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The State of the Union Address

On January 28, President Bush delivered his seventh State of the Union address to Congress and the American people, with the war in Iraq, the economy, educational improvement, and health care at the top of his agenda. He also discussed several other issues of importance to women and their families.

While touting the past 52 months of job growth, President Bush acknowledged that the country’s economy is “undergoing a period of uncertainty.” The president urged Congress to enact an economic stimulus package: “[L]ast week, my administration reached agreement with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-CA] and Republican Leader [John] Boehner [R-OH] on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families and incentives for business investment. The temptation will be to load up the bill. That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable. This is a good agreement that will keep our economy growing and our people working. And this Congress must pass it as soon as possible.”

Besides the economic stimulus package, President Bush told Congress that it must pass tax relief and make the 2003 tax cuts permanent. “With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about the federal government taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks,” he said. President Bush continued, “There is only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: make the tax relief permanent. And members of Congress should know: If any bill raising taxes reaches my desk, I will veto it.” He said that his FY2009 budget will terminate or substantially reduce the number of “wasteful or bloated” programs in spending bills. The president also pledged to veto any appropriations bill that does not cut the number of congressional earmarks in half.

“To build a future of quality health care, we must trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions and empower them with better information and better options,” said President Bush. He said that America must focus on making health care more affordable and accessible, and that the best way to reduce costs is by “expanding consumer choice, not government control.” As in the previous year’s State of the Union address, he proposed a tax credit for Americans who do not have employer-sponsored health insurance and must purchase their own coverage. He also called on Congress to “expand health savings accounts, create Association Health Plans for small businesses, promote health information technology, and confront the epidemic of junk medical lawsuits. With all these steps, we will help ensure that decisions about your medical care are made in the privacy of your doctor’s office not in the halls of Congress.”

Addressing education, President Bush urged Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (P.L. 107-110), which will expire in September 2008. He said NCLB has increased the performance of disadvantaged students, and that “[r]eading scores are on the rise. And African American and Hispanic students posted all-time highs.” President Bush said he will convene a White House summit to develop programs to strengthen learning. He also proposed a new $300 million program, Pell Grants for Kids, which would allow students in underperforming school districts to attend “faith-based or other non-public school[s].” President Bush said, “We have seen how Pell Grants help low-income college students realize their full potential. Together, we have expanded the size and reach of these grants. Now let’s apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools.”

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