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The State of the Union

On January 23, President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union address to Congress and the American people, placing the economy, the war on terror, educational improvement, and health care reform at the top of his agenda. He also discussed several other issues of importance to women and their families.

President Bush opened his remarks by recognizing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), saying, “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: ‘Madam Speaker.’”

While touting the 41 months of continued job growth, President Bush also told Congress that three economic reforms are necessary to ensure the continued fiscal health of the country, including balancing the federal budget, ending earmarks in appropriations bills, and reforming entitlement programs. Of the latter, President Bush said, “To keep this economy strong, we must take on the challenge of entitlements. Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid are commitments of conscience, and so it is our duty to keep them permanently sound. Yet we’re failing in that duty. And this failure will one day leave our children with three bad options: huge tax increases, huge deficits, or huge and immediate cuts in benefits. Everyone in this chamber knows this to be true, yet somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act. So let us work together and do it now. With enough good sense and good will, you and I can fix Medicare and Medicaid and save Social Security.”

President Bush urged Congress to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (P.L. 107-110). He said NCLB has increased the performance of disadvantaged students, and that they are “performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.” He said the achievements could be expanded by granting greater flexibility to local leaders “to turn around failing schools and by giving families with children stuck in failing schools the right to choose some place better.”

“A future of hope and opportunity requires that all our citizens have affordable and available health care,” said President Bush. He said that government has an obligation to provide care for the elderly, low-income children, and the disabled but that private insurance was a more effective solution for other Americans. He proposed two new initiatives to help Americans afford health insurance: a tax deduction of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for single adults who have health insurance and “Affordable Choices” grants for states to develop health insurance plans. Speaking on the first initiative, the president said, “With this reform, more than 100 million men, women, and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills… For Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings: $4,500 for a family of four making $60,000 a year.” President Bush also underscored his support for the passage of legislation to create association health plans for small businesses, reduce medical errors by increasing the use of information technology, and implement medical liability reform.

Addressing foreign policy, President Bush said, “Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger and poverty and disease.” He lauded the work of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (known by its acronym, PEPFAR), which has increased the number of people receiving anti-retroviral drug therapy from “50,000 to 800,000 in three short years.” He asked Congress to “provide $1.2 billion over five years so we can combat malaria in 15 African countries” and to fund the Millennium Challenge Account “so that American aid reaches the people who need it, in nations where democracy is on the rise and corruption is in retreat.”

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