Americans have resoundingly declared that the president's budget priorities are not their priorities. For six years, President Bush treated a Republican-controlled Congress like his personal ATM.
We spend $175 million every day on the war in Iraq, bringing the total cost of the war to a staggering $600 billion so far. The president has now requested an additional $200 billion for the war, which continues to undermine the readiness of our armed services to effectively react to potential threats - both home and abroad.
The Democratic-led Congress, on the other hand, wants to have an open, honest debate about this country's budget priorities. Our job for the remainder of the year is to hammer out the bills that will fund our nation's most vital healthcare and infrastructure needs.
But the president's unwillingness to engage in bipartisan discussions stopped that conversation before it began when he recklessly proclaimed that he would veto any bill with a dollar more than he wanted.
At no new cost to U.S. taxpayers, Congress increased college student aid by $21 billion. We provided $6.4 billion to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast . This Congress has also passed the largest single increase in funds for veterans' healthcare in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration. We twice passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program, insuring 10 million children of working families.
We raised the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade. We have achieved all this while maintaining the concept of fiscal discipline through a pay-as-you-go policy. This is why Americans sent us to Washington; these are America's priorities.
Bipartisanship is not a one-way conversation. It means we sit down with the president and discuss our priorities for America; we give and take and produce a budget plan that benefits the greatest number of citizens. Both sides must work together, as we have been doing in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Our nation cannot afford to have millions of children without health insurance. We cannot afford to have wounded warriors and veterans without the healthcare they deserve and need. We cannot afford to have our military resources continually depleted for a misguided war. Most of all, when representing more than 300 million Americans, we cannot afford a my-way-or-the-highway president.
After denying needed funds for these programs for seven years, it is not credible for the president to make a federal case out of our desire to provide $20 billion for veterans' healthcare, cancer research, Pell Grants, energy research and law enforcement…while he wants to spend ten times that much in Iraq without oversight or questions.
For seven years President Bush has tried to make Americans fear the future, but the American spirit is hopeful with faith in the future. The Democratic budget embodies the hopes and dreams of America, and begins to restore faith in the future for every citizen.
This Congress will continue to work for investing in kids, workers, veterans, ingenuity, and our national infrastructure…and we are re-doubling our efforts to reverse the policy in Iraq.
U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christ, represents South Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives. Readers may contact him at (202) 225-7742.