By: Rep. Nancy Pelosi
At the halfway mark in this Congress, our priorities are clear: strengthening the security of the American people and building a new economy that offers our families lasting prosperity. These priorities are the new direction the American people demanded in 2008 -- with the historic election of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress. In the days since, this Congress has responded with an agenda focused on rebuilding, reforming and restoring the promise of progress and prosperity to America's families and businesses.
A record of achievement
To address the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- an unprecedented measure that has created or saved as many as 1.6 million jobs so far, invested in infrastructure and clean energy, cut taxes for 95 percent of American households and kept teachers in our classrooms. The result: Job losses are reversing course, and our economy has swung from downturn to growth.
We built on this recovery with the popular Cash for Clunkers program, giving a critical boost to our automakers, a break for families and an incentive to reduce carbon pollution, which causes climate change.
We then laid out a long-term economic plan for America -- a budget blueprint founded on three pillars of our prosperity: a highly educated work force, a clean energy economy and quality, affordable health care for every American. This framework reduces the deficit, restoring critical fiscal restraint as our economy recovers.
The 111th Congress has acted to restore accountability to government, and we acted on the promise of some of our deepest values: service, equality and fairness for all. We upheld our pledge to never leave any veteran behind, securing timely and reliable funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, building on this country's largest investment in veterans' health care and ensuring our men and women in uniform get a fair pay raise. The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act will expand service opportunities for our youth and restore a sense of common purpose and shared sacrifice among our next generation.
The expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program means affordable, accessible medical care for 11 million kids -- and Food and Drug Administration regulation of tobacco finally offers children some protection from the No. 1 cause of preventable death in America. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will ensure that workers who face pay discrimination can seek justice in our courts. And the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights will protect consumers from the predatory practices, unfair fees and fine print of the financial industry.
The way forward
This record of results responded to the call for change. But we know our work is far from over. While some try to use partisan politics to slow our efforts to create jobs and make America stronger, Congress will stay focused on our top priorities: putting Americans back to work and boosting the paychecks of America's households.
Essential to our economic strength is realizing the century-old dream of affordable health care for all Americans -- reform that cuts costs and reduces our deficit. Today, we stand at the doorstep of history, preparing to send a bill to the president's desk that achieves affordability for the middle class, accountability for insurance companies and access for millions more Americans.
Working with the Senate, we will pass a broadly based jobs initiative that continues the work of the Recovery Act and helps Americans emerge stronger from this economic storm.
Working with the Senate -- and building on the bill passed by the House last spring -- we must address the greatest challenge of our time: climate change. In doing so, we can build a clean energy economy that creates millions of new jobs and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
Working with the Senate, we will send the president the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act -- the largest investment in higher education in American history, passed by the House last year.
Working with the Senate, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act will become law. The most sweeping reform of the financial industry since the Great Depression will protect Main Street from the worst of Wall Street and rein in the excesses that put Americans' homes, retirements and college savings at risk. And it will restore transparency, accountability and strong enforcement to our financial sector.
Making change a reality
Years of inaction on our toughest challenges will take time to reverse. But we have answered the call for a different approach. We've taken swift action to restore accountability to Washington and opportunity for the middle class, to create good-paying jobs for our workers, to use innovation to power America in a global economy and build a strong and smart national defense. Together, America's leaders will work to make the promise of change a reality for all Americans.