Following is the text of the Democratic response by Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell (Maine) to President Bush's televised address:
I speak tonight not for the Democratic Party but for America's future. For more than a decade, the United States has endured budget deficits that sap our economic strength. When you have a deficit, there are only two things you can do: cut spending or increase revenue. This agreement does both.
It cuts spending, military and domestic. It raises taxes.
The president has asked you to support the budget agreement. The Democratic leadership in Congress joins in that appeal. We recognize that this budget demands sacrifice from all Americans. But if enacted, it holds the promise of restoring a sound economy from which all Americans will benefit.
The agreement is a compromise. It's not what the president, working alone, would have preferred. It's not what we Democrats, working on our own, would have produced. Neither side got all it wanted.
And many are asking, "Why did it take so long?" The answer is simple. What delayed us for months is what has divided us for years. Democrats and Republicans have deep differences over values and priorities.
We prefer a budget that asks more from the wealthy and less from the elderly. But when the president asked us to join in rewriting his budget, we agreed because the nation is more important than partisan differences.
When the president asked us to help work out a compromise, he got our help. Now we hope that members of his party, the Republican members of Congress, will also set aside partisan differences, as we have done, and join us in doing what's right for our country.
Two centuries ago, the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia was drawing to a close. The delegates had quarreled for months. Now they were to vote on a difficult compromise. Benjamin Franklin, 81 years old, rose slowly and said to his fellow delegates, "I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not approve. But I doubt whether any other convention may be able to make a better constitution, for when you assemble men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, their selfish views. From such an assembly, can a perfect production be expected? I consent to this constitution because I expect no better and because I am not sure it is not the best."
Of course, no budget can be compared with the Constitution, but Franklin's point applies. Every human work is imperfect, and that's certainly true of this budget.
But it's also true that for America's economic future, we have to pass it. With your help, we will.
Thank you and good night.