Remarks of Chairman Tim Kaine in Philadelphia

Remarks of Chairman Tim Kaine

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

September 8, 2010

As prepared for delivery

Hello Democrats!

Before I begin—let me offer my thanks to Governor Rendell for that introduction.   There is a small group of Americans who have achieved the hat trick of being mayor, Governor, and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.  In fact, the club may just be two people—Ed Rendell and me.   I have long been an admirer of your Governor and all the great work he has done.  I also want to thank Emma for serving as the master of ceremonies for this event and for all the work of College Democrats here and across the country.  And thank you to Reverend Baker for our invocation.

Let me also acknowledge two special people who are busy campaigning today—your future Governor, Dan Onorato, and your future Senator, Joe Sestak.  These guys are running great campaigns and they are ready to lead Pennsylvania and its families to a prosperous future.

I want to acknowledge the hard work of our Democratic Members of Congress who have cast the tough votes and done the heavy lifting to move our country forward.  And of course all of our elected officials and candidates on the ballot this fall deserve our thanks.

I also want to acknowledge the work of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the coordinated campaign here and also the hard work of our local party committees, organized labor, the faith community, and all the other groups and citizens that will be integral to our efforts this fall.  We are a hard-working, grassroots party and it is good to acknowledge that right after Labor Day weekend.

Now, every one of you is here because you support President Obama and Democrats.  In 2008, you probably went door to door for his campaign or made phone calls on his behalf.  Some of you likely cast your first ballot for the President that year.  Others of you may still be waiting to cast your first vote—and will do so this November.

To all of you for whom that is the case—don’t let anyone tell you this election isn’t as important or as historic as 2008.  Because let me tell you—Congress is important.  Governors’ offices are important.  State legislative elections are important.   And these midterms are particularly important.

If you want the President to succeed, you have to make sure that he has good partners to work with.  The other guys want to take the country back.  But we need to have the President’s back.  And we do that by going back to the polls on November 2 and putting good Democrats in place to keep moving this nation forward.

The President can’t get anything done without the support of Congress.  I mean anything.  Without the support of Congress, the President wouldn’t have been able to make progress on the change the American people expect and demand.  From the Recovery Act that helped prevent a second Great Depression and the Affordable Care Act that makes sure that no one is ever again denied insurance because of heartless insurance company rules; to student lending reforms that make college more affordable for millions of America’s students and Wall Street reform that finally begins to hold big banks accountable.

The President could not have enacted that legislation without the help of Democrats in Congress.  And he can’t defend that legislation from Republican attack and repeal without Democrats in Congress.

Congressional Democrats have been essential to the President’s success—and they have been essential to America’s progress throughout history.

Almost every major piece of legislation enacted to help build the American middle class was passed by a Democratic Congress.  Almost every protection you count on was put into place by Democrats.

A Democratic Congress passed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

A Democratic Congress passed Social Security Act and Medicare.

A Democratic Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act which included the minimum wage.

Democratic Congresses passed the Equal Pay Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Democratic Party did those things because that’s who we are—we do things to help regular, everyday Americans and middle class families and small businesses get ahead.

Because of that, voters have always turned to the Democratic Party in tough times.

They turned to Democrats in the 1930s, when they elected President Franklin Roosevelt to end the Great Depression.

They turned to Democrats in the 1960s, when they elected President Kennedy to tackle the challenges of a new era.

They turned to Democrats in the 1990s, when they elected President Clinton to get the American economy moving again after more than a decade of failed Republican leadership and ballooning national debt.

And they turned to Democrats in 2008, when they elected President Obama to halt America’s slide into a second Great Depression, after suffering through a decade of failed economic policies that left families treading water while the wealthy few prospered and corporate special interests wrote the rules.

When the President took office, his top priority was to help hard-working Americans hold onto their jobs, their businesses, and their homes in the midst of the worst economic crisis in generations.  And his priority continues to be creating the jobs Americans need to succeed.  He is doing this by working with Congress to build a new path to economic growth—a path that relies on the American spirit of innovation and the strong work ethic of American citizens.

That’s why our President and Congress enacted tax cuts for 95% of working families and millions of small businesses.  That’s why they passed legislation guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work.  And that’s why they passed the Recovery Act.

As a result of the President’s economic plan, folks right here in Pennsylvania are going back to work.  In this state alone, the Obama Administration’s policies have helped to jumpstart 130,000 jobs for hard-working Pennsylvanians—just in the second quarter of this year.

In Philadelphia, 17,000 Pennsylvanians hit hard by the recession have been able to find help at Recovery Act-funded PA CareerLink centers.  When they came to those centers they had no work and little hope.  Some were struggling to pay the bills and surviving on credit cards.  Others were struggling just to keep their families in their homes.  Despite filling out application after application, they couldn’t find jobs.  But with the help of the CareerLink centers, many are now back at work or in training for a new career.

Across the country, the President’s economic plan has helped to spur private sector job creation.  The American economy lost private sector jobs for 22 months in a row beginning in early 2008.  But we have now gained private sector jobs for each of the last 8 months.  Up to 3.3 million people employed in June owed their jobs to the Recovery Act.  And an economy that was shrinking in 2008 is growing again.

Instead of sitting at home, those 3.3 million workers are helping to lay a new foundation for American growth and prosperity.  They are rebuilding the roads, rails, and runways that will help American businesses grow and add jobs.  They’re building the solar panels, wind turbines, electric car batteries, and other critical 21st century goods here in the United States instead of overseas in China and India.   They’re back at work making American cars—including the cars of tomorrow—vehicles with better gas mileage and reduced emissions.

For those workers that means the relief of a steady paycheck and the opportunity to get their heads above water.

For our country, it means a shift away from Republican policies that encourage the shipment of manufacturing jobs overseas and toward a future defined by good jobs with good wages and good benefits—the kind of jobs that helped build the American middle class.

For the first time in a decade, we have economic policies devoted to making products right here in America.   As President Obama has said, we’re not settling for number two in the world economy—under this Administration, the United States of America is again playing for number one.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party has not supported economic recovery.   Think about that for one second—in the midst of the worst economy since the 1930s, the Republican Party is standing against every effort Democrats have made to return America to prosperity.

Just now, there is a bill that has passed the House that will provide critical tax breaks and expand lending to America’s small businesses, the engine of our economy.  The bill has the support of business groups across the board.  Upon its signing, thousands of businesses will be able to get critical loans to hire employees and expand their operations.  Upon its signing, start-ups and small businesses will not have to pay taxes on capital gains.  The bill is fully paid for and will not increase the deficit by one penny.  But Republican Senators are using the filibuster to stop this important tool for small business success.

And today, President Obama will outline even more policies that would empower American businesses to invest in their companies, in our economy, and in American jobs.  But while President Obama is actively pursuing all options to power a more robust economic recovery, Republicans are promising even more obstructionism.

Instead of working with Democrats to help to rebuild our economy and the middle class, Republicans have opposed every effort to undo the economic damage that their polices created.  Instead of moving away from their failed economic philosophy, Republicans have dug in harder and stood in the way of progress.  Instead of working with Democrats to move this country forward, they’ve decided to stand with the same special interests that have hurt middle class families and small businesses for the past decade for their own short term political gain.  Republicans are more interested in positioning themselves for the next election than they are in supporting the American people for the next generation.

When President Obama fought for health insurance reform, Republicans chose to stand with big insurance and against reform.  The President was fighting so that mothers like Kelly Fraasch, a Pittsburgh parent whose daughter was born prematurely, don’t have to worry about mounting debts when their children are laying in a bed in an ICU.  But Republicans fought for the status quo.

When President Obama fought for the people of the Gulf Coast, promising to hold BP accountable and to see to it that Gulf Coast residents were compensated for their losses, Republicans stood with big oil and fought for BP.  In fact, one Republican Congressional leader went so far as to publicly apologize to BP for the President’s advocacy on behalf of Gulf Coast families.  Over 100 Republican members of Congress accused the President of a “shakedown” when he held BP accountable to families and businesses on the Gulf Coast!

When President Obama fought for student lending reform, by taking $60 billion in subsidies and breaks away from big banks and using that money so that students like you could earn a diploma without accumulating a boatload of debt, Republicans stood with big banks and against reform.

When President Obama fought for credit card reform, so that banks could no longer take advantage of American consumers with hidden fees or unfair rate hikes, Republicans stood with credit card companies and against reform.

And when President Obama fought for Wall Street reform, fought to put an end to the bailouts, and fought to finally hold big financial institutions accountable, Republicans stood with the very same special interests that helped to cause the financial crisis that has hurt millions of Americans and fought against that reform too.  In fact, while Congressional Democrats took vote after vote to try to put in place the basic financial reforms needed to empower and protect consumers, rebuild our economy, and lay a solid foundation for growth, Congressional Republicans were holding strategy sessions with Wall Street lobbyists to defeat commonsense reforms.

On each of these issues and more, President Obama and Democrats chose to stand with the American people so we could move America forward.  The Republican Party chose to stand with the special interests.

That’s the choice the American people face this November.  Do we move forward and continue to deliver the change we promised?  Do we take an economy that has gone from shrinking to growing and keep working to increase the rate of growth?   Or do we go back to the same failed economic policies that caused millions to lose their jobs, wiped out trillions in family wealth, and left the country on the verge of a second Great Depression?

President Obama and Democrats promised change, and we’ve begun to deliver it.  But there is much more work to do.  And we won’t get there by letting the Republicans regain control of either house of Congress.

President Harry Truman had a phrase for the Republican Party.  He called them the “do-nothing” party. It’s been more than 50 years since President Truman leveled that charge, but the name still fits.

And you know what’s worse than a do-nothing minority party in Congress?  Giving the do-nothing party the majority.

We can’t afford to let the economic recovery crumble while Republicans throw up roadblocks like their current efforts to block small business loans.

If Republicans win control of Congress, they’re going to do everything they can to reverse the progress that Democrats have made.  They’re going to turn back the clock on behalf of their special interest friends, their big donors, and the extreme right wing elements that are taking over the Republican Party.

The Republican Party doesn’t just want to go back to the “exact same agenda” they pursued during the Bush years.  They don’t just want to repeal the legislation President Obama and Democrats have enacted.  They don’t just want to take away the changes you worked so hard to bring about.  They want to take away the changes that your parents and grandparents and generations of Americans worked so hard to enact.

There are Republicans who want to roll back the Civil Rights Act.  They don’t believe in equal pay for equal work.  They want to cut a giant hole in America’s social safety net—declaring unemployment insurance unconstitutional, tearing Social Security apart, and ending Medicare as we know it.  And they don’t care who falls through that hole.

Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle has said the United States should leave the United Nations and that we should shut down the Department of Education.

Colorado Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck has said that Social Security—which guarantees that your parents’ retirement security is not subject to the bad bets of Wall Street investment banks—is horrible policy.

Alaska Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller has said that unemployment benefits are “not constitutionally authorized” and that we should end Social Security.

Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul has said that the 1960s Civil Rights Act should be open “to some discussion.”

Congressman Paul Ryan has vowed to balance the budget not by rolling back tax breaks for the wealthiest, but by increasing taxes on middle class families while slashing Social Security and phasing out Medicare.

And let’s look no further than the man who is already measuring the drapes for the Speaker’s office, Minority Leader John Boehner, for how Republicans would govern and what their priorities would be.  Just recently Mr. Boehner led Republican opposition to legislation to help states facing tough times keep teachers, firefighters, and police on the job. He said—now listen here—he said these people—those who teach our kids and run into burning buildings and walk the beat in our neighborhoods—are just a bunch of special interests.  Now, if that wasn’t bad enough Mr. Boehner and other Republicans also railed against how the bill was paid for which was by closing tax loopholes that encourage American companies to ship jobs overseas.

So, in Mr. Boehner’s world—teachers, police, and firefighters are undeserving special interests but companies which use tax loopholes to ship American jobs overseas deserve some type of special protection.  Incredible.

This is the same John Boehner who infamously handed out tobacco company campaign checks to Republican Members on the floor of the House some years ago and just this year plotted with Wall Street lobbyists in an effort to block financial reforms to protect American consumers from the shenanigans that nearly sank our economy.  And this guy wants to lead “the people’s House?”

These are the kind of candidates Republicans have put on the ballot this year—candidates whose vision for the future is to take us back to the same failed policies that cut taxes for millionaires, cut regulations for big special interests, and cut the middle class loose to fend for themselves.

When voters take a look at Sharron Angle, at Rand Paul, at Joe Miller, at Ken Buck, and the leadership of the likes of John Boehner, they are not going to like the direction in which Republicans would take this country.  This election isn’t just about generic polls, it’s about real candidates—and Republican candidates are looking backward instead of forward.

We’ve got to say “NO” to those Republicans and to their failed ideas.  And we’re going to do it.

Let me give you a case in point.

Right here in Pennsylvania, Republicans have nominated Pat Toomey as their Senate candidate.   For Pat Toomey—Wall Street wasn’t just a career—it remains a way of life.  He made a fortune on Wall Street pioneering the use of derivatives—the financial tools that contributed to the economic collapse. Later, in Congress, he fought to deregulate Wall Street.   And Pat Toomey’s most recent job was as the head of a powerful Wall Street special interest group—he’s said time and again that the only way to move the economy is to give more money to big corporations and the wealthiest few.

From working on Wall Street to representing Wall Street’s interests in Washington, Pat Toomey hasn’t changed his mind or changed his ways.  So we’ve got to say “NO” to Pat Toomey and “YES” to the responsible leadership of Congressman Joe Sestak.

And right here in Pennsylvania, Republicans have nominated Tom Corbett for Governor.  Tom Corbett has ridiculed Pennsylvania residents receiving unemployment compensation during the recession. So we’ve got to say “NO” to Tom Corbett and “YES” to the experienced Democratic leadership of Dan Onorato.

We’ve got critical races like these all over the country.

Now, if any of you think that I’m exaggerating—that the difference between Democratic and Republican leadership is not that big—let me remind you of what Republicans did the last time they were in charge.

The economic crisis that nearly brought our country to its knees was the end result of a decade of failed Republican policies.  President Bush and Republicans squandered a budget surplus, ushered in record deficits, invited economic trouble by relaxing regulations on Wall Street, and passed tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires—while the rest of America struggled not to lose their grip on the American Dream.

Anyone who lost their job, or didn’t have health insurance, or couldn’t pay the rising cost of a college education was out of luck.  While Republicans celebrated their party’s victories, the gap between the super-wealthy and everyone else became a chasm.  Median household income declined.  More American families were forced to live paycheck to paycheck.  And a crisis was building.  Even before President Bush left office, that crisis was in full swing.  In the last year of his Administration alone, millions of Americans lost their jobs.

Republicans won control of government by promising responsible leadership.  But they failed to provide it.  And when the bill came due—when their policies failed spectacularly—they passed that bill on to the American people.  The cost: millions of jobs and an entire decade of opportunity.  Gone.

Returning the Republicans to power today would be like giving the keys back to Herbert Hoover in the 1930s.

The American people aren’t going to do that.  We haven’t forgotten what Republicans did to our country.  We will not accept Republican leadership again.  We will not go backward.  We are going to keep America moving forward.

Democrats are going to continue to invest in American students.  Through the Race to the Top, the expansion of Pell Grants, new funding for community colleges, and other measures we’re going to make sure that young Americans have the opportunity not only to earn a diploma, but also to earn a college degree in the field of their choosing.  We’re going to make sure that America once again becomes a world leader in education—we’re going to graduate a higher proportion of college graduates than any other country.

Democrats are going to continue to invest in American small businesses.  Through tax credits and lending incentives we’re going to help small businesses grow their businesses here at home, and through the National Export Initiative we’re going to create more American jobs by helping sell more American goods overseas.

Democrats are going to continue to invest in 21st century green jobs and technologies.   Through investments in research and development, energy production, energy efficiency, and workforce training we’re going to make sure that our country is no longer dependent on others for the energy we need to power our future, and we’re going to guarantee that our workers are no longer dependent on others for the kinds of high-paying jobs that can support the American Dream.

And, as the President will outline today, Democrats are going to make sure that we reward businesses and entrepreneurs in this country who invest in research and development that keeps our economy and workforce on the cutting edge and that creates goods in the 21st century economy right here at home.

Democrats are going to continue to reform, reshape, and repower the American government to best support American opportunity, American workers, and American families—because we know that when you’re given an opportunity, you’ll take it.  That’s what has always made America great, and that is what will continue to make America great—Americans dreaming together, building together, and moving forward together.

So that’s our choice—to do what it takes to move Americans forward together.

Republicans have made their choice—to stand with the special interests and stand up for the failed policies of the past.

On Election Day, it will be Americans’ turn to choose.  They can choose Republicans who drove our country into a ditch.  Who have not offered a helping hand to the millions of middle class Americans they left stranded at the bottom.  And who have not presented a single idea for how to get America growing again.

Or they can choose Democrats who are helping us climb out of that ditch.  Who have taken the bold actions necessary to repair the damage caused by nearly a decade of failed Republican leadership.  And who are committed to doing everything within their power to help American families, workers, and businesses succeed.

I have faith that we can make that choice clear.  We can elect and reelect Democrats all across this country.  We can hold onto our Congressional majorities, put Democratic Governors into office, and win state legislative races.  We can do this if we do what we do so well—reach out to Americans in person, in their neighborhoods, at their doors, and on the phones.  We win tough races—like Mark Critz’s win in the special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th District earlier this year—by being strong on the ground and making it personal.  The other guys have all the TV ads that special interest money can buy.  But, they don’t have you—energized citizens fired up for positive change who are willing to work to make it happen.

We wouldn’t have won big in 2006 without you.  We wouldn’t have made history in 2008 without you.  We wouldn’t have passed health insurance reform without you.  You are the difference maker in 2010.  When the President says “I can’t do it alone”—which he has said from the very beginning of his campaign—this is just the kind of battle he is talking about.

Now, people tell me all the time that 2010 will be a tough year for us.  Hey, I was a civil rights lawyer, a mayor, and then had to lead my state through the toughest recession in 70 years.  I have faced tough odds throughout my career and am very used to this situation.  And, while I don’t know all of you—I do know this about you:

You don’t mind tough either!  Tough is what Democrats do.  We campaign tough, we win tough, we govern tough.  We have always been the underdog party and we always will be, speaking for regular everyday people throughout this great country.  We love a tough battle because the nation is counting on us at a challenging time and we know that, while change is never easy, we can’t make progress without fighting for it.

So, as we start the home stretch toward these midterm elections, thanks for being willing to keep up the battle for progress.  Thank you all for standing with the President, for standing with our Democratic candidates, and for your work to keep America moving forward.

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    Total Voters: 232

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