangerous. There’s a lot we can do to improve American’s retirement security, but it’s wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of forty percent or more. Make no mistake, that’s exactly what President Bush is proposing.
“The Bush plan would take our already record high $4.3 trillion national debt and put us another $2 trillion in the red. That’s an immoral burden to place on the backs of the next generation.
“But maybe most of all, the Bush plan isn’t really Social Security reform.
“It’s more like Social Security roulette. Democrats are all for giving Americans more of a say and more choices when it comes to their retirement savings. But that doesn’t mean taking Social Security’s guarantee and gambling with it. And that’s coming from a Senator who represents Las Vegas.
“Sometimes important questions like Social Security or the economy or education get reduced to dollars and cents or competing policies and political parties. But really, these are questions that are about old-fashioned moral values that don’t get talked about much in Washington, but matter so much to our country. Are we willing to do right by our parents and care for our children? Do we believe that big corporations with powerful lobbyists should get special favors and that the wealthiest should get special tax breaks? Or do we believe we are all God’s children and that each of us should get a fair shot and each of us deserves a say in our future? Will we be able to tell young people like Devon back in Searchlight that America is still the land of the open road and that you can travel that open road to the place of your choice?
“Even after the President’s speech, the American people are still asking these questions. You can be sure that Democrats will continue to offer real answers in the months ahead.
“Now, I’d like to turn things over to my colleague, the great leader of House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi.”