"I respect you and the arguments you have made," Bush told skeptical lawmakers from both parties in his sixth State of the Union address and the fourth since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. "We went into this largely united -- in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work."
With new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) sitting behind him in a sign of the power shift on Capitol Hill, Bush congratulated Democrats on their victory in the November midterm elections and reached out to them with ideas to expand health-care coverage, overhaul immigration laws and improve education performance. In his most ambitious new proposal, he laid out a plan to reduce projected gasoline consumption in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years.
John Kerry tonight issued the following statement on President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address this evening:
“The President missed a golden opportunity tonight to admit that he made a mistake in Iraq and to share with the American people a plan for gradually removing our troops and allowing the Iraqis to solve the political crisis in Iraq. Instead, he glossed over the disastrous war and its multi-billion-dollar price tag and implied again that our presence in Iraq is somehow improving the situation in that chaotic and turbulent country. The Congress must stand up against Bush’s plan to escalate the war with a new surge of troops and I will be introducing legislation shortly to demand that the Administration set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq. The President’s address came up short in other areas as well – like his idea to tax worker health benefits and his failure to seriously address the challenge of global climate change. Our economy is headed in the wrong way; wages are barely keeping up with inflation and family income is on the way down,” Kerry said.
More specifically, the President missed the mark on several fronts:
ENERGY: Once again the President only paid lip service to a meaningful energy agenda that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. His record speaks for itself – we’re more dependent on foreign oil than ever before. Tonight the President failed to embrace bold policies to break our oil dependence. The President says the nation should reduce U.S. gas usage by 20 percent over the next 10 years, but a goal without a roadmap for getting there is useless. The President should have included more funding for hybrids and battery technology.
HEALTH CARE: Providing more people with meaningful, affordable health care is a laudable goal, but taxing worker health benefits to get there is a terrible idea. We need to increase the number of insured Americans, not play a shell game that risks coverage for those who have coverage today. As many as 35 million people could face higher taxes under the President’s plan while many millions more will face a choice of higher taxes or inadequate coverage in future. The President’s plan could actually increase the number of uninsured if employers decide to shift the entire premium cost to workers or offer only high-deductible plans.
IMMIGRATION: Once again the President called for immigration reform that includes a guest worker program. I support comprehensive immigration reform and I’m disappointed that President Bush walked away from the issue last congress in the heat of the midterm elections. I hope that he’ll work with the Democratic-led congress to make comprehensive reform a reality.