In the historic election of 2006, voters entrusted a new majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. With their votes, the American people asked for change. They cast their ballots in favor of a New Direction.
Throughout the 2006 campaign, Democratic candidates laid out commitments that they would fulfill if the American public entrusted us with the majority. Americans called for greater integrity in Washington, and Democrats pledged to make Congress more ethical. Americans called for common-sense proposals to improve the everyday lives of all Americans and Democrats put forward a “Six for ‘06” agenda that addressed critical economic, health care, and educational concerns of ordinary families.
Now, in the first 100 legislative hours of the new 110th Congress that convenes in January, Democrats will begin by living up to the commitments we made on the campaign trail.
In those first 100 hours, you will see a people’s Congress, a Congress that will pass legislation to make the American people safer, make our Congress more honest and open, make our economy fairer, and build a better future for all of America’s children. On the opening day of the Congress, January 4th, we will adopt an ethics reform package that will make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history.
This ethics reform package begins to sever the link between lobbyists and legislation, by banning gifts and travel from lobbyists, and ending the abuses connected to privately-funded congressional travel. The package also brings civility to the legislative debate – committing to a fair and open process for amendments, guaranteeing time to read legislation, and ensuring that the minority can more fully participate in committees.
During that first week, we are also going to change the House rules to restore pay-as-you-budgeting – which will begin to reverse the record budget deficits that are passing on trillions in debt to our children and grandchildren. In addition, we will also bring transparency to the earmark process.
Then, in the remainder of the first 100 legislative hours, we will pass the elements of our “Six for ‘06” agenda to meet the everyday needs of all Americans. We will make America safer by implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 commission; make our economy fairer by raising the minimum wage; make college more affordable by cutting the interest rates on student loans; improve health care by requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices and promoting stem cell research; and take the first step toward achieving energy independence by repealing subsidies to Big Oil and investing the savings in renewable energy.
These items are not just the Democratic agenda; with broad bipartisan support they are an American agenda. Democrats will work with members of both parties to secure their passage, because progress will not be a victory for any one party, but for all of the American people.
Furthermore, in this historic election, nowhere was the call for a New Direction clearer than in the war in Iraq. In addition to the verdict of the voters, the recent report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group concluded that the President’s Iraq policy must be changed. Months ago, Democratic leaders suggested to the President that he implement one of the Study Group’s chief recommendations – to change the primary mission of U.S. troops in Iraq from combat to training and support, which would enable the redeployment of U.S. forces to begin. Now that the Study Group has endorsed this proposal, we hope that the President will recognize that he must take our policy in Iraq in a new direction.
Democrats do not see our congressional majorities as the end point in a long and hard-fought campaign, but rather the starting point – an opportunity to work on behalf of all Americans.
The American people – many Republican and independent voters among them – entrusted a new leadership with their hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families and their future. We are prepared to lead, ready to govern and will honor that trust.