print-only banner
The White House Skip Main Navigation
In Focus
News by Date
Federal Facts
West Wing

 Home > News & Policies > December 2003

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
December 5, 2003

Remarks by the Vice President at a Reception for Congressman John Sullivan
The Adam's Mark Hotel
Tulsa, Oklahoma

12:32 P.M. CST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) I don't know why I want to spoil that by giving a speech now. (Laughter.)

Well, that's a great welcome. And, John, thank you. It's great to be back in Oklahoma. And I appreciate the opportunity to join all of you today. It's very nice to come hear kind words from a colleague like John, but I want to thank him today in front of all of his constituents for the great work he does every day for his district, for the state of Oklahoma, and for the nation.

I'm pleased, as well, that Jim Inhofe is here today. He's been doing a terrific job as your U.S. senator. Jim and I, of course, served in the House of Representatives some years ago. I remember campaigning for him when he ran for the Senate the first time. I'm pleased to see Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin, your fine mayor Bob LaFortune, and, of course, a great former mayor, Kirk Humphries, the man who we hope has a bright political future ahead of him. I'm sure he does.

I also want to thank Wes Watkins, who's here today, my former colleague in the House, for joining all of us. I just came in from Washington where I started the day, as I always do, in our morning meetings with the President. And he asked that I bring good wishes to Tulsa and the people of Oklahoma from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I must say, after the Texas-OU football game earlier this year -- (laughter) -- we OU fans had to be a little careful around the Oval Office for a couple days. (Laughter.) But all is forgiven. Next year, he swears, Texas will be back one more time. (Laughter.)

But I want to thank all of you, too, on behalf of the President for the tremendous support we received in Oklahoma in the last election. Of course, this is a state we carried by a 22-point margin. We didn't need a recount to figure out who carried Oklahoma. (Laughter.) And we certainly don't want to take any state for granted in the next election, but we know we're going to do pretty well here come 2004.

Now, I've spent a lot of time in Oklahoma over the years. Of course, I had the great privilege of running Halliburton for a while, a fine Oklahoma company. I used to get to Duncan on a regular basis. I had the privilege of working with many fine members of Congress from Oklahoma. On the House side, of course, you're extraordinarily well served by John Sullivan and his colleagues such as Frank Lucas, Tom Cole, Ernest Istook. The President and I are delighted to have them as allies.

As President of the Senate, it's my only job, of course, as Vice President, is to serve as President of the Senate. Many people don't realize when they wrote the Constitution, they created this post of Vice President, but when they got through the Constitutional Convention, down to the end of their work, they figured out that they had not given the Vice President any job. He didn't have anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate and gave him the authority to preside over the Senate, cast tie-breaking votes. And my predecessor, our first Vice President, John Adams also had floor privileges. He was allowed to actually leave the chair, go down into the well of the Senate, and address the issues of the day, participate in the debate and so forth. And then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored. So I can't speak in the Senate, but I am allowed to vote on those tie votes.

But most of all, it's given me the opportunity to work very closely with your Oklahoma delegation here, with Don Nickles and Jim Inhofe. And, of course, I've known both them for many years, from my years back in the '80s when I served in the House, and during the first Bush administration. It's truly one of the outstanding Senate delegations in Washington.

Of course, I know Don is stepping down next year. That's a great loss for all of us. We tried hard to persuade him to stay on, but if anybody has earned a chance to return to private life and family and so forth, Don is certainly it. He's given tremendous service to Oklahoma for a quarter of a century, going back to his time in the legislature. And he'll be sorely missed in Washington. All of us, of course, need to work extra hard to elect another Oklahoma Republican to serve in the United States Senate alongside Jim Inhofe. And I know you're going to do that, as well.

Now, we're all here today on behalf of a terrific member of Congress, John Sullivan. And I deeply appreciate the fact that you're here, willing to sign on, on behalf of this effort. Of course, John came to Washington a couple of years ago after the special election. And I think your confidence in him has been extraordinarily well placed.

Over the years I've gained some experience in judging members of Congress. Of course, when I served in the House myself for 10 years, I was the congressman from Wyoming. Wyoming only had one House seat. It was a small delegation. (Laughter.) But it was quality. (Laughter.)

But when you come from a single-member state, you have to develop allies and relationships with other states. California had 52 members in their delegation -- Texas, New York, a lot of the other states had many, many members. But I always had to go out and round up votes from other states. I had to start out on a Wyoming issue with just one vote. But you quickly became a judge of who you could trust and who you could work with and who the outstanding members were that you wanted on your side.

And John Sullivan is exactly that kind of member. He does a superb job of working hard, of staying in close touch with the district, never forgetting who elected him and how he got back there, but also always thinking of the national interest and what needs to be done on behalf of all Americans. He's exactly the kind of congressman that I was proud to associate with during my years in the House, and that I'm delighted to work now as the Vice President.

John is a respected member of the committees on science, on government reform, and on transportation and infrastructure, and of course, he's been a consistent voice for a strong economy and a secure America. In the House, colleagues know him as a strong advocate for northeastern Oklahoma, as a man of broad knowledge on all kinds of issues from energy to economic development, as a businessman whose been out there doing, as well as a legislator who knows who to reach across the aisle to work in the spirit of bipartisanship. For all those reasons, we need more people exactly like John Sullivan in Washington. And he has certainly earned another term in the United States Congress. (Applause.)

Just as John has built a fine record to run on next year, I think there's another individual who has done that. His name is George W. Bush, our President. (Applause.)

We're looking forward to next year's campaign. And I'm confident that come November, the American people are going to reelect the President for a job well done. We'll be proud during the campaign to take our message to voters all across Oklahoma and across America. When the President arrived in Washington three years ago, he was determined to solve problems, instead of simply pass them on to future generations. We were determined to seize new opportunities for reform and to get beyond some of the old debates that had stood in the way of progress.

Today, as we look ahead to next year's election, I think we've got a pretty good record of accomplishment to show the American people. I believe the nation can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of the new era we live in because of the character and the leadership of our President.

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on America, on 9/11, people in every part of the country, regardless of party, took comfort and pride in conduct and the character of our President. From that day to this, he has led a relentless, steady, focused campaign against the enemies who struck America and killed 3,000 of our citizens that morning.

Not long after 9/11, one high-ranking al Qaeda official quote, said that, "This is the beginning of the end for America." It's pretty clear that that terrorist did not know us. It's pretty clear that the terrorists who attacked us did not understand the strength and the resilience of this country. And they, clearly, did not understand the determination of our President.

We're now fighting the war against terror on many fronts. Terrorists hide and strike within free societies, so we're freezing their bank accounts, disrupting their plans, hunting them down one by one, until they can no longer threaten America and other free peoples around the world.

As we stand here today, many of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed. Those still at large are living in fear, and their fears are well founded -- because we're on their trail. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime brutalized an entire population and harbored al Qaeda -- and that regime is no more. In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, developed a relationship with al Qaeda, and provided support to terrorists -- and his regime is no more.

Freedom still has enemies in Iraq. Those terrorists are targeting the very success and freedom that we're providing to the Iraqi people. But terror attacks on innocent civilians will not intimidate Americans, and they will not intimidate the Iraqi people.

Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we're rolling back the terrorist threat at the very heart of its power. We are aggressively striking the terrorists in Iraq, defeating them there, so we do not face them in the streets of our own cities.

We're calling on other nations to help the Iraqis build a free society, which will make all of us more secure. We're standing with the Iraqi people as they assume more responsibilities for their own security, and move toward self-government. These are not easy tasks, yet they are absolutely essential. As the President has said many times, and no one should ever doubt, we will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential -- in the victory in the war on terror.

In all they have done and continue to do, the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States have performed with incredible skill and courage. They've struck hard against forces of murder and chaos, conducting heroic raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons, capturing killers. American service members have faced hard duty, long deployments, the loss of comrades in some of the most difficult parts of the Earth. They are confronting danger every day to defend all of us. As a former Secretary of Defense, I have never been more proud of the men and women of the United States military. (Applause.)

These young Americans deserve our wholehearted support. They're playing a classic role, one that they undertook after World War II, when they brought help and hope to the people of Europe and Japan. Now, in the Middle East and Central Asia, they are earning the trust of the people they've liberated. One of the most important commitments that President Bush made during the 2000 campaign was that the armed forces would be given every resource they need, and the respect they deserve. And working with John Sullivan and others like him, we've kept our word to the United States military.

The long-term security of our nation, and of our friends and allies, has been a principal concern of President Bush's administration. And so has the economic well-being of our citizens. By the time we took office, the economy was sliding into recession. And to get it growing again, we've delivered significant tax relief for the American people. We've done this because we believe that when families and small businesses are hurting, the best way to help them is to let them keep more of what they earn. After all, the money that we spend in Washington is not the government's money -- it is the people's money.

This administration has delivered the largest tax relief since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, and we are beginning now to see strong economic growth as a result. The figures for the third quarter show the economy grew at an annual rate of 8.2 percent -- the fastest pace in nearly 20 years. Business investment, manufacturing, housing construction are all on the rise. The Bush tax cuts are working, and your congressman, John Sullivan, helped make it all happen.

As you know, there are a few voices in the land who want us to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Sometimes I hear these voices at night on the evening news. (Laughter.) But in fact, the Bush tax cuts are exactly what brought us out of recession. They're helping bring down unemployment, and set the economy on a path to long-term economic growth. The job growth of the past four months is expected to continue. The unemployment rate is down again today, to 5.9 percent. And the President and I will not be satisfied until every person who wants to work can find a job.

On issue after issue, from national security, to economic growth and trade, to improving public schools, the President has led the way in making progress for the American people. One of the sure signs of his leadership can be seen every day in the people that he's brought into government. As many of you know, I've had the privilege of serving in a number of different positions in public service, including the White House Chief of Staff, member of Congress, Secretary of Defense. Looking at the group now serving under President Bush, I can tell you, this is one of the finest teams ever assembled by a President of the United States.

All of us in this administration -- and our Republican allies on Capitol Hill -- recognize that our job is not to rest on a strong record, but rather to keep adding to that record.

Abroad, the fundamental interests of this nation require that we oppose threats to our freedom and security wherever they gather. Yet overcoming threats is only the beginning of America's responsibilities. In the Middle East, we are encouraging free markets, democracy, and tolerance -- because these are the ideas and the aspirations that overcome violence, and turn societies to the pursuit of peace. In that region and beyond, all who strive and sacrifice for the cause of freedom will have a friend in the United States of America.

Here at home, we have a full agenda, as well, and some pressing business to complete. After many years of inaction, we're finally delivering major reform in Medicare, and that's good news for nearly half a million seniors who live in Oklahoma. On Monday morning, President Bush will sign a new law that strengthens the Medicare system and provides American seniors, for the first time, with prescription drug coverage. Going forward, we must also improve our health care system through liability reform. In Oklahoma and all across America, doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)

For the sake of more growth and new jobs, we also need a good energy bill. John helped us pass comprehensive energy legislation in the House last month, but there's still work to be done on the Senate side, where a minority of senators filibustered the bill. And a good energy plan is important to Oklahoma, as an energy-producing state with more 100,000 people employed in that industry. We're going to stay focused on this legislation because a steady supply of affordable energy is vital to our economic future, and to our national security. We must make the United States less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Also on Capitol Hill, it's time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. (Applause.) The President has put forward superb nominees to serve on the federal bench -- talented, experienced men and women, who represent the mainstream of American law and American values. Yet some of these nominees have been denied an up-or-down vote for months, and even years. Senate Democrats have taken to waging filibusters against certain nominees who don't meet their litmus test. This means that even though these nominees may have a majority of senators supporting them, that is more than 50 votes, they can't get confirmed unless they get a super majority of 60 votes. That's unfair to the nominees and an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And I can't think of a better reason why we need another Republican senator elected from Oklahoma. (Applause.)

We've achieved a great deal over the last several years. But there's still a great deal left to do in Washington. And around the world, the nation has many serious responsibilities and challenges. The campaign season will come in due course, and when it does, President Bush and I will run hard and take nothing for granted. Like John, we understand the key to victory is to do the work we've been given, and to do it well. We intend to make good use of every day we have the honor of serving the American people.

Long before I entered my current job, I had the good fortune to work with other Presidents that I greatly admire. As a White House staffer in the aftermath of Watergate, I saw Gerald Ford restore confidence in government by the sheer decency and force of his character. As a congressman during the decisive years of the Cold War, I saw the conviction and the moral courage of Ronald Reagan. (Applause.) And as a member of the Cabinet under former President Bush, I saw the ideal of public service in its purest form and came to know a leader of great honor and integrity. (Applause.) That's okay. (Laughter.)

Along the way, I learned a few things about the presidency, and the kind of person it takes to do that job well. It takes the finest qualities of character: conviction, personal integrity, good judgment, compassion, and courage in times of testing for the nation. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the kind of man we have in the White House today. (Applause.)

President Bush and I are both honored by your confidence in us, and by your commitment to the cause we all share. We're honored to have so many friends in Tulsa and across this great state. And we've very grateful to the people of the first district for sending John Sullivan to Washington. He's a steady leader in the Congress. He reflects great credit on the great state of Oklahoma, and we look forward to working with him for a good many years to come. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

CONGRESSMAN SULLIVAN: On behalf of the entire state of Oklahoma, I've got a gift for the Vice President. (Laughter and applause.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Maybe when I go into the Oval tomorrow for my morning meeting, I'll wear this. (Laughter and applause.)

END 12:50 P.M. CST