On January 20, just before noon, following the law prescribed by the Constitution and its 20th Amendment, President George W. Bush will be sworn in for his second term in office.
While this won't be as dramatic a moment as when a president-elect takes over from a sitting president, it still is an event that underscores the remarkable process in which the citizens of the United States duly elect the leader of their country every four years.
This is a process that began with the Founding Fathers and continues today. No coup, no bloodshed-just an election, the counting of ballots, and a ceremony to swear in the Chief Executive. While we've seen hotly contested presidential outcomes in our history-our very recent history-it hasn't stopped the process of inaugurating the president at the appointed time.
Since the election November 2, President Bush has begun to lay out an agenda for what his administration would like to accomplish in a second term, with a focus on domestic policy. Social Security, tax reform, curbing frivolous lawsuits, and updating immigration laws are just a few of the items the president has outlined for his second term. Obviously, there will be a continued focus on the operations in Iraq, as well as the global War on Terrorism.
From my perspective in the House, there are several other issues I think must be at the top of our agenda. A reauthorization of the national highway program and enacting a national energy policy are two must-pass issues during 2005. The politics of a presidential election year scuttled the possibility of enacting both pieces of legislation in 2004.
Revising our transportation policy is absolutely essential for meeting the transportation and infrastructure needs of our country. The current transportation program expired in 2003, and we've been operating on an extension of that program since it expired. It's my hope that we can pass a transportation bill early in the 109th Congress so our states and communities can continue to address transportation issues. There are many important central Illinois projects slated to receive authorization under this bill, and further delays will only increase costs.
As for a national energy policy, it's my hope the new Senate will be able to overcome years of filibuster and finally pass this much-needed piece of legislation at the outset. The House has taken the lead on this policy and has crafted a bill that should have passed last year, only to be held up in the Senate. Ethanol, clean coal technology, and wind energy are just a few of the important parts of the bill that will benefit Illinoisans. Unfortunately, as with all legislation, we must start from scratch in the new Congress, which means the legislation will be under scrutiny from new committee chairs and new members.
Another issue that gained a fair amount of coverage late last year was immigration reform. This has been a very controversial issue as the president has talked about reform of our immigration laws, particularly towards Central and South American countries. Many members, especially in the House, are reluctant to create any programs that might allow for easier immigration or for amnesty for illegal immigrants. During the December debate on the intelligence reform bill, Speaker Hastert agreed to vote on immigration restrictions early in the 109th Congress.
As for Social Security reform, I've been very skeptical of programs to allow for any privatization of Social Security. I believe Social Security is a vitally important program for the senior citizens of our country, and it must continue to be a program future generations can rely upon. I'm not convinced privatization or allowing personal investments is the prudent course for Social Security. All one needs to do is look at diminished 401k accounts after the stock market took a downturn to realize a person's Social Security could be greatly reduced if private investment is allowed.
While these are just a few of the issues I expect Congress will address in the 109th Congress, there are many more issues that will arise over the next two years. We'll also deal with the 13 annual appropriations bills, a process that funds your federal government. The new Congress will be sworn in January 4, but the session won't really get underway until after the president's inauguration January 20. It promises to be an interesting and exciting time during the next Congress, and I look forward to working with President Bush during his second term. IBI