Good morning. This is Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota. Last November, voters in Minnesota and across the country sent a clear message at the ballot box when they voted for change.

They cast their votes for new leadership in Washington and a new Democratic Congress that would help change the course in Iraq, end the culture of corruption in Washington, and give hard-working families a voice in Congress once again.

They voted for a Congress that would do the business of the American people, and one that would be known for its ideas, not its insults, its patriotism, not its partisanship.

I know that as I speak to you today, you are gravely concerned about the war in Iraq.

As the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress and a veteran who served in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, I share your concerns.

After nearly four years of combat, we have lost more than 3,000 brave Americans. Tens of thousands have been wounded. And we've spent more than $300 billion.

Now, as the President escalates our involvement in Iraq and puts more of our troops in harm's way, I think of the men and women I served with in the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division of the Minnesota National Guard.

Those brave men and women, and their families, just received letters informing them that they won't be coming home this winter, after all. After their second year-long tour of duty since 9/11, they'll be staying in Iraq even longer for this escalation.

Our military men and women know that it is their duty to execute their mission without question. But so too is it our duty to question the mission on their behalf. Rest assured that this Democratic Congress will live up to its responsibility to challenge the failed policies that have already cost us so dearly.

Before moving forward with this escalation, we owe it to these troops, to their families, and to all Americans to ask the tough questions and demand honest answers about this policy.

Is there a clear strategy that the commanders on the ground believe will succeed?

What are the benchmarks for success, and how long does the President believe it will take to achieve them?11:08:04 Is this a policy that will contribute to the America's security in the larger war on terror, or distract from it?

I believe, along with most Democrats and an increasing number of Republicans, that the escalation announced by the President will compound a bad situation and make matters worse, not better. It will make us less secure, not more. It is a step in the wrong direction -- more of the same at the very time when we need a new direction in Iraq.

Let us be very clear. We need diplomatic and political solutions in Iraq, not more American troops. We know that the forgotten cost of the President's plan will be borne by the husbands and wives and sons and daughters of the brave men and women who will be away from home for an even longer period of time because of the President's misguided decision.

So Democrats will ask the tough questions, conduct meaningful oversight and do everything possible to honor our men and women in uniform. At the same time, we will continue to honor our pledge to enact some of the American people's top priorities in the first 100 hours of the new Congress. We promised to pass ethics reforms, increase the minimum wage, help ensure our security here at home and to exercise fiscal responsibility.

Today, I am proud to report that in just over one week as the majority party in Congress, Democrats are delivering.

Democrats acted swiftly to clean up Washington and approved the most comprehensive ethics reforms in decades.

We stood up for hard-working families and approved a minimum wage increase, which will give 13 million Americans the pay raise they deserve.

And we offered patients suffering from debilitating diseases new hope when we approved a bill to expand potentially life-saving stem cell research.

Democrats in Congress also acted decisively to secure our nation by approving new measures to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

In a short period of time, we've [the Democratic Congress] won real victories on behalf of the American people, but we know there is more work to be done. In the coming days, we'll complete our 100 hours agenda by passing legislation to make college more affordable, end subsidies for oil companies, and invest in renewable sources of energy.

And as we go forward, we will continue to stand together and ensure American families have the strong voice in Washington they deserve.

This is Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota. Thank you for listening.