2016-07-27

This article was published February, 2006.

Last night, I listened to the President deliver his State of the Union address and heard him lay out his vision for our nation. I listened to the President urge us to move forward and not retreat. I too have a vision that will move our nation forward, but it's different than President Bush's.

On nearly every problem facing us today, the President's answer is to give more to those with the most.

Look at his solution to the health-care crisis. To confront the problem of 46 million uninsured, the President promoted his plan for Health Savings Accounts. These accounts won't save Americans money and they won't make us healthier, but they will result in a windfall for the financial services industry.

Whether the issue is energy independence or building a strong economy, this has been President Bush's approach to nearly every issue. He's put special and partisan interests over common interests and the greater good.

I believe America can do better, and it starts by reminding everyone in Washington where our country's moral compass leads.

I and many of my colleagues came to public service with a desire to provide for the common good, to serve our neighbors, and to help the least among us. As public servants, we need to ignite around this cause again. Our values compel us to help all Americans, and we need to rededicate ourselves to that task today.

My moral compass was ingrained in me as a youth, and without it I would be much less of a person than I am today. Prior to high school, I did not belong to a religious organization and had not attended church. Not for lack of interest, but because in my hometown of Searchlight, Nevada, there were no churches. However, while in high school, I was befriended by a classmate who invited me to attend what was called a seminary program-what many call Bible study--that was held at 6:00 a.m. This was my first exposure to religion, and I continued attending throughout high school. My future wife, Landra, who was Jewish, would also join me in study.

Later, Landra and I enrolled at Utah State University. We were contacted by Mormon missionaries and, on the foundation of those early 6 a.m. classes, were later baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. My faith is both important and deeply personal. I consider my faith and my wife's religious conviction instrumental in helping raise our five children.

"Another immoral budget" on the horizon?
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As the Democratic Leader of the Senate, I wanted to build a greater relationship with the faith community and have met religious leaders of all faiths and denominations. During these meetings many religious leaders expressed concern that our leadership seems unfocused and unfazed by the needs of our brothers and sisters. Their concerns were highlighted when hundreds of religious leaders from across the nation, some Democrats and some Republicans, came to Washington in peaceful protest. While protesting in the Capitol and Congressional office buildings they prayed that legislators would reject what they described as an immoral budget that would deprive so many through deep cuts in health care, education, and housing, in order to pay for tax cuts that benefit so few.

Unfortunately, we will likely see another immoral budget, since last night the President called for making last year's tax cuts permanent. The same tax cuts that benefit the privileged few while the needs of the many are sacrificed.

It is also immoral when decisions that should enhance the lives of everyone are made with distorted priorities that too often put aside sound policy for partisan gain and self interest. When Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, the storm altered the lives of Americans, not just Democrats or Republicans. Yet, in that time of crisis, we discovered that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency charged with handling the federal response to disasters, was headed by someone without a background in public safety. Instead, the organization was headed by a strong partisan supporter of the President whose previous experience was running a horse farm.

This is what happens when lawmakers abandon values like responsibility and accountability, and embrace vices like greed and arrogance instead.

In Washington, too often the partisan ambitions of a few stand in the way of common good. Our moral compass should compel us to always put people first. To directly confront this problem, Democrats introduced the Honest Leadership Act, legislation that will put common interests ahead of special interests and return morality and integrity to the way we govern.

Today and throughout the year, Democrats will work with the President and our colleagues across the aisle to address issues important to all the American people. We are called upon and redeemed by working together for the common good, not for a special few.

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