The following is a transcript of the Democratic response by Rep. Bill Foster to President Bush's radio address:
Good morning, this is Congressman Bill Foster from Illinois 14th District. Just three weeks ago, I was elected to Congress in a special election. I haven't been on the job long, but even at my first constituent meeting at a grocery store in Aurora, Ill., voters reminded me of what I learned in the campaign.
The families I met know the challenges our nation is facing better than anyone in a government office building.
My constituents are worried about the economy, and with good reason. They can barely afford groceries or a trip to the gas station. If they talk about health care, it isn't about the latest medical advances but about the latest increase in costs. They want a good college education for their kids, but they're nervous about tuition increases. And virtually everyone I talked to was worried about their homes and the mortgage crisis.
I'm a scientist and a businessman, so when I went to the voters of Illinois, I pledged not to continue the endless political bickering in Washington but to work on solving problems.
So today I am proud to report that Democrats in Congress are putting middle-class families first and fighting for real solutions.
Already we have taken steps to strengthen the economy. Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law an economic stimulus plan that will put more money into the pockets of middle-class families and give our economy a boost. The plan provides recovery rebate checks of up to $1,200 to those who need it most, and families will start receiving their checks in May.
This plan was a good start and, importantly, it was worked out with the president. There were real differences of opinion and approach, but Speaker Pelosi, Republican Leader Boehner and President Bush were all able to reach an agreement and move forward. We haven't seen enough of that kind of cooperation in the last decade, so it was a good beginning on an important subject.
Now, Democrats in Congress are fighting to cut taxes for middle-class families who need relief, and we're working to keep families in their homes by addressing the mortgage crisis head-on.
Next week, the House of Representatives will continue to work on a comprehensive plan to help families who are on the brink of losing their homes. Our plan will help more families avoid foreclosure and gives cities the chance to rehabilitate foreclosed homes and put them back on the market.
With gas and energy prices at an all-time high, we must make paying at the pump less painful and fight to end our dependence on foreign oil. Democrats have taken a step forward by enacting new fuel-economy standards, but we need to do more.
Democrats have a plan to extend essential tax credits that will support the production and use of renewable energy, like ethanol. Unfortunately, President Bush opposes this plan and is instead working to protect taxpayer subsidies for big oil companies. These companies are making record profits — and they don't need handouts from the taxpayer.
Passing this legislation is critical, but achieving energy independence will be virtually impossible if the war in Iraq continues with no end in sight. We have now spent more on the war in Iraq than has been invested on energy research in the history of our country.
Moving our economy forward and making our nation energy independent will be difficult if we continue a war with no idea how to pay for it and no idea how to end it.
Finally, we should ease yet another burden on American families by making sure that their children get the affordable health care they need. I wasn't surprised to hear on the campaign trail that too many families cannot afford a trip to the doctor's office and others spend thousands of dollars just to afford basic health insurance. And as more Americans lose their jobs or their homes, health care becomes even harder to afford.
We can begin confronting the health care crisis by expanding the Children's Health Insurance Program and ensuring that no child goes without basic medical care. Democrats have been fighting to expand this program, but for too long President Bush has been the one man standing between millions of children and their health care.
In the coming weeks, I would hope that the president would take the same approach to health care that he did with the economic stimulus: to put away his veto pen, sit down and work with us to work out our differences. Our children need progress and not more vetoes and political posturing.
The challenges I have outlined today are significant, but if the voters of my district are any indication, Americans want problem-solving, not partisanship. They understand that these are difficult challenges, but they know that our country has faced tougher problems in the past, and by working together we tackled them.
As a scientist, I'm naturally an optimist. I've seen firsthand what dedicated people can do when they work hard, pull together and concentrate on a problem.
In the coming weeks, Democrats will work with our colleagues to bring about these solutions, to get our economy moving again and give middle-class families the relief they need. And we hope to work with Republicans and with President Bush to give the American people the bipartisan solutions they demand and deserve.
This is Congressman Bill Foster of Illinois. Thank you for listening.