'Thank you for that kind introduction, Karen [Magnuson, President of APME.]
'It is a pleasure to join the Associated Press Managing Editors. It gives me the opportunity to thank you for keeping our nation informed and holding those of us in government accountable. Your work is critical to freedom of speech in our country. Freedom of the press is essential to our democracy.
'When our democracy was founded, a message could only travel as fast as a horse could run or a ship could sail. That's how the news was spread.
'Today, as you know best, news is reported in real time. And I'm proud that House Democrats are fully utilizing the new media on which citizens are increasingly dependent. My swearing in as Speaker was broadcast into the virtual world of Second Life. This year, I held the first iChat in the Capitol, speaking with young Americans across the country. My YouTube account contains nearly 1,000 videos - and my Facebook profile allows me to virtually gather with young Americans, and their parents.
Mantle of Fiscal Responsibility
'Openness, transparency, and accountability are hallmarks of the New Direction Congress. Accountability demands responsibility to American taxpayers on how their money is spent, and responsibility to future generations not to burden them with mountains of debt.
'In the 1990's, Congress and President Clinton adhered to strict pay-as-you-go rules, with no new deficit spending. As a result, we were able to move from huge deficits to four years of budget surpluses. That fiscal discipline helped produce an economic boom with rising household incomes across the spectrum.
'This is in contrast to the stunning fiscal reversal when President Bush came to office and Republicans abandoned the pay-as-you-go rule. A projected surplus of $5.6 trillion became a budget deficit of more than $2 trillion - a turnaround of almost $8 trillion in the wrong direction.
'In 2007, we will spend more on interest payments on our national debt than on any other national priority but defense. We pay in interest four times more than we spend on education and four times what it will cost to cover 10 million children with health insurance for five years.
'That's fiscal irresponsibility. But don't take my word for it. As the above-the-fold headline on Tuesday's front page of the Wall Street Journal read, 'GOP is Losing Grip on Core Business Vote...Deficit Hawks Defect.'
'As we approach the end of the first session of the New Direction Congress, Democrats have demonstrated that we have earned the mantle of fiscal responsibility by paying for our priorities and balancing budgets.
Fiscally Responsible Accomplishments of New Direction Congress
'Our record is strong. On the first day of the 110th Congress, we restored those deficit-cutting pay-as-you-go spending rules, and set to work on our priorities: defending our country, growing our economy, strengthening our children and families, preserving our planet, and restoring accountability. Every bill we passed has been 100 percent 'paygo compliant,' according to a report from the House Budget Committee, 80 percent with cuts in other spending. The report can be found on my Web site: www.speaker.gov.
'Our first responsibility is to protect the American people. That is why the first bill of the New Direction Congress, H.R. 1, enacted the 9/11 Commission Recommendations into law. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan vote, was signed into law, and is paid for.
FISA and the Media Shield Law
'As we protect and defend the American people, we must also protect and defend our Constitution - that is our oath of office.
'As we fight the war on terrorism, we must carefully strike the balance between liberty and security. Many current provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, are unacceptable infringements on the civil liberties of the American people. We will soon be considering legislation in the House that will correct these deficiencies and honor the fundamental values on which our country was founded.
'In that regard, freedom of the press is fundamental to our democracy. I have long supported a federal media shield law, without which freedom of the press is threatened. The federal government's policies and actions should protect and preserve your ability to speak truth to power. And I know we can do this with appropriate national security safeguards.
Growing Our Economy and Strengthening Our Families
'To grow our economy, we passed the COMPETES Act - the first phase of our Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America #1. In it, we invest in scholarships and training for tens of thousands of math and science teachers, and double basic research funding to ensure
'With an overwhelming bipartisan vote, we passed the first Minimum Wage increase in a decade, giving 13 million hard-working Americans a long overdue pay raise. It was signed into law and has already taken effect.
'With an overwhelming bipartisan majority, we passed the largest college aid expansion since the GI Bill in 1944. Student loan rates will be cut in half and Pell Grants increased--saving the average student borrower $4,400. It is paid for by cutting subsidies to lenders and cleaning up abuses in the lending industry. The President has signed it into law.
'This week, we sent to the President a bipartisan SCHIP bill providing health care for 10 million American children for five years. It is supported by the vast majority of the American people, 43 Republican and Democratic governors and many of the President's own party in Congress. And once again, it's paid for through a cigarette tax that's good public policy, helping to reduce teen smoking. Yesterday, the President vetoed this bill. We will work to build further consensus to override that veto.
Preserving Our Planet and Restoring Accountability
'To preserve our planet, the House passed historic energy security legislation--which will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, create new American jobs, and reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming. It is paid for by closing loopholes to Big Oil companies already earning record profits. The House and the Senate are negotiating a sweeping new energy policy and will send it to the President for his signature this year.
'The thread that runs through all our legislation is accountability. We did all of this while honoring the highest ethical standard. I'm enormously proud of our landmark Lobby and Ethics Reform law that the President signed into law to break the link between lobbyists and legislation. Independent ethics reform groups are hailing it as 'sweeping, fundamental' and 'landmark' reform ... and a 'sea change for citizens.'
'There is no greater fiscal challenge, indeed no greater ethical challenge, currently facing our nation, than the war in
'With the amount of money we spend in
'For the cost of 40 days in
'Fiscal responsibility demands accountability for how taxpayer money is spent, including in
'That is why I have asked the Appropriations Committee to subject the President's request for more
'The retired generals tell us that to have stability in the Middle East, we must redeploy our troops out of
'The choice is clear: responsible redeployment of our troops out of
'The war in
'That is why we are taking our country in a New Direction worthy of the sacrifice of our troops, the aspirations of our children, and the vision of our Founding Fathers.'