Congress working on new direction for U.S.

One year ago, Americans entrusted their hopes and aspirations for themselves, their families and the future to a new Democratic Congress. They demanded a new direction that makes America safer, restores the American Dream for hardworking families, and restores accountability and fiscal responsibility to Washington.

While our mission is far from accomplished, the 110th Congress has brought a steadfast commitment to a new direction. We are focused on restoring this great nation for our children and our grandchildren.

Our first priority is to make America safer, which is why the first piece of legislation we passed — House Resolution 1 — took the bipartisan 9/11 commission recommendations off the shelf and put them into law. Our actions significantly strengthened airline, port and border security, improved emergency communications for first responders, and took aggressive steps to prevent terrorists from obtaining weapons of mass destruction.

While others only talked about breaking America’s dangerous addiction to Middle East oil and even denied the looming threat of global warming, the House of Representatives passed a historic energy initiative that invests in clean, renewable domestic energy while ending our Middle East oil addiction and protecting our planet from the ravages of climate change.

Last November, the American people made clear that there is an urgent need for a new direction in the war in Iraq. This disastrous war, now in its fifth year, has not made America safer, our military stronger or the region more stable — even as our troops have bravely performed their duties. We are fighting to responsibly redeploy our troops so we can refocus on the real war on terrorism and rebuild our military readiness.

This Congress has changed the debate on Iraq, making the Bush administration accountable for the execution of the war, and the Iraqi government more responsible for its own future. We have instituted vigorous oversight, uncovering tens of billions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse in spending by companies such as Blackwater and Halliburton. But the war in Iraq will only come to an end when the president’s allies in Congress finally hear the voices of the American people.

The most tragic result of the president’s failed Iraq policy is the loss of American lives and the pain of our wounded heroes. Under a Democratic Congress, returning veterans from both Iraq and Afghanistan will receive the welcome home they deserve and the care they have earned thanks to the largest investment in veterans’ health care in the 77-year history of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Even as the administration spends $10 billion a month in Iraq, the president and some Republicans in Congress continue to oppose new investments here at home — even a bipartisan plan that will provide health care coverage to 10 million children. The “New Direction Congress” will continue to work on behalf of these children, their families and millions more who want their chance to achieve the American Dream.

To make college more affordable for middle-class families, we cut student-loan interest rates in half and increased Pell grants to save the typical student borrower $4,400.

To reward work, Democrats passed the first minimum-wage increase in 10 years — putting an additional $4,400 in the pockets of nearly 13 million hardworking Americans.

We have changed the way we do business in Washington by restoring accountability through landmark lobbying and ethics reform and pay-as-you-go budget discipline. On its first day, the House passed the toughest ethics reform in a generation — that broke the link between lobbyists and legislators: no gifts, no private jets and no meals from lobbyists.

We have also restored tough pay-as-you-go budget rules that produced historic budget surpluses during the Clinton administration. By adhering to this no-new-deficit rule, we are putting a stop to the Republican record of passing billions of dollars of debt on to future generations.

The American people want their leaders to focus on American priorities and work together to get things done — and we have. More than two-thirds of major legislation has passed with significant support from both parties.

We strive to find common ground where we can. Where we cannot, we will stand our ground. With faith in the future, the New Direction Congress will continue making progress for America. With faith in God, I know we will succeed.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, is speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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