Democrats vow fight over Social Security, Iraq
Bush invited to 'join hands and build from the center'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top two congressional Democrats made it clear Wednesday night they would fight President Bush's Social Security proposals and press him for a plan to bring home troops from Iraq.
At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada invited Bush to "join hands and build from the center" in his joint rebuttal to the president's State of the Union address with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
"I want you to know that when we believe the president is on the right track, we won't let partisan interests get in the way of what's good for our country. But when he gets off track, we will be there to hold him accountable," Reid said.
Reid said one of Bush's ideas that is off track is his plan to let younger workers put part of their Social Security payroll taxes in personal accounts that they would own, which Democrats refer to as "privatization."
Reid termed the idea "dangerous," insisting that it would lead to benefit cuts for retirees.
"There's a lot we can do to improve Americans' retirement security, but it's wrong to replace the guaranteed benefit that Americans have earned with a guaranteed benefit cut of up to 40 percent," he said.
"Make no mistake, that's exactly what President Bush is proposing."
"But maybe most of all," Reid said," the Bush plan isn't really Social Security reform. It's more like Social Security roulette."
He said Democrats "are all for giving Americans more of a say and more choices when it comes to their retirement savings. But that doesn't mean taking Social Security's guarantee and gambling with it. And that's coming from a senator who represents Las Vegas."
The senator said Bush's Social Security plan would pile an additional $2 trillion on the national debt, which he said was "an immoral burden to place on the backs of the next generation."
Reid said the president's economic polices "have left Americans and American companies struggling." He said Democrats have a different vision:
"Spurring research and development in new technologies to help create the jobs of the future.
"Rolling up our sleeves and fighting for today's jobs by ending the special tax breaks that encourage big corporations to ship jobs overseas.
"A trade policy that enforces the rules of the road so that we play to win in the global marketplace instead of sitting by and getting played for fools."
In her remarks, Pelosi addressed the war in Iraq, saluting Sunday's election there as "a significant step toward Iraqis taking their future into their own hands."
She attributed the success of the election to "the courage of our servicemen and women and the determination of the Iraqi people."
But having gotten through the election, Pelosi said the United States now "must consider our future in Iraq."
"We all know that the United States cannot stay in Iraq indefinitely and continue to be viewed as an occupying force," she said.
"We have never heard a clear plan from this administration for ending our presence in Iraq, and we did not hear one tonight."
Pelosi said Democrats support a three-point plan to stabilize Iraq and bring the troops home, which includes:Transferring security responsibility to Iraqis as soon as possible.Accelerating Iraq's economic development.Intensifying regional diplomacy to "lessen the political problems in Iraq, take pressure off of our troops and deprive the insurgency of the fuel of anti-Americanism on which it thrives."
"If these three steps are taken, the next elections in Iraq -- scheduled for December -- can be held in a more secure atmosphere, with broader participation and a much smaller American presence," she said.
Bush said in his speech that the nation has now entered a new phase in Iraq, with emphasis on training Iraqi security forces so that American troops and its allies there "will increasingly be in a supporting role."
But he rejected setting a deadline on when U.S. troops should come home: "We will not set an artificial timetable for leaving Iraq, because that would embolden the terrorists and make them believe they can wait us out."
Pelosi also hit the Bush administration for not doing enough to improve homeland security in the more than three years since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"Despite the administration's rhetoric, airline cargo still goes uninspected, shipping containers go unscreened and our railroads and power plants are not secure," Pelosi said.
"Police officers and firefighters across America have pleaded for the tools they need to prevent or respond to an attack, but the administration still hasn't delivered for our first responders."