News

Democrats Respond to Bush State of Union Speech

Multimedia

Audio

In their response to his State of the Union address, Democrats have vowed to hold President Bush accountable on Iraq and domestic issues.

The traditional response was delivered by the Democratic Minority leaders in the House and Senate, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid.

In the days before the President's speech, both had voiced the key positions Democrats have adopted toward the Bush second term agenda.

But in their response to the President, the Democratic leaders hammered away at the main point they have been making about Iraq. "Now we must consider our future in Iraq," said Mrs. Pelosi. "We all know the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force. Neither should we slip out the back door, falsely declaring victory but leaving chaos. Despite the best efforts of our troops and their Iraqi counterparts, Iraq still faces a violent and persistent insurgency, and the chairman of the national intelligence council said in January that Iraq has become a magnet for international terrorists. We have never heard a clear plan from this Administration for ending our presence in Iraq."

In his speech, the President went some way toward addressing lawmaker's concerns that he has not done enough to persuade European allies and others to help in Iraq. That's not likely to be enough for members of Congress who want to see proof progress is being made.

The Democratic response also focused on the most important domestic aspect of President Bush's speech, reforming the U.S. pension system known as social security.

Before the State of the Union address, Democrats accused the President of using scare tactics to persuade Americans to support his plan to partially privatize social security with new private investment accounts.

Senator Reid addressed this in his part of the Democratic response, calling the President's plan dangerous: "There is a lot we can do to improve American's retirement security, but it is wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned, with a guaranteed benefit cut of 40 percent or more. Make no mistake, that is exactly what President Bush is proposing" he said.

In his speech, President Bush said U.S. forces will increasingly focus on efforts to prepare Iraq's security forces to defend the country, but refused to discuss a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. He went some way toward addressing lawmaker's concerns he has not done enough to persuade European allies and others to help in Iraq, saying he would seek to build coalitions.

That's not likely to be enough for members of Congress who want to see proof progress is being made.

In his speech, President Bush said his proposed changes to social security would not result in any changes for Americans who are 55 years of age or older, adding that he would work with Congress to find, what he called, the most effective combination of reforms.

Democrats also fault the President on the question of strengthening U.S. defenses against another terrorist attack such as that on September 11, 2001.

House Democratic leader Pelosi said gaps in security, revealed in detail by the report of the independent September 11th commission that investigated intelligence failures, have not been eliminated: "We can and we must keep the world's most gruesome weapons out of the world's most dangerous hands. Nothing is more important to our national security, and indeed to the safety of the world," he said. "For three years, the President has failed to put together a comprehensive plan to protect America from terrorism and we did not hear one tonight."

The White House has repeatedly dismissed the Democratic complaint, which also coincided with Senate hearings on the confirmation of the President's nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security.

In their response, Democrats were again signaling they have no intention of buckling (collapsing) in the face of a Bush agenda Republicans hope to move quickly through Congress.

Senate Democratic Minority leader Reid put it this way in Wednesday's response to the President: "When we believe the president is on the right track, we wont let partisan interests get in the way of what is good for our country. We will be first in line to work with him, but when he gets off track, we will be there to hold him accountable," he said.

After the State of the Union is traditionally the time Congress really starts its legislative work, and Social Security is at the top of the Republican agenda, followed by a range of other bills on everything from transportation and energy to tax reform, immigration and education.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs