Monday, January 01, 2007

Rep. Steny Hoyer: Where Democrats will take America

The following piece by Rep. Hoyer was originally published in the Washington Examiner on November 16, 2006. I found it on his Congressional website. Thought I'd let the Congressman speak for himself.

Last week, millions of citizens all across America cast their ballots, voting to take our nation in a new direction and giving Democrats the House majority in the 110th Congress.

Democrats are deeply grateful for this vote of confidence by the American people and we are absolutely determined to help lead our nation and govern effectively over the next two years. The American people voted for change because the Republican Party’s policies — particularly in Iraq and on the economy — are failing. I intend to work closely with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to pass our “Six for ’06” agenda. We will work to enact the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and make our nation safer, raise the federal minimum wage, make prescription drugs more affordable, move our nation toward energy independence, cut college costs and restore fiscal responsibility.

Democrats are going to change the way things are done in Washington by restoring civility, honesty and integrity. We will stay true to our core values, but we intend to reach out to the president and congressional Republicans to work together to meet our country’s challenges. We must reject partisan bickering and replace confrontation with consensus.

Democrats will work in a bipartisan way to strengthen the middle class and protect the American homeland. We are committed to fully implementing all of the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission. The fact is, five years after the devastating attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our nation’s ports, railways, and chemical and nuclear plants remain vulnerable to attack.

Real national security requires that we reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I have introduced the Program for Real Energy Security Act, a comprehensive energy bill that would constitute a major national effort to make substantial gains in technology, conservation and vehicle efficiency, and the use of alternative fuels. It has 126 co-sponsors.

It is time for America to engage in a Manhattan-style Project that brings government, business, and the science and environmental communities to the table to promote and expand alternative energy sources and make more efficient vehicles that burn cleaner fuels. Democrats believe energy independence is critical to our economic and national security, and to keeping our nation strong and secure into the future.

While strengthening national security is a critical priority, we must also improve economic security and help working families make ends meet.

While Republicans talk about a “great economy,” working-class Americans continue to be squeezed by the skyrocketing costs of health care, energy and college tuition. The minimum wage has not been increased since 1997, and findings from the Center for Economic and Policy Research show that the minimum wage is now at its lowest level in 50 years. Because of inflation, the failure to increase the minimum wage is not just a pay freeze, but a pay cut. If the minimum wage in 2006 was worth what it was in 1968, it would be $9.05 an hour — not $5.15.

Democrats will gradually raise the minimum wage from to $7.25 over two years, paying 6 million workers their fair share and allowing small businesses to make the necessary adjustments.

In addition, Democrats will make key improvements to Medicare Part D so that beneficiaries get the simple, affordable, and reliable prescription drug benefit they deserve. Our plan would require that Medicare leverage its bargaining power and negotiate lower prices so that seniors get a better deal. We would use the savings to help close the “doughnut hole” plaguing so many beneficiaries.

Another way to provide relief to working class Americans is to make college more affordable. In the past year, the Republican Congress has cut more than $12 billion in federal student aid, making college less accessible for millions of American families. Democrats will reduce interest rates, restore the Republican cuts on federal student aid, and expand existing programs such as Pell Grants to make college affordable for future generations.

Democrats will also restore common sense “pay as you go” rules that say any increase in spending or decrease in revenue, such as tax cuts, must be offset by decreases in spending elsewhere or increases in revenue. “Pay as you go” policies helped create four years of surpluses under President Clinton and can help reverse a projected $4 trillion deficit. Passing massive debts onto our children and grandchildren is simply immoral.

Democrats and Republicans have a historic opportunity to work together and help solve the complex problems facing our nation. As a member of the Democratic leadership team, I pledge to do all I can to help move our nation in a new, positive direction.


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