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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 15, 2004
Vice President's Remarks for the 2004 Joint State Victory Reception
Bay Point Marriott Resort
Panama City, Florida
June 14, 2004
6:26 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. And thank you for that warm welcome to Panama City. Thank you, Jeb, for that kind introduction. I might say he's no slouch as a governor either. (Applause.) It's always good to be in Florida -- of course, the state that was absolutely critical to our victory in 2000 -- and I bring greetings to all of you from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
All I have to do when I run into people who say, well, it doesn't really matter what I do in this election. I don't have to get very actively involved. How can I affect things? And I just point out to them: Florida 2000, 537 votes. (Laughter.) And they get it. And all across the country, people understand and appreciate the enormous contribution Florida made in 2000. And we have high hopes for 2004, as well, too.
In Washington and across America, last week was a time of reflection, as President Bush led the nation in saying farewell to President Reagan. The passing of this great American made all of us feel the passing of time. And looking back at the man and his leadership, his accomplishments seem only more impressive. President Reagan renewed the spirit of enterprise in this country; he restored our national confidence; and he protected our freedom by making America's defenses second to none. It's a very fortunate nation that has leaders like that come along when we need them. We live in a better country, and a safer world, because Ronald Reagan was President of the United States -- and we will honor his memory forever. (Applause.)
I want to thank all of the state and the party leaders for joining us up here today. I know Congressman Jeff Miller is with us -- I just saw him down here in the audience -- Jeff -- (applause) -- as well as State Representative Bev Kilmer, the next Congresswoman from Florida's second district. (Applause.) President Bush and I are tremendously grateful to all of our supporters here in Florida. We'll never forget your energy and your dedication four years ago. We're counting on you again this time around. And the President and I are committed to do our part, as well. We'll visit Florida many times during the campaign season. And with your help, I'm confident Florida will be part of our nationwide victory come November 2nd.
The elections are going to be critically important at every level of the ballot. Bev Kilmer's race is crucial, and so is the race for Florida's open United States Senate seat. (Applause.) Many of you may not know that my only job -- real job -- is to preside over the United States Senate. When they had the Constitutional Convention, they created the post of Vice President. But then they got down to the end of the convention and remembered they hadn't given him anything to do. (Laughter.) So they made him the President of the Senate, and we get to cast the tie-breaking vote and preside over the Senate.
My predecessor, the first Vice President, John Adams, actually had floor privileges. He could go down into the well of the Senate and participate in the debate, talk about the great issues of the day, and then he did a couple of times, and they withdrew his floor privileges. (Laughter.) They've never been restored.
But I get to cast tie-breaking votes at crucial moments when the Senate is evenly balanced. And last year, a year ago, I cast three tie-breaking votes because the Senate was so evening balanced on the budget resolution, on reducing the double-taxation of dividends and capital gains, and on the overall final passage of the President's tax bill last year -- those three measures would have not passed. (Applause.)
I don't want you to think I deserve any special credit for the way I voted; believe me, the President sent me up there with very firm instructions those days. (Laughter.) Right. But that tax package was directly responsible for the economic prosperity that the nation is beginning to enjoy today. It would not have passed except for the fact that we were able to put together 50 votes, and then I had the tie-breaking vote to get it through. If we'd had one less senator, we would not have been able to enact that measure. You're going to pick a United States senator here this fall -- make absolutely certain it's a Republican. (Applause.) And next January, I look forward to having the opportunity to swearing in a new Republican senator from the state of Florida.
There's so much at stake this November -- from the direction of our economy, to the conduct of the war on terror. And together we're going to present the voters a strong record of accomplishment, and a clear agenda for the years ahead. The American people can be confident of a better future, a stronger economy, and greater security against the dangers of this new era, because of our Republican majorities in Congress, and because of the character and the leadership of President George W. Bush.
This is a period in history defined by serious challenges, and the need for decisive action. And the greatest responsibility of our government is clear: We must protect the safety and security of the American people. (Applause.)
The attacks of September 11th signaled the arrival of an entirely new era in our history. In the space of a few hours, we saw the violence and the grief that 19 murderous men can inflict. And we had a glimpse of the even greater harm that terrorists wish to do to us. Since 9/11, we've seen attacks around the world: in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbala, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Jerusalem, Baghdad, Madrid, and recently again in Saudi Arabia. We know that terrorists are determined to intimidate free countries, to disrupt the world's economy, and try to influence elections. We have to assume that they will make further attempts here in the United States. Every American can be certain that we are going to do absolutely everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack on America.
We created the Department of Homeland Security to bring together key personnel and improve security at our borders and ports, and on commercial aircraft. Congress passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement additional tools needed to catch terrorists inside the United States. We added billions in new funding for cutting-edge technology to improve our defenses against biological attack. And we've changed the mission of the FBI to focus on preventing terrorist attacks before they can be launched.
This is urgent work -- yet a good defense is not enough. America must never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. (Applause.) This nation has made a decision -- we made a decision to go on offense. We will engage the terrorists, facing them with our military wherever they plot and plan, so we do not have to face them with armies of firefighters, police, and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities.
In Afghanistan, we removed the brutal Taliban from power and destroyed the training camps where terrorists trained to kill Americans. In Iraq, America and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous dictator and rid the world of a gathering threat to our peace and security. Saddam Hussein once controlled the lives and the future of nearly 25 million people. Tonight he's in jail. (Applause.) Because we acted, he will never again brutalize the Iraqi people, never again support terrorists or pursue weapons of mass destruction, and never again threaten the United States of America.
Watching these developments, the leader of Libya decided the time had come for him to end his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. He turned over to the United States all of his crucial equipment and plans, including the design for a nuclear bomb. The key supplier of this deadly technology was a Pakistani citizen named A.Q. Khan, who had developed a network to sell nuclear technology and know-how to some of the world's most dangerous regimes, including North Korea and Iran. Thanks to the skillful work of our intelligence officers -- and the cooperation of the Pakistani government -- Khan is now under house arrest, his network of suppliers is being dismantled.
In the liberated countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, we and our coalition partners still face serious challenges. But our progress has been steady, and no power of the enemy will stop it. In Afghanistan, an interim government has been established, a constitution has been written, and later this fall, free elections will be held. An Afghan National Army has been established so that the Afghans will be able to contribute to their own security. Tomorrow, Hamid Karzai, the interim President of Afghanistan will address a joint session of the United States Congress and thank the American people for what we've done to liberate their country. (Applause.) Afghanistan is a friend of the United States, and is a nation fully joined now in the war on terror.
In Iraq, within the space of 15 months, the nation has gone from repression to the verge of self-government. And they know the way forward. President Bush has outlined a five-step plan to help Iraq secure democracy and freedom. There is now an interim government in place, including a President, a Prime Minister, and a diverse cabinet that's committed to managing the affairs of a sovereign Iraq. We will hand over sovereignty to this new government at the end of the month -- a plan that has the support of the new Iraqi government and the unanimous backing of the United Nations Security Council.
Transferring sovereignty on the 30th of June is a crucial step, yet we will continue helping the Iraqi people even after that day passes. We will maintain our commitment to assist the Iraqis in establishing security, and rebuilding the infrastructure needed to support modern commerce and residential living, and to help support and train a security force capable of dealing with their own threats. (Applause.) We will continue our efforts to encourage more international support for the mission in Iraq, especially from our allies in NATO -- with whom President Bush will meet later this month in Turkey. All the work of our coalition in Iraq will lead toward national elections, next January, which will bring forward the leaders of a peaceful, democratic Iraq -- and a nation America can call a friend.
The stakes in Iraq are historic, and the terrorists understand that as well as we do. Iraq will either be a peaceful, free country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror, and a danger to America and the world. America will help the Iraqis persevere in this cause, and defeat the enemies of liberty, and secure a free, self-governing Iraq -- in part, because it's in our own interest, and it will make us more secure to do so. (Applause.)
From the very beginning, America has sought -- and received -- international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from our allies around the world. But as the president has made very clear: There is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country. (Applause.)
Our nation is extremely fortunate during these times of testing to have the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform. They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation, we are sending the very best of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Here at home, the President has taken strong, decisive steps to get the economy growing again. Working with our allies on Capitol Hill, the President signed into law significant tax relief for millions of American families and businesses. We doubled the child tax credit, decreased the marriage penalty, cut tax rates across the board, and put the death tax on the way to extinction.
We're seeing the effect of tax relief now across the nation. Our economy added 248,000 new jobs in the month of May alone, the ninth consecutive month of job creation. American employers have now hired more than 1.4 million new workers since last August, and the unemployment rate has fallen from its peak of 6.3 percent last summer to 5.6 percent last month nationally and 4.6 percent here in Florida. (Applause.)
There is more evidence that this economic expansion is solid and durable. The home ownership rate is the highest ever. Productivity is high. Incomes, wages, and factory orders have been rising. Business investment is increasing, and over 80 million investors are benefiting from a growing stock market. Over the past year, America's economy has grown at a rate of five percent -- the fastest rate of growth since Ronald Reagan's first term in the White House. (Applause.) There's a simple reason for our growing prosperity: the Bush tax relief is working. (Applause.)
We're pleased with this progress, but there's considerable work left to do. Under the strong economic leadership of President Bush, the nation is continuing to move forward with an aggressive, pro-growth, pro-jobs agenda.
We should continue spending discipline in Washington, D.C. And because tax relief is the basis of our economic recovery and the growth for new jobs, we should make the Bush tax cuts permanent. (Applause.)
Our nation needs lawsuit abuse reform, to protect small businesses from junk -- (Applause.) We need to protect small businesses from junk lawsuits and needless regulation. And we need medical liability reform -- because in Florida and across the nation, doctors should be able to spend their time healing patients, not fighting off frivolous lawsuits. (Applause.)
Congress also needs to pass a sound energy program for the nation. It's been three years since the President proposed a plan to modernize our electricity grid, increase conservation, expand the use of alternative fuels and new technology. If Congress had acted on our plan three years ago, we'd be well on the way to solving our problems. The House passed legislation, yet it's stuck in the Senate. It's time to get the job done, so we can make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
It's also time for the United States Senate to get about the business of confirming President Bush's judicial nominees. The recent agreement by Senate Democrats to stop obstructing votes on 25 of the President's nominees is a welcome step. Yet far too many nominees are still being forced to spend months, or even years, waiting for hearings and up-or-down votes. A number are still being filibustered. That is unfair to the nominees, and it's an abuse of the constitutional process. Every nominee deserves a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. And that's another reason we need to send a Florida Republican to the United States Senate. (Applause.)
On issue after issue -- from national security, to education, to economic growth -- President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. And he has a clear vision for the future of the nation. Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes - to protect our homeland by turning back the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom throughout the world. And at home, we will continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of the land, so that every child who grows up in the United States will have a chance to learn, and to succeed, and to rise in the world. (Applause.)
Once again, thank you all for your commitment to the cause we all share. The President and I are deeply grateful to our friends in Northwest Florida and all across the state. And now, together, we are going to see our cause forward to victory on November 2nd.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 6:45 P.M. CDT