To: Reporters, editors, editorial writers, producers
From: U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Re: President’s 2007 State of the Union Address
Date: January 22, 2007
A Different Audience – But the Same Unaddressed Priorities
Tomorrow night, when President Bush takes the rostrum on the Floor of the House and delivers his sixth State of the Union Address, he’ll be speaking before a dramatically different audience than the one that has greeted him in years past. For the first time in his presidency, Democratic Majorities control the House and Senate after the American people sent a resounding message that they want our nation to move in a new direction. Just yesterday, for example, an Associated Press-AOL News Poll found that 66 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.
A Real Search for Common Ground?
Early reports indicate that the President will express a willingness to achieve “common ground” in his Address, and will highlight policy initiatives that have been at the forefront of the Democratic agenda for some time now -- energy independence, fiscal responsibility, health care reform, and a new direction in Iraq.
Such overtures will be welcomed by the Congress, which is eager to move forward on all of these fronts. In fact, the House has demonstrated its deep commitment to getting real results for the American people by successfully passing – on a bipartisan basis – the six legislative items in our “100 Hours Agenda.” But mere words by the President are not going to get the job done.
This President has rarely been able to achieve the goals that his rhetoric sets for this country – and, in large measure, that is because he has failed to adequately involve Democrats in decision-making and acknowledge that Republicans do not hold a monopoly on good policy ideas.
AmericaIs “Addicted to Oil”
Last year, the President declared that America is “addicted to oil.” One week later, in his annual budget submission to Congress, he shortchanged the development of alternative fuels and technologies needed to make America energy independent. President Bush ignored Democratic proposals, such as the Rural Caucus’ Bio-fuels Energy Package, Speaker Pelosi’s Innovation Agenda or the “PROGRESS Act,” which I introduced along with 129 like-minded Members last year. As a result, we are no closer to energy independence than we were one year ago.
Pay-As-You-Go or No?
Back in 2003, the President said that “we will not deny, we will not ignore, we will not pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents, and other generations.” But in 2004, 2005 and 2006, the federal government ran budget deficits of $412 billion, $318 billion and $248 billion, respectively. Newly-elected House Democrats have already enacted pay-as-you-go budget rules aimed at curbing run-away spending and restoring the fiscal discipline that led to record surpluses in the 1990s. President Bush reportedly will talk tomorrow night about restoring fiscal discipline. A harbinger of his seriousness is whether or not he endorses PAYGO budget rules.
The Health of Our Union
In 2005, the President said, “To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable, and give our families greater access to good coverage.” But in 2006, employer health insurance premiums increased by 7.7 percent – two times the rate of inflation – and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of uninsured Americans jumped has increased by more than 5 million (to 46.6 million) since President Bush took office. House Democrats recently passed prescription drug negotiating authority and will consider other innovative proposals to expand the affordability and accessibility of health care. But we are still waiting for the President to offer a viable, bipartisan proposal to expand health insurance coverage and address the high costs of health care.
Iraq: A Missed Opportunity
When it comes to Iraq, I think Speaker Nancy Pelosi put it best when she said that this Administration has taken an approach to Congress that is more aptly characterized as “notification,” rather than consultation. This will now change. Democrats will conduct real, meaningful oversight of the Administration’s Iraq policy.
The Golden Rule: Bipartisanship
In the 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush said, “We need to put aside partisan politics and work together.” This goal also remains unmet – but if it is realized, it may very well be the most important achievement of this Administration. If we are going to find the right solutions to challenges on immigration, health care, Social Security and Iraq, then bipartisanship must rule the day.
Now is the time for this President to prove that he’s truly committed to doing what he says he will do – even if it means cooperation with Democrats, who are focused on getting results for the American people. Together, there is little that we cannot do as a nation. But if the President fails to aggressively back up his rhetoric with a determination to achieve bipartisan results, then he will have missed an opportunity for the American people.