Please See Below DNC Chairman Tim Kaine's Remarks as Prepared for Delivery at the DNC Fall Meeting in Austin, Texas today. The Chairman also showed the following video regarding the DNC's work during his remarks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmoWvzCObI0
Fantastic to see you all.
It’s been great to reconnect with so many of you over the past day or so.
Once again, I want to thank all of you for being here for my first official Fall Meeting as DNC Chairman.
And I want to thank all the wonderful staff at the DNC who have worked so hard to put this meeting together.
Twenty or 30 of us had a good time this morning, over at SafePlace – a transitional housing facility. We did some painting. We performed the type of community service we hope all Americans will take some time to perform.
And obviously it was important to do it today in commemoration of the tragic events that occurred eight years ago on this date; to honor the victims of 9/11, to honor those men and women fighting for our freedom and hunting down the terrorists who attacked and to heed President Obama’s broader call to service.
Thanks to everyone who made it over this morning.
Now, I have the honor of introducing my new friend and Austin’s new Mayor, Lee Leffingwell.
Mayor Leffingwell was elected in May, and took office in June.
Like so many elected officials around the country, he’s been doing his best to help this city navigate these difficult economic times. He’s kept a steady hand on the wheel and is working hard to save and create good jobs by attracting new businesses and helping local businesses stay afloat.
He’s put a premium on making Austin City Hall more inclusive, more transparent and more accountable, and I’d like to thank him for being our gracious host.
It’s my pleasure to introduce Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
Thank you Mr. Mayor.
It is great to be in Austin. We are so happy to be here.
This is the first time any of us can remember that the DNC has held its fall meeting in Texas.
Thanks to these folks and countless others, Lone Star Democrats are in better shape than ever.
But the outlook didn’t always look so promising.
A few years ago, Democrats in Texas were down and out. Shut out of statewide elections since 1994 and in the minority in both houses of the Legislature.
In 2004, George W. Bush won Texas by 23 points. And in 2005, the Texas House Democratic Caucus had a 13-seat deficit.
Then came 2006 and a Democratic resurgence.
Now the Texas Democratic Party is one of the best organized in the country.
Today Democrats are only two seats shy of taking back the legislature. And Barack Obama cut the Democratic margin of loss here in half in just four years.
Texas Democrats are gearing up for competitive statewide races in 2010. They’re fighting back against Republican efforts to disenfranchise voters. They are poised to build on the gains made during the last two election cycles, to take back the State house and win statewide.
That’s why we’re here. The DNC is committed to Texas!
You know, it wasn’t so long ago that Virginia was in similar straits.
When I took office in 2006, we had two Republican U.S. Senators, a congressional delegation that was 8-3 Republican and two state legislative houses dominated by Republicans. It had been 44 years since Virginia went for a Democrat during a presidential election.
Today, Virginia has two Democratic Senators, the majority of our congressional delegation is Democratic, we’ve taken back the state Senate, whittled down the Republican’s majority from 30 seats to five in the House and – of course – Virginia put her electoral votes behind my friend Barack Obama.
So Texas, it’s possible.
It’s been a heckuva first 7 months as DNC Chairman.
When I first stood before you last January, we were all basking in the glow of an historic election.
But, we knew that the election wasn’t the change we sought. It was only the chance to make that change.
And that’s what the last 7 months have been all about. We’ve been building support for President Obama’s agenda. Helping to make the change we all worked so hard for a reality.
We’ve ramped up our operations in Washington, DC with a large and growing professional staff – from political, to new media, communications, research and finance – we have the best in the business – hands down. We are continuing to partner with and invest in our state parties in all 50 states to help them hire field organizers, communications directors, voter file managers and compliance staff.
Organizing for America – our special grassroots project – has also been growing by leaps and bounds. We now have staff on the ground in 47 states, and will have staff in all 50 very soon. Their full-time job is to re-engage the passionate volunteers who helped send Barack Obama to the White House to pass his agenda. That grassroots enthusiasm is one reason we won the campaign, and it’s one of the reasons why President Obama will be successful.
President Obama inherited the worst economic crisis in a generation. At the end of the Bush Administration, our country was in its 15th month of recession — the longest since the Great Depression — and many economists believed that the U.S. was teetering on the edge of another depression. In the last month of the Bush term, over 740,000 Americans lost their jobs, the worst decline in 60 years. $10 trillion in household wealth was lost in 2008 as the economy went into a freefall.
And still, there were many in Congress who wanted to take the Herbert Hoover “do nothing” approach, just stand by and let the economy collapse.
But President Obama disagreed. He took bold and decisive steps to rescue the economy from the downward spiral brought on by the failed policies of the past. Now, after just six months in office, housing is bouncing back, consumer confidence is up, manufacturing is on the up tick and the stock market has gained 1500 points since Inauguration Day. We have a long way to go - but the rate of job loss is down 2/3 since the last months of the Bush Administration.
What we have seen in these first 200 days of the Obama Administration has been remarkable. President Obama has accomplished more in 7 months than many President do in an entire term.
And what the DNC has done, what our state Democratic parties have done, what Organizing for America has done - to support the President’s agenda - is incredibly impressive.
We built grassroots support for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the most sweeping economic recovery plan in American history, which is now working to stabilize economic conditions and help those harmed by the economic crisis. The plan has kept teachers in the classroom, police officers on the streets, and put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges and waterways – and – I might add – it has provided 95 percent of working Americans with tax relief..
We helped build support for President Obama’s budget, which makes historic investments in health care, energy and education.
We helped build grassroots support for Justice Sonia Sotomayor – an eminently qualified nominee, the Supreme Court’s third woman, first Latina and living embodiment of the American dream.
And now, as the President works to pass comprehensive health insurance reform coming out of his incredible speech to Congress and the nation on Wednesday night, we are right there with him, organizing for reform that will lower costs, guarantee choice and ensure all Americans have access to quality, affordable care.
President Obama and Democrats in Congress have also taken steps to address our housing crisis, to provide health insurance to 4 million additional children, to finally guarantee women equal pay for equal work by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and stopping credit card companies from taking advantage of American families by passing comprehensive credit card reform. The President also banned torture, is closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay and lifted the ban on federally funded stem cell research.
All that in 7 months. That’s something to celebrate.
Now, none of this has happened without a fight.
In the midst of the worst recession in a generation, at a time when Americans all over this country are hurting, what are Republicans doing? Saying No. Opposing the President. Hoping that President Obama fails.
Congressional Republicans opposed the Recovery Act. Every House Republican voted against it and only three Republican Senators for it and one of them is now a Democrat. Texas Governor Rick Perry openly opposed the Act – he even threatened to secede! Why don’t Republicans want to act to save our economy?
Only 8 Republican members of Congress voted for equally pay for women. Why are they opposed to equal pay for women?
Congressional Republicans voted overwhelmingly against President Obama’s historic budget proposal in February and instead presented an “alternative” that would have ended Medicare as we know it. Why shouldn’t we be investing in our future?
75 percent of Senate Republicans voted against confirming Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice. Justice Sotomayor had more federal judicial experience than anyone nominated to the Supreme Court in over 100 years. Why were Republicans so set against her?
75 percent of Republican members also voted against the SCHIP expansion bill. Why are they fighting against providing health care coverage to children?
Now, even after President Obama’s address to Congress, a tour de force, where he clearly articulated a plan that takes the best from Democrats and Republicans, the GOP is still standing in lockstep opposition to health insurance reform. The party leaders are still pushing claims about “death panels” and “government takeover” and all kinds of nonsense.
They’ve publicly called for a defeat of any reform so that they can “break” the President.
After seven months as the Chairman of our party - it’s pretty clear what Republicans are against. Virtually everything. Especially anything President Obama does. They say he doesn’t deserve honorary degrees from colleges. They whip up opposition when he wants to give a speech to our nation’s schoolchildren. They make up bogus claims where the President was born. Okay—we get it already. They oppose the President. But, I have yet to see what the Republican Party is for.
We’re obviously in the middle of a very tough fight to pass health insurance reform.
Let me tell you something. We are closer than ever to passing comprehensive reform.
We are going to get this done.
Last month, while cable TV replayed footage of a few rowdy protests, Organizing for America and state Democratic parties were busy building grassroots support for reform by having conversations with citizens across the country.
We held more than 16,000 health care related events -- in all 50 states, in every single Congressional District since the beginning of June. We collected more than one and a half million signatures in support of President Obama’s plan; and volunteers have made more than 65,000 visits to their local Congressional offices. Right now, we’re in the second leg of the national Health Insurance Reform Now Bus Tour and thousands of folks are calling their senators and representatives to show their support for the President’s plan.
We’ve had a good debate. But at some point the debate is over and it’s time to decide. Now is the time for action.
The President’s plan will accomplish three things: it will provide “security and stability” to those who have insurance, it’ll cover those who don’t and it will rein in costs for American families, businesses and our government - without adding a dime to our deficit.
For too long our system has worked better for insurance companies than it has for regular people.
Americans who already have insurance will benefit from increased security and stability. Millions of Americans can stop worrying about being one job change, one accident, one illness away from disaster. The President’s plan will make it illegal for insurance companies to deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition, limit the amount of coverage someone can receive, or cancel someone’s coverage when they get sick. It’ll cap out of pocket expenses and stop companies from charging extra for preventive care.
And for the millions of Americans without insurance, reform will provide access to quality, affordable choices available through a health insurance exchange -- a kind of one-stop shop for health insurance plans.
Folks, inaction is not an option. The President has made the moral case for reform. He’s taken the best from Democratic and Republican proposals. He’s laid out a clear path moving forward.
Now, opponents of reform have a choice. They can either quit playing partisan games and propose a plan of their own, or they can start explaining why they think it’s better to do nothing, while rising costs continue to crush American families and thousands more lose their coverage every day.
“I am not the first President to take up this cause,” President Obama said, “but I am determined to be the last.” We are going to get this done.
I’ve always been a big believer that good policy and good governance is good politics.
We have two big elections coming up in 2009 – New Jersey and Virginia.
I’ll be frank: it’s just about the toughest time there’s ever been to be a Governor, and these are two tough races.
And the fact is, the party in power has lost these off-year Governor’s races in Virginia 32 years in a row.
Those are tough odds.
But we have two great candidates in Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine.
My friend Creigh Deeds has worked together with Mark Warner and me over the last 8 years to make Virginia the best managed state in America. He was a kid growing up poor in rural Virginia, raised by a working mother, living in a trailer and later on a tiny farm.
But, he dreamed big dreams and from family support and good education — he got ahead. With Creigh, it’s what you see is what you get – he’s a problem solver committed to delivering results. Recently, details about his Republican challenger, Bob McDonnell, have come to light that are making people question the direction he wants to take Virginia. His ideas about women in the work place, contraception for married couples and child care are out of step with mainstream Virginians. He’d take Virginia backwards and people are starting to wonder who Bob McDonnell actually is.
Jon Corzine and I ran for governor at the same time in 2005. President Obama was in New Jersey a few weeks ago for a big campaign event, and I hear the energy in the air was palpable. The GOP’s candidate has stumbled in recent weeks. Chris Christie’s been posing as a “reformer” and a “straight shooter” but it’s recently come to light that he may have flouted many of the rules and laws that he was charged with enforcing as a U.S. Attorney – from failing to list interest income and a loan he made to a subordinate on his taxes and financial disclosure forms, to likely violating the Hatch Act by planning for his run for Governor while the taxpayers were paying him to be U.S. Attorney.
Democrats have a big registration advantage in New Jersey. If we can continue to engage our people and get them energized, we’re going to pull this out.
We are also thinking about 2010. We strongly believe that Presidential success begets broader Democratic success – the more successful President Obama is the better for our candidates.
There’s no sugar coating it – it has the potential to be a tough year – the first Mid Term elections for a President’s party historically are. But our task will only be made more difficult if we don’t pass health insurance reform and if we don’t accomplish the other big things that the President has set out to do to bring the change to Washington that we all believe in.
But make no mistake – the President is committed and the DNC is committed to doing what needs to be done to win close races and defend tough seats.
We believe that if we fulfill the promises we’ve made, if we can help President Obama be successful, and if we can make sure that the American people know that our opponents have no plans of their own that we will be successful in 2010 and beyond.
President Obama inherited two wars, an economy in shambles, an escalating national deficit, a bruised reputation abroad and an American population dubious of Washington’s ability to make government work for them.
This President has been tremendously successful. And I’m proud of the work we’ve done on the air and on the ground to help him be successful.
Now, we’re going to take a quick look back at the work we’ve done over the last 7 to 8 months. This video provides a great summary of our work – it’s impressive and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.