New Partnership Is Democrats’ Foundation

Posted December 3, 2004 at 10:11am

Throughout our nation’s history, hope and optimism have always defined the American spirit. Every generation has struggled to leave our children an America that is stronger and more secure than the one left to us. That is our inheritance, and it must also be our commitment.

House Democrats are determined to strengthen the middle class that is the heart of our democracy, and in September we put that

commitment in writing. Our plan, the New Partnership for America’s Future, reaffirms the commitment of House Democrats to six core values for a strong and secure middle class: national security, prosperity, fairness, opportunity, community and accountability.

In the 109th Congress, the New Partnership will be the foundation of our legislative agenda. We will build on the historic Democratic unity of the 108th Congress, when we were more unified than at any time since Sam Rayburn of Texas was Speaker of the House. And we will continue to put forward initiatives that have clarity, credibility and consensus.

Our plans will be clear to the American people — declaring exactly what our proposals will do and who they will benefit. They will be credible — presented without blurring the facts or fudging the numbers. And they will have consensus within our party and with the American people — Americans do not want spin or slogans, they want solutions. By providing solutions — something Republicans in the House have failed to do after 10 years in the majority — we will clearly define the differences between Democrats and Republicans.

As elected officials, our first responsibility is national security. More than three years after the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we know we are not as safe as we can and should be. The Republican Congress has still not enacted the urgent recommendations of the 9/11 commission, despite overwhelming support in the House and Senate. This week, we have one last chance to pass this urgently needed intelligence reform. President Bush and the Republican Congress must not miss this opportunity to make America safer.

We also have a responsibility to expand prosperity, and we can begin by passing a robust transportation bill that will create 1.7 million new jobs nationwide, while modernizing our infrastructure. We must also reform the tax code to end incentives for outsourcing. No taxpayer should have to subsidize the outsourcing of his or her own job.

As a matter of fairness, we must make health care more affordable and available. Congress should take up legislation on the first day of the new session to provide health insurance to more parents and children. We must also repeal and replace the widely unpopular prescription drug bill. We should allow the safe reimportation of drugs from Canada and elsewhere and allow the federal government to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices.

Our sense of fairness also insists that we must maintain an unqualified commitment to the preservation of retirement dignity through Social Security, Medicare and sound pensions. But the president has proposed privatizing Social Security, which would cut the benefits that provide financial security for millions of seniors and the disabled. Democrats have always worked to guarantee that Social Security benefits will be there for Americans, and we will continue to do so.

To provide opportunity, we need to strengthen America’s education system.

We must keep the promise of No Child Left Behind, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. And we must make college education more affordable, so that every student who has the motivation will also have the means.

To strengthen our communities, we must enforce our anti-pollution laws that keep our air and water clean and safe, and make sure that polluters pay for the damage they cause, not taxpayers. And we must protect the safety of our communities with strong law enforcement and community policing.

Finally, in every decision Congress makes, we must insist on accountability in government. During the campaign, the president pledged to cut the deficit in half. And yet two of his first actions after winning re-election were to call for even more tax cuts for the wealthy and to propose yet another increase in the debt limit. Democrats will continue to fight for fiscal responsibility. And that begins with an honest discussion about how to reduce the enormous deficit. We must pay as we go.

Within the House of Representatives itself, there must be more discourse and less discord. This summer, I proposed guidelines for a bipartisan administration of the House that should be followed no matter which party is in the majority. The principles are fair and provide for the full consideration of issues and open debate that the American people expect and deserve.

The need for reform is urgent. The House of Representatives is called “The People’s House,” and yet many of the critical issues of the 108th Congress were kept from being seen, heard or evaluated by the American people.

During the 108th Congress, the Republican leadership repeatedly abused its power, proposing “martial law” rules that required same-day votes nearly 30 times. The danger of this heavy-handed approach was highlighted by the omnibus spending bill, a $388 billion bill covering everything from agriculture to education.

Because Members did not have enough time to read it, some egregious proposals were slipped into it, including a Republican provision that would have allowed the Appropriations Committee and its staff to have access to individual taxpayer’s records. Congress had to come back this week to correct this outrageous assault on privacy, but we must also correct the system that allowed this to take place.

Democrats and Republicans are on different sides of the aisle, but we have a shared oath and a solemn obligation to serve our country together. As elected officials, our commitment must be to build a future worthy of the vision of our Founding Fathers, worthy of the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform, and worthy of the aspirations of our children.

That is my hope for the 109th Congress.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the House Minority Leader.