Common Ground on Fiscal Responsibility

President Bush has laid out a series of ambitious proposals addressing the nation’s priorities, and I hope Congress will give each a fair hearing. If Democrat leaders are going to oppose the President’s agenda, they have an obligation to present their own alternatives. The American people demand more than criticism — they want results.

One issue on which I think Republicans and Democrats can find common ground is fiscal responsibility. Earlier this year, the House enacted earmark rules built on the reforms adopted under Republican leadership last fall. And House Republicans have introduced legislation giving the President line-item veto authority, another important tool in the fight against wasteful spending. I’m hopeful we can go further in the months ahead, and work together to balance the budget and bring further accountability to the way Washington spends taxpayers’ dollars.

Another area I hope we’ll be able to work together is on allowing low-income students in chronically underachieving schools the option of attending private schools. An opportunity scholarship program has been in place in Washington, D.C., and it has been a success. There is no reason our laws should trap lower-income students in underachieving schools, denying them their right to a good education.

Similarly, our laws shouldn’t prevent working Americans from obtaining affordable quality health coverage. I have always been supportive of plans that provide workers access to affordable health care and more ownership over their medical decisions. The proposal unveiled by the President tonight for increasing the number of Americans with health insurance sounds promising, and it deserves a full and fair hearing in Congress.

Finally, the President has outlined a new strategy for success in Iraq, but in order for this effort to be successful the Iraqi government must be held accountable. This week, House Republicans put forward a series of strategic benchmarks to help the President and our armed forces succeed in Iraq. If we fail in Iraq, or withdraw our troops prematurely, the terrorists will follow us home. Success is our only option.

Our goal is a safer and more secure America — one where families can raise their children without the fear of terrorist attacks. These benchmarks will help us candidly and honestly assess whether we are achieving our goals and whether the President’s new strategy is successful.