Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Democrat blasts Bush before State of the Union

Democrat blasts Bush before State of the Union

By Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday urged President George W. Bush to "swagger" less and show more honesty and humility in his annual State of the Union speech to the nation next week.

In a speech at a liberal think tank, Reid gave a scathing assessment of the state of the nation under Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress.

"Republicans run good campaigns, but when it comes to actually governing and protecting Americans, they have a record of incompetence," Reid told an audience at the Center for American Progress.

Reid's speech was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for the November congressional election in which Democrats hope to win control of Congress or at least shrink the Republican majority.

Reid took aim at the president's national security record, saying Bush "must unite the nation behind our most important goal -- keeping our people and way of life safe. We need to hear honesty and humility from the commander in chief, not swagger from the campaigner-in-chief."

Bush is to deliver his State of the Union address before Congress on January 31 and lay out his priorities for the year. He is expected to talk about national security and suggest expansion of tax-free "Health Savings Accounts" to help people pay medical expenses.

Reid accused Bush of making promises in past State of the Union speeches and doing the opposite. In 2003, Reid said, Bush promised not to pass the nation's current bills on to the next generation.

Noting that the government will breach the $8.184 trillion debt limit next month, Reid accused Bush of "bankrupting our country and placing an enormous tax on our children and grandchildren, simply so he can hand out tax breaks to special interests and the wealthy."

The White House has asked Congress to raise the credit limit by mid-February, saying the Treasury would have to take extraordinary measures to keep paying bills for everything from Social Security and national defense. Since 2002, Congress has raised the debt ceiling by $2.2 trillion.

Reid also urged Bush to offer a plan to fix the new Medicare prescription drug program for the elderly. Since the plan was launched on January 1, many poor and elderly people have been snagged by problems that have made it difficult for them to get their prescription costs covered.

About half of the states have stepped in to pay the costs of people who have run into problems. The drug plan relies on private insurers, pharmacies and healthcare companies to provide coverage to Medicare's 42 million beneficiaries.