Climate

Pelosi, Reid discuss upcoming State of the Union, call for commitment on warming

With President Bush set to deliver his annual State of the Union address, Democrats are urging action on climate change, energy independence, the war in Iraq and the economy. During today's E&ETV Event Coverage, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) discuss the upcoming State of the Union speech at the National Press Club. Reid urges the expansion of renewables to reduce the effects of global warming. Pelosi calls for bipartisan support with the president on climate change, saying energy independence must be achieved within 10 years.

Transcript

Rep. Nancy Pelosi: It is my honor to be here today with my friend, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, for what has become an annual pre-State of the Union tradition. This year we come to you as the majority, as Jonathan mentioned. The American people have called for a new direction for the Congress and for the country. They want to see their leaders focus on American priorities and they want us to work together for the American people. Change is here. In the first 100 hours we have begun to make the American people safer by passing the 9/11 Commission recommendations. We have begun to make America's families more economically secure by raising the minimum wage, by lowering prescription drug prices, and making college more affordable. We have brought hope to America's families by advancing stem cell research. We have begun to set America on a path toward energy independence by rolling back multibillion dollar subsidies for big oil and investing in alternative resources. And we have created the most open and honest Congress in history by passing tough ethics reform. I am proud that we passed many of these measures with the broad support of Democrats and Republicans in the Congress and across the country. Under the leadership of Senator Reid the Senate is working to pass similar bills. These dramatic successes are just the beginning for this Congress.

Next week President Bush will come before the Congress and the nation and report on the state of our union. The state of our union is strong. We believe that with the hopes and aspirations of our children as our compass our future is bright. The founders of this great nation foresaw an America driven by the optimism and creativity of its people. They imagined their America always renewing itself to meet ever-changing challenges and to seize ever-growing opportunities. We stand on the edge of a new century of discovery, innovation, and solutions. Congress must use the opportunity given to us by the American people to prepare a new America for the 21st century, a new America that seizes the future and forges 21st-century solutions through discovery, creativity, and innovation with public/private partnerships sustaining our economic leadership and ensuring our national security. A new America with a vibrant and strengthened middle class for whom college is affordable, health care accessible and retirement secure. A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy, and combats climate change, a new America that is strong, secure and a respected leader among the community of nations. Energy independence is a national security issue. It is also an environmental issue and an economic issue for our country and for America's families.

Last week, when I met with mayors from all across the nation, Mayor Patrick Hays, the mayor of North Little Rock, Arkansas, told me of the hybrid car he drives. He said, "When I drive that car, I do it for my granddaughter." It is important to our children's health and their global competitiveness to rid this nation of our dependence on foreign oil and big oil interests. Taking bold measures today to achieve energy independence within 10 years must be of the highest priority to the Congress. In the last Congress, House Democrats put forth our plan to energize America with homegrown alternative fuels. We must also promote energy efficiency, standards, and effective conservation. As it says in the Old Testament, "To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship, to ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us." To preserve our planet, God's creation, we must make a serious commitment to combat global warming. Global warming is an increasing threat to our world with implications for our health, food supply and the survival of many species and perhaps entire ecosystems. The science of global warming and its impact is overwhelming and unequivocal. The American people understand the urgency of the problem of climate change. 2006 was the warmest year on record capping a nine-year warming streak. Working with the global, religious, business and academic and scientific communities, we will continue robust research on global warming and produce policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously creating good paying jobs. We want to work with President Bush on this important issue in a bipartisan way, but we cannot afford to wait. Therefore, with openness and the participation of all parts of our democracy, we will pass groundbreaking legislation that addresses global warming and energy independence.

Also essential to our children's future is the economic security of their families now; preparing for the 21st-century means bolstering our commitment to keep our nation number one. In our innovation agenda, unveiled more than a year ago here at the Press Club, House Democrats made a commitment to competitiveness. We will provide our nation with the tools necessary to unleash the next generation of growth and jobs. In his State of the Union address last year President Bush spoke of keeping America competitive. With Democrats in the majority we must work together with our Republican colleagues to do so. Nothing less is at stake than the economic leadership of our country and our national security. We look forward to working with President Bush immediately on energy independence, innovation, and immigration. Innovation and economic growth begins in America's classrooms. To create a new generation of innovation we must fund No Child Left Behind so that we can encourage math and reading education taught by the most qualified and effective teachers. In order for our children to have a bright future they must have a healthy start. Today more than 8 million American children are uninsured. This year, through the state children's health insurance program, we have an opportunity to reduce the number of uninsured children by millions. This shouldn't be a partisan issue. We should work together to make the wealthiest nation in the world the healthiest nation. And we must match every aspect of our current policies on education, child care and health care for our children against the wealth of new information produced by our leading scientists and scholars. Great strides have been made in understanding how children's brains are shaped and developed, how positive behaviors can be encouraged and how investments in early childhood creates success in later years. We will ensure that our policies match the latest research and that families are given what they need to take advantage of the scientific advances.

Innovation also requires federal grants to our universities which have long been the spark for great breakthroughs from the Internet to bio sciences to fiber optics to nanotechnology. We must commit to doubling federal funding for basic research and development in the physical sciences and modernize and expand the research and development tax credit. And we will bring broadband access to every American within five years, creating millions of new jobs. These investments and initiatives to support a thriving small business environment will allow us to pursue the long-term, trailblazing research that gives rise to new advances, spawns new industries and creates, again, new jobs and good jobs here at home. In order to be competitive and strong we must be fiscally responsible. We owe our children boundless opportunity, not mountains of debt. That is why Democrats have passed the strict standards of pay as you go, no new deficit spending. For our future to be strong all of our communities must be strong.

It says in the Bible that where there is injustice in the world, the poorest people, those with the least power, are injured the most. That was certainly true for the people of hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster compounded by a man-made disaster. It is now 18 months past time to get our response right. The Congress has begun our hard work of reviewing the response to Katrina beginning with hearings on housing. Our House Democratic Caucus Katrina task force, led by the delegations from the region, is committed to find solutions for the communities of the Gulf Coast.

The response to Katrina is one of the great moral challenges facing our nation, so is ending the war in Iraq. It was a great American president who said, "America will pay any price to assure the survival and success of liberty." And we will. The American people have demonstrated clearly their desire for a new direction in Iraq. The war has produced tens of thousands of casualties, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and damaged the standing of the United States in the international community. The strain the war is placing on our Army and Marine Corps diminishes our ability to respond to other challenges, and thereby threatens our security. Escalating our military involvement in Iraq will not reverse these negative effects, it will only add to them. The solutions to these issues which divide Iraqis are political and diplomatic, not military. As such they are beyond the ability of our troops who have performed the difficult and dangerous mission with great courage and they have helped resolve the military aspect of it. But the Iraqis and their neighbors have the most at stake in an unsafe Iraq. The sooner we give them the responsibility for their future the sooner our troops can come home.

That is why, Senator Reid, many House members support the bipartisan resolution in the Senate that states, "It is not in the national interest of the United States to deepen our involvement in Iraq, particularly by escalating the United States military force presence." Thank you for your leadership Senator Reid. We must make this Congress about the future for a new America. Innovation will provide the new ideas for us to defend America, to care for our children, to grow our economy, and to preserve our planet. Thank you. I'm honored now to present Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and in doing so acknowledge his great leadership to our country. Mr. Leader?

Sen. Harry Reid: I'm sure we all heard the old joke that we politicians always are aware of, where you have this speech writer who works on your speeches, but he doesn't like you very much. And after a couple of years thinks how can I get even with him? And he prepares a speech, and on one page he says, "You're on your own now, you SOB." So that's kind of how I always worry about these written things and then this new electronic stuff, I always wonder what they can do to screw things up with that. But anyway ... the last time we shared this stage was right after 2004. What a difference a couple years makes Madam Speaker. Thank you for your ability to work with the American people and, certainly, I can speak personally, you've been so great to work with. As the new speaker, part of that, the leader of the Democrats in the House and we've worked well together and I so appreciate your partnership. You've made history and Americans, regardless of their partisan perspective, share joy in your achievement. In its first 100 hours the new leadership in the House has shown America and Democrats and certainly Republicans that we can work together to deliver results.

And last night, on the issue of ethics, the Senate scored its first victory of this new congressional year, passing the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reform legislation in the history of our country. Now that we've changed the way that Washington does business it's our job and the job at every member of Congress to keep America moving in a new direction.

The new Congress will confront many difficult issues in 2007, but none more important than keeping America safe. We live in a dangerous world. We face many threats. There are critical challenges around the world that we have to be aware of; in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida are resurgent; in North Korea and Iran, which continues to march forward with their nuclear programs; in Darfur where genocide rages and elsewhere in Africa where poverty and sickness are leading to mass human suffering and dangerous instability; in Latin America where Chavez and Castro want to put their leftist mark on these young democracies; and in the Middle East and here at home, where, as the speaker indicated, we need to find a way to free ourselves from our dangerous dependence on foreign oil. These are just some of the national security challenges we face. But, unfortunately, we have yet to adequately confront these or other problems because this administration has been all consumed and, frankly, overwhelmed by the war in Iraq and its own failed policies.

The Iraq war has now lasted longer than World War II, a war that took us to faraway Okinawa, across North Africa, and throughout the entire continent of Europe. In the time it took FDR and Truman to defeat Hitler and Tojo this president has been unable to find a plan that protects our strategic interests and accomplishes this mission. The costs of the war have been staggering. As of this morning we've lost 3025 of our troops and have seen tens of thousand more wounded, a third of them seriously wounded. The war has strained our military and depleted our national treasury. Last year sectarian violence claimed at least 34,000 Iraqis; a rate of course is about 100 a day. Yet despite these tremendous costs, despite this great sacrifice, the Iraq war has made America less safe, not more safe. Our troops, including hundreds of Nevadans, have done everything asked of them. Everything asked of them. It's their political leaders at home who have failed and we must change course. Unfortunately, the president's new plan can be summed up in four words "more of the same." Like our military generals, the American people, and a growing bipartisan chorus in Congress, I believe escalation is a serious mistake. As both of our top commanders in the region, Generals Abizaid and Casey, have testified, Iraq is experiencing a violent civil war. Interjecting more U.S. military forces will not end the civil war, only a comprehensive political settlement by the Iraqi government will end the civil war.

For over a year Democrats have been proposing a better plan for Iraq, a plan based on what is the best interest of our country now and in a long-term fight against terror, a plan embraced by the bipartisan Iraq study group. Our plan for Iraq begins by transforming the military mission. The mission of our troops should be transition, transition away from combat to training, force production, logistics, and counterterror. The United States forces have been given an impossible mission, policing a civil war. It's Iraqis, not our troops who should be walking the streets of Baghdad trying to sort friend from foe.

Next we should begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces, within the next four to six months, so Iraqis understand they must lead the fight and take responsibility for their future. Only Iraqis can ultimately secure Iraq. A phased redeployment will allow our country to rebuild the military force here at home and increase the number of troops available to hunt for Osama bin Laden and stabilize Afghanistan.

Third, we need to bring Iraqis neighbors into the process of stabilizing the country. This step will not be easy for an administration that has failed at diplomacy, yet diplomacy is exactly, exactly what is needed. The violence won't stop in Iraq until all factions agree to stop the violence. It's true, the Iranians and Syrians have played a destabilizing role in Iraq, but that doesn't mean we can't communicate with them as part of a regional framework. As Secretary Jim Baker of the Iraq Study Group noted, we talk to our enemies. We must talk to our enemies, not just our friends. Our plan for Iraq, we'll do what the president has been incapable of doing, turning Iraq over to the Iraqis and bringing our troops home. This is what the majority of Americans voted for last November and this is what Congress will continue to hold the president accountable to do.

As Speaker Pelosi said, the president's plan will receive an up or down vote in both chambers of Congress. With that vote our hope, really our prayer, is that the president will finally listen, listen to the generals, listen to the Iraq study group, listen to the American people, and listen to a bipartisan Congress. The answer in Iraq is not to double down, literally do more of the same. The answer is to find a new course that brings this war to an end. Let me say more about votes in Congress. When we hold the up or down vote, and in many votes that follow, our troops will get everything they need. It is the president who will find he no longer has a blank check.

The days of a rubberstamp Congress are long over. This Congress, unlike the previous Congress, will always put the needs of our troops first. We'll keep America's promises to our soldiers, our veterans and our National Guard. And after years of overuse and neglect, we'll rebuild and reinvest in the military so it remains the finest fighting force in the world. As much as we're convinced the president has chosen the wrong direction in Iraq, we are increasingly concerned he's headed in the wrong direction in Iran and Afghanistan. Five years after we defeated the Taliban extremists are returning. Drug production is soaring and attacks on the United States and NATO forces are on the rise. By all measures the country is at risk of slipping away, yet some reports suggest the president will be removing U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and into Iraq. What a terrible mistake. Although time is short there's still an opportunity to defeat our enemies in Afghanistan once and for all.

The president must acknowledge what's at stake and immediately take action to prevent Afghanistan from returning to what it was, a haven for international terrorism. Much has been made about President Bush's recent saber rattling toward Iran, and I'd like to be clear, the president does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization. That is so clear. The current use of force resolution for Iraq does not give him such authorization. So let me be clear, the Iranian regime poses one of the greatest threats of this new century. But the Iranian people, two thirds of which are under the age of 30, present a great opportunity for progress. Regrettably, this administration has no strategy for connecting with this generation of potential reformers. One of the reasons Iran is literally thumbing its nose at the world community is oil. Iran sends millions of barrels of oil to the Western world and gets billions and billions of dollars in return. But, fortunately, we, the American people, have the power to turn the tables on Iran. That power is energy independence. If the United States led the world in developing new alternative fuel technologies we could create new jobs, export new products, slow global warming, and reduce Iran's leverage on the international stage. When it comes to energy Congress has already moved forward on a number of fronts.

And Madam Speaker thanks for what the House did yesterday. We could move forward, not only on what the House did yesterday, we could reduce global warming by promoting renewable fuels, mandating ethanol from biomass. On Tuesday we're looking forward to the president finally joining, finally joining the energy debate. For our security, our economy, our environment we must pull together and secure America's energy future. Fortunately, I think we can do it. Like all Americans, I vividly remember September 11, 2001 and the days that followed. Democrats and Republicans stood together as Americans in doing whatever it took to keep our country safe. 9/11 was a terrible day, but it showed our country united and strong with the world by our side. Regrettably, bipartisanship and the alliances that shined so bright after 9/11 have been challenged in recent years. The president's conduct of the war in Iraq has divided our country and our allies, the White House detainee policy and the abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have damaged our moral authority. And this administration's disdain for diplomacy has hardened our enemies and cost us opportunities in the developing world where extremists are out-working the United States in the battle for their hearts and minds. Together, this year, we must reclaim that bipartisan spirit felt after 9/11. It shouldn't take a national tragedy to get us to work together. We should be equally inspired by the responsibility to keep America safe. From Afghanistan to energy, our challenges are great, but we know America can meet them and we know we must begin by changing course in Iraq.

In Congress we'll continue working with Republicans to keep America safe and we'll listen to President Bush Tuesday night. Together we must move in a new direction and build a stronger, safer nation. It's in the interest of the world. Thank you very much. Before the questions, let me tell you, she did it. She stood and I was looking at her rather than I was, it was pretty interesting, because you, your pretty hair, or somebody, it was great. So you can take a page from a speech and have somebody screw up the Teleprompter. She's an example of that. It's hard reading this over somebody's face, but, you know, I did the best I could.

Michael Doyle: Leave it to the National Press Club senator. Speaker Pelosi, Leader Reid, we appreciate those comments. I'm Michael Doyle, a reporter with McClatchy newspapers and chairman of the National Press Club Newsmakers Committee. This program will be broadcast on XM radio, so we'd like to get your questions on microphones. We have two microphones on the floor, on either side. I'd like to ask you, when I call upon you, to identify yourself by name and organization. While you're lining up I'd like to take the opportunity to ask the first question, which is, would you clarify what is meant by an up or down vote? Will these be symbolic resolutions of disapproval or substantive resolutions to cut off funding for the increase?

Sen. Harry Reid: We're going to have the first vote in the Senate, and I don't really know what you mean by symbolic. I believe that a bipartisan resolution saying we don't want the escalation of the war in Iraq is the beginning of the end of the present policy in Iraq. I think it is extremely important the American people know that Congress joins with them in saying no escalation.

Michael Doyle: Yes, over here please.

Darren Samuelsohn: Hi, Darren Samuelsohn, I'm a reporter from Greenwire and Environment & Energy Daily here in Washington. I have a couple questions about global warming. First, to Mr. Reid, does the Senate plan to follow Ms. Pelosi's plan to create a new select committee? Will you actually create a new select committee? And then for both of you, I'm curious, you've talked about global warming and there are many solutions out there from a cap on carbon dioxide to renewables, energy efficiency. As you talk about legislation in July are you referring specifically to a cap on carbon dioxide bill or are you open some of these other ideas?

Sen. Harry Reid: Let's see, day before yesterday, Wednesday, at 2:15, I went to the Ohio clock, that place in the Senate where we do our press events on the Senate side, and had all my chairmen with me. And it was a remarkably, I think, important press conference because each of my chairs stood and talked about what they're going to do in their committees. Senator Inouye, for example in Commerce, said he's going to move forward on CAFE standards. Senator Lieberman, Government Affairs, said he was going to make sure that the federal fleet, which is the largest in the world, 700,000 vehicles, not counting the military. We buy 60,000 vehicles a year. He's going to work to make those green, those vehicles. And then, finally, Senator Boxer stood and said, "Thirty-nine percent of the greenhouse gases in America are produced by buildings." The largest holder of real estate in America is the General Services administration. The buildings should be green. So we're moving forward in a number of different fronts. And we feel very comfortable that we're going to be able to work with the House, as we do on all issues. Speaker Pelosi told me about her task force and I think that's a great idea. She's got a lot more people to work with than I do. I only have 50, so we're not going to have a select committee, but we're going to work with her hand-in-hand in accomplishing a new direction for the environment in America.

Michael Doyle: Yes, over here.

Sam Husseini: Hi, Sam Husseini from IPA Media. I have a question for each of our guests if I could. First to Senator Reid, an article appeared in the Guardian, Iraqis will never accept the sellout to the oil corporations in the Guardian by Kamil Mahdi, who's an Iraqi academic in the UK. It paints a picture of the administration, in the midst of all the carnage, pushing through a new oil law. "The U.S. and the IMF and their allies are using fear to pursue their agenda of privatizing and selling off Iraq's oil resources with a pending Iraq oil law." Are you looking into this? You've spoken at the oil companies and so on, are you looking into this oil law that the administration is apparently trying to ram through?

Sen. Harry Reid: Is that a morning or afternoon newspaper? No, I'm sure I haven't read that article. But that's what Speaker Pelosi and I are talking about. We have to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, whether it comes from private sources or, in some instances, where the oil is owned by the government. We use 21 million barrels of oil a day in America, 21 million barrels a day. And more than 60 percent of that comes from foreign sources. And the United States controls less than three percent of the oil reserves in the world. We can't produce our way out of the problems we have with oil. The only alternative we have is to look to alternative fuels; the sun, the wind, geothermal, biomass. We have to do that. That's why it doesn't matter what they do in Iraq as far as our consumption of oil. We are oil hogs here in America and we've got to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. And it can only be done by recognizing we can't produce our way out of our problems and we have to move to alternative energy sources.

Jay Newton-Small: Hi, I'm Jay Newton-Small with Bloomberg News. This is a question for both the leader and the speaker. President Bush has been pretty adamant in his opposition that he would not mandate the private sector to do any kind of addressing of climate change. Do you expect to hear a softening or a changing of his position on Tuesday or a softening or a changing of his position on anything else besides that?

Sen. Harry Reid: Well, we found the president, in his first six years, to be pretty stubborn. And we've found the last few weeks, as much change as has been in the first six years; he's backed off on the domestic spying. He has acknowledged many mistakes in Iraq. And there are rumblings from the White House that in the speech that he's going to get on Tuesday he's going to talk about energy and he's going to even talk about global warming. If he doesn't it's really too bad. Wherever you go, in our country or around the world, I just lead a group of senators to Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. Every country we went to they're concerned about global warming because global warming is in Ecuador, glaciers are melting and on with the changes that are taking place. So the president and his people must acknowledge, as the American people have long since recognized, that global warming is one of the biggest issues facing this world, if not the biggest world problem. Every other country recognizes it. America should recognize it.

[End of Audio]

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