(As Prepared for Delivery)
Good evening Democrats!
This community and this state have weathered some devastating catastrophes over the last few years. This Spring’s tornadoes have been yet another. Tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with all those who have suffered losses in this community and across Oklahoma.
You will rebuild, and move ahead. You will persevere through the strength that defines you all as proud Oklahomans.
Now, when I accepted Jay’s invitation to speak here tonight, I had no idea that I could come to the birthplace of Carl Albert, Will Rogers, Mickey Mantle and so many other distinguished Oklahomans, praise a group of Texans, and still make it back to Washington in one piece.
The odds of that happening are so bad that Bill Bennett – the man some called the moral voice of America, the author of “The Book of Virtues,” and the man who lost $8 million gambling – wouldn’t even wager on it.
God bless the Texas 55! Including the 51 Texas Democrats who crossed the Red River and temporarily called Ardmore home.
What they did took tremendous courage. It took guts. These Democrats put principle ahead of their own political careers to fight for fairness – fairness for the working families of Texas, indeed fairness for the working families and Democrats all across this nation.
Imagine. With the Lone Star state facing a $10 billion budget shortfall; with 250,000 Texas children being kicked out of the children’s health insurance program; and with a homeowners’ insurance crisis, Texas Republicans instigated the most divisive, partisan, knock down, drag out fight that confronts any legislature – redistricting.
Tom DeLay says the GOP forced this issue now because Texas votes Republican, even though its Congressional delegation has 17 Democrats and only 15 Republicans.
Who knew that Tom DeLay was such a believer in quotas?
The Austin American-Statesman got it right on Wednesday, saying: “Congressional redistricting was not an issue before the legislature until [Tom] DeLay came marching down from Washington, bringing with him his all-partisan, all-the-time politics.”
The GOP’s arrogance and recklessness knows no bounds. Now, they’re even misusing state and federal law enforcement agencies, asking whether FBI agents could be used to arrest Texas lawmakers in Ardmore. They even asked a federal agency set up to track terrorists and drug dealers to find former Texas House Speaker Pete Laney, who had flown his own plane to Ardmore.
This same divisive, harsh partisanship drives the GOP back in Washington. Last week, House Republican leaders refused to even permit Democrats to offer an alternative to their reckless, unaffordable tax bill. And this coming week, they plan to make the Defense Authorization Bill – legislation that traditionally unites Members on both sides of the aisle – a partisan fight.
Every week, Brad [Carson] and I go head-to-head with Tom DeLay in Washington, and he’s like all the other tough guys on the other side. They want to play it one way. And as soon as Democrats push back, they whine.
Well, it’s time for Democrats to summon the same courage, to forge the same unity, that steeled the Texas 55, and to push back – for America!
For the 10 million jobless Americans who face the highest unemployment rate in nine years.
For the 4 million more Americans who have lost their health insurance since George Bush became President. Today, in the richest nation on the face of the earth, 45 million Americans have no health care insurance. That is a national disgrace. And it demands action!
For the 2 million Americans who have been pushed from the middle class into poverty.
For the millions of children who are eligible for Head Start but have no seat at the table.
And for our seniors, who deserve a prescription drug benefit under Medicare.
It’s like Carl Albert once said when he was still a young Congressman from Bugtussle: “From the time of the founding of our government, the Democratic Party has been the Party of the people. It was the Democratic Party that changed our soup lines into production lines, our relief rolls into payrolls; from closed banks to guaranteed deposits, from foreclosed loans to the most universal home ownership in history.”
The GOP’s economic policies have wreaked havoc on millions of hard-working American families. George Bush and the Congressional Republicans have shown time and again that their domestic agenda consists of just one item – huge tax cuts for the wealthy that neither grow the economy nor create jobs.
Two years ago, the Republicans enacted the largest tax cut in American history. During roughly the same time, we’ve lost 2.7 million private-sector jobs.
So what’s the Republican prescription for our ailing economy today? More of the same failed tax-cut medicine.
Just last week, the Republicans in the House of Representatives passed the most fiscally irresponsible and unfair tax cut perhaps in our history. On Thursday, the Senate passed a gimmick-ridden tax plan that hides its true costs, and is arguably even more unfair.
Here’s all you really need to know to understand the GOP’s economic priorities: The average tax cut for millionaires, under the House tax bill, would be nearly $94,000. The average tax cut for a family making $40,000 to $50,000? Answer – $482.
House Republicans couldn’t find it in their hearts to include one dime in their bill to help the millions of Americans who are now struggling with the anxiety of joblessness. House Republicans couldn’t find it in their hearts to include one dime to help states like yours which face their worst budget crises since World War Two and massive layoffs and cutbacks on education, Medicaid and other priorities.
And yet, one week ago, Tom DeLay had the gall to say that Democrats “suggest we twiddle our thumbs as Americans struggle to feed their families.”
This, in light of the fact that Republicans have every intention of going home for the Memorial Day Recess without extending unemployment insurance benefits for the jobless. They did the same thing last October and again over the Christmas holiday, forcing 800,000 people off the unemployment rolls.
When we raise these issues, particularly how the GOP tax bills favor the most affluent, Republicans cry class warfare. Ladies and gentlemen, if Democrats are cowed by baseless assertions that we engage in class warfare when we are simply pointing out the indisputable facts regarding the Republicans’ tax bills, then our Party is adrift and we risk irrelevancy.
Democrats have not taken a vow of poverty, and neither have we taken an oath of silence. We cannot stand silently by while Republicans pass tax cuts that benefit the Bush class over the middle class, that steal from Social Security and that drive us even deeper into debt.
To pay for their unfair and unaffordable tax cuts, the Republicans have passed a budget that would take hot lunches out of the mouths of poor children; force the elderly out of nursing homes due to Medicaid cuts; skimp on a prescription drug benefit for seniors; slash veterans health care; and rob funds from other priorities such as homeland security and education.
They’re leaving this nation in worse shape than they found it, and passing the costs onto our children and grandchildren, turning record budget surpluses into record deficits and jacking up the national debt. And we cannot stand for it.
Now, there is one issue on which all Americans – Democrats and Republicans alike – agree, and that is this: The first and foremost duty of our national government is the protection of our people and the protection of our homeland.
This community, like those most directly affected by the horrific acts of September 11th, has seen the face of evil. And whether the evil of terrorism rears its head here at home or threatens us from abroad, we must be prepared to act to protect our people and our nation.
In my view, our action to disarm Saddam Hussein was both necessary and just. The tyranny and intransigence of Hussein, and the threat he posed to the civilized world, demanded that we not be frozen into inaction by the international community’s inability to marshal anything more than mere words.
I know some here disagree. But no matter where you stand on this issue, Democrats must convince the American people that we are as credible on national security as we are on economic security and Social Security.
It’s my strong belief that this great party’s positive message of hope and inclusion will fall on deaf ears until voters believe that we will do what it takes to protect this nation and our people. And if that happens, it will be an historic tragedy for the American people.
We are the Party of hope and inclusion. Democrats stand for equality and compassion. We stand for economic growth, fiscal responsibility and opportunity for all. We stand for human rights and democratic values abroad. And we continue to espouse the values that have made America a great and good nation: faith, family, hard work, love of country and personal responsibility.
We are Democrats, you and I, perhaps by birth, but more importantly by conscience. We must reach out and speak to the hopes and dreams of all Americans:
The farmer in Fairview.
The oil rigger in Ponca City.
The pharmacist in Ardmore.
The grandmother in Norman.
The carpenter in McAlester.
The teacher in Tulsa.
The firefighter and police officer here in Oklahoma City.
The rancher in Guymon.
And the soldier at Fort Sill (in Lawton).
Forty-two years ago, John F. Kennedy stirred our Party and inspired a generation with the following words: “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it – and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”
We have the energy. We have the faith. We have the devotion. Democrats, let’s never stop fighting for an America that achieves the full measure of its promise.
God bless you. God bless this great state. And God bless America.