Bush's Dismal Legacy

Tomorrow night, President Bush, for the first time since he took office, will address a Congress consisting of a majority of Members that do not belong to his party.

Nevertheless, President Bush is the leader for the entire nation. In fact, when he was declared the winner of the 2000 Presidential Election, he said that he was 'not elected to serve one party, but to serve one nation,' and he committed to serving his Presidency with a 'spirit of cooperation' between Republicans and Democrats.

Sadly, the last six years of his Presidency have been marked by profound divisiveness.

However, tomorrow night, as he pens the first page of the last chapter of his presidential legacy, he has an opportunity to reverse this disaccord.

Will the President give the nation more of the same rhetoric of the past six years or will he finally have answers to the critical questions affecting people's lives?

How does sending more troops to Iraq lead to a final exit plan?

The Bush Administration has either lied or demonstrated inexcusable incompetence throughout the conduct of the war in Iraq - and despite offering no convincing evidence that he has accurately assessed what it is now possible to achieve in this war, he has called for a surge of 21,500 additional troops there. As a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I will be listening for specific, concrete terms as to how the introduction of additional military troops will bring about the crucial political changes that must occur before Iraq can be stabilized.

What is President Bush's plan to stop terrorism on a global level and refocus our efforts on finding Osama bin Laden?

Since we invaded Iraq in 2003, international policy experts say that we have been neglecting our military efforts in Afghanistan. This neglect is contributing to the re-surfacing of the Taliban and the provision of a refuge to Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Regarding Homeland Security, will President Bush direct toward rail and transit security the same focus that has thus far been reserved for aviation?

The House of Representatives has already passed H.R. 1, which exceeded the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, by phasing in requirements that will lead to the scanning of all cargo bound for U.S. ports. I will be waiting to hear the President express his support for this legislation and his commitment to the expansion of homeland security systems that confront the threats that are posed to our freight railroad and public transit systems.

Will President Bush put our nation on the pathway to energy independence?

In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush declared that America was "addicted to oil." Yet, he has consistently shortchanged the development of alternative fuels and technologies needed to make America energy independent. Sixty-one percent of Americans support H.R. 6, the bill recently passed by the House to enhance energy conservation. President Bush needs to show support for this legislation and help put our nation on the course to utilize our own energy resources.

What is President Bush's plan to avert the growing national deficit, so our grandchildren will not be paying for his misguided spending?

Under President Bush's watch, projected surpluses of $5.6 trillion turned into projected deficits of $3 trillion. While the homeland security priorities and global economic inflation have driven costs up, President Bush has yet to end tax subsidies for the rich.

Will President Bush sign off on legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour?

It has been almost 10 years since Congress raised the minimum wage. In the meantime, the cost of bread has risen 25 percent, college tuition has escalated by 96 percent, health insurance costs have gone up by 97 percent and gas has increased by 101 percent. It is time for the President to demonstrate his commitment to the hard working families of this country rather than focusing on the richest and most privileged among us.

Will President Bush give us real reforms to fight global warming, or just more hot air?

The President campaigned in 2000 on the platform of implementing a mandatory cap on carbon dioxide emissions to slow the progression of global warming - and then he changed course once in office. The President has indicated that he will make a major energy-related announcement on Tuesday. I hope the announcement amounts to sound environmental policy and not just another empty promise to the American people.

How will the President ensure that none of our children get left behind?

In line with the spirit of cooperation, Democrats partnered with President Bush and Congressional Republicans in 2001 to ensure a high quality education to all our nation's children through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB has made great strides toward this end, but it has failed to live up to its initial promise due to consistent underfunding by the Bush Administration. The President's latest budget proposal underfunds the law by $5.5 million - a clear indication that his conscience is out of sync with his conduct.

Will President Bush live up to his declared commitment to fight HIV/AIDS?

The President has consistently used his State of the Union addresses to express an interest in fighting the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Yet, he has also perpetually underfunded the vitally important Ryan White CARE Act, leaving states to fight over an ever-diminishing pot of money that people living with HIV/AIDS desperately need. He has also relentlessly broken his promises to fully fund international HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.

Will President Bush veto hope?

At this moment, millions of Americans are battling terrible illnesses and the effects of devastating injuries for which we currently have no cures and few effective treatments. However, the House recently passed the bipartisan DeGette-Castle bill that would expand the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that could offer hope for a cure for these patients. Sadly, President Bush vetoed this bill when we passed it last summer. However, given that the bill has strong ethical guidelines and would only use stem cell lines generated from embryos that would otherwise be discarded by fertility clinics, will President Bush give way to hope and sign this legislation into law?

How will the President provide Americans with access to quality healthcare?

President Bush has proposed health care reform that would alter the federal tax code and make health insurance premiums, or part thereof, tax deductible. I am concerned that this proposal will do little to make health care more affordable for those who are already struggling to meet the high cost of premiums. In addition, how does the President expect this plan to help provide coverage for the 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured, or the 6.8 million unemployed Americans?
"These questions speak to the change for which the American public overwhelmingly voted. President Bush's answers will determine whether or not he is finally listening to the nation. It is time for President Bush to prove that he is willing to change the course of division in this country and to take the first step toward a new direction of national unity.