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 Home > News & Policies > June 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 16, 2003

VP's Remarks on Senator Arlen Specter
The Crown Plaza Park Hotel
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

12:18 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Well, thank you, Arlen. And I want to thank all of you for being here today. I've been looking forward to coming back to Pennsylvania. And I want to bring greetings to all of you from our leader, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

You know, Arlen, explained that my job -- actually, it's my only official job -- is as the President of the United States Senate. When they wrote the Constitution, they decided they needed a Vice President. But then they got down to the end of the whole process, the convention, they hadn't given him anything to do, so they made him the presiding officer in the Senate. I'm actually paid by the United States Senate. That's where my check comes from. And until Harry Truman was -- I guess, until Harry Truman was Vice President, they had -- including Truman -- had no office downtown. It wasn't until the Eisenhower administration, the Vice President was even given an office in the executive branch. So it's a relatively recent development as our history goes.

The thing that always bothered me a little bit, though, when our first Vice President was sworn in, John Adams, back in the Washington administration, he was also given floor privileges. He was allowed to take the floor and address the body and engage in the debates of the day. And then he did a couple of times and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) And they've never been given back. (Laughter.) I'm not allowed to say anything on the floor of the Senate. I can sit in the Senate in the chair and preside. And I enjoy doing that.

And one of the lessons I've learned in the last couple of years is the enormous importance of the outcome of elections and how important it is for people to be actively engaged in the process. And that's why I appreciate all of you being here today. I am walking proof of the importance of every single effort that goes into a campaign. When you think of the close margin by which President Bush and I won last time around, 500 votes in Florida -- when he put me on the ticket, he asked me to be Vice President, he said it wasn't because he was worried about carrying Wyoming. (Laughter.) He got 70 percent of the vote there. But I remind him every once in a while that those three electoral votes came in pretty important. (Laughter.)

But we're here today because we're all friends of Arlen Specter, a great leader of Pennsylvania. And we're absolutely united in our determination to see Arlen reelected to the United States Senate this year. (Applause.)

Like many of you I've known Arlen for many years, and he is, without question, one of the most experienced and devoted public servants in the country. I first learned his name when he served the nation as part of the legal team on the Warren Commission. Of course, I once worked for Jerry Ford, and he often talked about those days and reminisced with Arlen about the work -- great work they did back on that very tragic mission 40 years ago. But after he went on to build an outstanding record as the district attorney in Philadelphia, of course, the people of Pennsylvania sent him to the United States Senate, where he's served with a great distinction ever since.

I've enjoyed working with Arlen in my capacity as a congressman, as Secretary of Defense, as White House Chief of Staff. And I know when you have a senator like that, that it's very important that you keep him. Senator Spector's earned the support of Pennsylvanians. He also enjoys the full support of Senator Santorum, of Pennsylvania's Republican leadership, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the President and the Vice President of the United States. We look forward to working with him for a very long time to come in the United States Senate.

President Bush and I count on Arlen's experience and wisdom every day as we work to strengthen our economy, to improve the lives of our citizens, and to win the war on terror. We know that America's economy can grow faster and create new jobs at a faster rate. We also know that the right policies in Washington can unleash the great strengths of our economy and create the conditions of additional growth and prosperity for all of our people.

Last January, President Bush proposed a series of specific measures to create jobs by removing obstacles to economic growth. Last month, the President signed into law a bill that follows the outlines of his plan. And Arlen Spector's support was absolutely critical in passing President Bush's tax cut.

The Jobs and Growth Act will deliver substantial tax relief to 136 million American taxpayers, almost 4 million of them right here in the state of Pennsylvania. It will increase the child credit from $600 to $1,000, reduce the marriage penalty. It will lower the tax rate for stockholders on corporate dividends and capital gains, and accelerate to this year several income tax reductions that had been scheduled to occur later in the decade. And it will increase the amount of equipment investment that small businesses can write off.

Since President Bush signed the tax relief package, our economy is already responding. We're beginning to see signs of increased investor confidence. And by leaving America's families and entrepreneurs with more money to spend, more to save and more to invest, tax relief will help grow our economy faster and create new jobs for Americans. The Jobs and Growth Act is a major step forward in the President's economic agenda. But further steps are required.

To bring down the budget deficit that's resulted from war, recession and terrorist attacks, we need to work to hold federal spending to a responsible level, as well. Spending discipline is crucial to the President's economic program. And our budget for this year calls for discretionary spending to rise only by 4 percent, roughly the amount that the average American household income will go up this year.

We also need to prepare our citizens to fill the new jobs that our economy will create. President Bush came to Washington determined to bring fundamental reforms to education, and he succeeded. With a solid, bipartisan majority, we passed the No Child Left Behind Act, which ends the era of low expectations in American education. It sets high standards for all our schools, demands stronger accountability for results. It increases flexibility and local control and gives parents more options. And it gives schools the resources they need to meet these new challenges.

Today, we are spending more money on our schools than at any other time in American history. But we are requiring results in return. In short, President Bush is keeping his promise: We will leave no child behind.

We need to keep our promise to America's seniors, as well, by strengthening Medicare. When Medicare was launched in 1965, medicine focused on surgery and hospital stays. And 38 years later, that is mainly what Medicare still covers. Today, however, doctors routinely treat their patients with prescription drugs, preventive care, disease screening, and ground-breaking medical devices. But coverage under Medicare has not kept pace with all of these changes. Medicare needs to be modernized. It needs to provide seniors with the best, most innovative care. And this will require a strong, up-to-date Medicare program that relies on innovation and competition, not just bureaucratic rules and regulations.

President Bush has proposed a framework to strengthen and improve Medicare so that it offers seniors more choices and better benefits, such as prescription drug coverage. The House and the Senate have begun to craft Medicare legislation that is consistent with the President's framework. And with the help of Senator Specter and other members from both sides of the aisle, we are confident that the Senate and the House will pass strong Medicare bills before the Fourth of July recess, bills that provide our seniors with the prescription drugs benefits and the choices that they need.

The American system of medicine offers the highest quality care in the world, and we must not undermine that quality with nationalized health care systems that dictate coverage and ration care, nor should we stand by as our health care system is undermined by unfair and frivolous lawsuits. The lawsuit culture makes everyone pay more for health care. And it is causing many parts of America to lose fine doctors.

President Bush has proposed important steps to take -- to make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans by making the liability system more stable and more predictable. The past March, the House of Representatives passed medical liability reform, and the Senate should do so, as well. We need to get a bill to the President's desk that will fix America's broken medical liability system, and we need to do it as quickly as possible. (Applause.)

President Bush has an ambitious agenda for America. He's asked Congress to pass a comprehensive energy bill that will lessen our dependence on foreign oil, to enact project Bioshield, which will help protect the American people against the threat of attack by biological weapons, and to restore dignity and stability to the judicial confirmation process, by making sure that every person nominated to the federal bench gets a timely up or down vote.

This has been a period of testing for the United States, and the American people have met every test. We stand united, we understand the threats that have formed against us, and we are determined to protect our country, and we will prevail.

Under the leadership of President Bush, America is winning the war on terror. In the 21 months since 9/11, the United States has waged two of the most successful military campaigns in history and has freed two nations, over 50 million people, from oppression -- the Taliban regime and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

We destroyed al Qaeda's grip on Afghanistan. We removed the repressive Taliban regime from power, and nearly half of al Qaeda's leadership has been captured or killed. In Iraq, a regime that supported terror, that brutalized its own people, and threatened its neighbors with the peace -- and the peace of the world, no longer exists.

And the President and I are grateful to Senator Specter for his respected voice during Congress' debate over the use of force in Iraq. The battle for Iraq was a major victory in the war on terror, but it's far from over. We cannot allow ourselves to grow complacent. We cannot forget that the terrorists remain determined to kill as many Americans as possible, and they are still seeking weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological and nuclear weapons to use against us.

With such an enemy, no peace treaty is possible, no policy of containment or deterrents will prove effective. The only way to deal with this threat is to destroy it completely and utterly. And President Bush is absolutely determined to do just that. (Applause.)

September 11th of 2001 marked a turning point in world history. Before 9/11, all too many nations tended to draw a distinction between terrorist groups and the states that provided these groups with support. They were unwilling to hold these terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions.

After 9/11, President Bush decided that the artificial distinction between the terrorists and their sponsors could no longer be allowed to stand. The Bush doctrine makes clear that states supporting terrorists or providing sanctuary for terrorists will be deemed just as guilty as the terrorists themselves of the acts they commit. If there is anyone in the world today who doubts the seriousness of the Bush doctrine, I would urge that person to consider the fate of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

A good friend, George Shultz, tells the story from his years as the Secretary of State as follows: It seems that every time a new ambassador completed the process of Senate confirmation and prepared to serve abroad, Secretary Shultz would invite that ambassador to the State Department for a farewell visit. And all of these meetings ended exactly the same way. The Secretary would tell the ambassador, there was one more test they had to take. Before you can leave, he said, I want you to go over to that globe and show me that you can identify your country. (Laughter.)

It's important that an ambassador know that. Every time, the ambassador would spin the globe and point out where he or she was being posted. One day, the Secretary had a visit from Mike Mansfield, the former Senator from Montana. Mike had already served many years as our Ambassador to Japan, and he was on his way back out to Tokyo.

Secretary Shultz told him about the test, and said, now, Mr. Ambassador, it's your turn. Show me your country.

Mike Mansfield went over the globe, put his hand on the United States of America, and said, this is my country. (Applause.)

I believe Americans of this generation have never been more proud or more grateful to say that this is our country. History has often called on Americans to defend our freedoms and to defeat some of the gravest threats known to mankind. We have accepted that duty, once again, because we know our cause is just; we understand that the hopes of the civilized world depend on us and we are certain of the victory to come.

In this critical time in the history of America, I have the honor of standing beside a great President who is a decisive leader, who has united this nation behind great goals and who has brought honor and dignity to the White House. (Applause.)

For all the challenges we face, this great country has never been stronger than we are today. And even better days are ahead of us. President Bush and I are tremendously grateful for the opportunity to serve the American people. We want to thank you for your support, not just for our efforts, but also for leaders like Arlen Specter, who has served Pennsylvania and America so well, and who will continue to be a fine partner for us as we meet the challenges of a new century.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:34 P.M. EDT