As I listened to the President's speech tonight, I felt a real disconnect between his priorities and the challenges facing working families in Washington state, Americans across our country, and those fighting for our freedom abroad.
We all want America to be strong again and that means we must invest in our people and in our infrastructure. What the President said tonight matters much less than what he does next week when he sends his budget to Congress. That budget is a document of values, and it will tell us if he is investing in the future of America or just giving us more of the same.
I join the President in applauding the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. But I am disappointed that tonight he failed to discuss our promise to our nation’s veterans – particularly our Guard and Reserve. Last year, the President submitted a budget to Congress that woefully under-funded services for our veterans. After fighting for months, the Administration finally admitted its shortfall, and we were forced to pay for a deficit in VA funds with emergency spending. Veterans deserve better.
I fear – from the lack of attention paid to their sacrifice in tonight’s speech - that the President will again submit a budget that will mean longer lines and more out-of-pocket costs for our veterans. Caring for those who have sacrificed so heavily for us should be a core national value that's reflected in our national budget.
I was also disappointed not to hear mention of the need to secure our nation’s seaports. In Washington state, we know the potential loss to life and livelihood that could result from an attack on one of our ports. Yet despite these dangers, the President has yet to put forward a plan for securing our nation’s ports. Our national security and economic stability depend on doing better.
We have a healthcare crisis in America, and the President didn’t even offer a Band Aid to stop the bleeding. The first thing we need to do is fix the flawed Prescription Drug law so that it actually helps our most vulnerable. I will continue to fight to make healthcare more affordable, more accessible and more innovative.
The President also spoke about new energy options. I applaud a more forward-looking energy policy that invests in alternative fuels. But before we start creating more nuclear waste, we need to clean up the waste we have at sites like Hanford. Cleaning up Hanford is a national obligation, and the President needs to make it a high priority in his budget proposal.
It’s time to put the needs of America’s working families first. We need a government that reflects our values – that means investing in our infrastructure, providing affordable, accessible healthcare, energy independence, education for all of our children and protecting our ports and borders. These are the priorities that will make our union strong.
These are the priorities I will be looking for when the President sends us his budget next week, and they are the values I will continue to fight for in the United States Senate.