Sebelius Conciliatory in Democrats' Response to Bush Address
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, responding to President Bush's State of the Union address, told Americans last night that "time is running out" for solutions to the nation's problems and urged Republican lawmakers not to wait until Bush leaves office to help "restore America's role in the world."
Speaking from the living room of her Topeka residence, Sebelius, a Democrat, struck largely conciliatory chords. She said Bush and the Democratic majority in Congress need to work together over the last year of his term "to get real results," renew people's optimism and "transform America."
Americans "are not nearly as divided as our rancorous politics might suggest," she said. She repeatedly called on Bush to "join us" and "get to work" on such matters as energy security, global warming and the United States' worldwide reputation.
She also urged him to sign a bill, which he has twice vetoed, to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, saying this would be "a first step in overhauling our health-care system."
Sebelius's remarks came after a flurry of harsher Democratic criticism. Party leaders accused Bush of hypocrisy for his State of the Union condemnation of "congressional earmarks." Democratic leaders said that the appropriations for pet projects in lawmakers' home states skyrocketed during the first six years of Bush's presidency, when Republicans controlled Congress, and that the president lacks the credibility to make them an issue now.
Considered a rising star in the Democratic Party, Sebelius, 59, won reelection in a landslide in 2006, beating her GOP challenger by 17 points in a state that reliably votes Republican in presidential elections.
Sebelius supports abortion rights and opposes capital punishment. She chaired the Democratic Governors Association last year and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in the November election.
Instead of offering the usual "partisan response" to the president's annual address, Sebelius said last night that she would take a "slight detour." "I hope to offer something more: an American response," she said.
Sebelius welcomed Bush's "encouraging" remarks that he and Congress are moving quickly on an economic stimulus package. But, she said, "you and I know that a temporary fix is only the first step." The struggling economy requires urgent action, then "sustained attention," she said. "Families can't pay their bills. They are losing their jobs and now are threatened with losing their homes," she said.
Sebelius leveled some of her sharpest criticism at Bush's Iraq war policy, saying the United States has paid a heavy price while challenges have gone unmet at home. "America's foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies," she said.