2004 US Republican Party Platform/5
STRENGTHENING OUR COMMUNITIES
"The measure of compassion is more than good intentions, it is good results. By being involved and by taking responsibility upon ourselves, we gain something…. We contribute to the life of our country. We become more than taxpayers and occasional voters, we become citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens who hear the call of duty, who stand up for their beliefs, who care for their families, who control their lives, and who treat their neighbors with respect and compassion."
- — President George W. Bush
Community is more than just a set of streets and sidewalks and homes. The strength of communities is the people who inhabit them, the American citizens who spend their days working, striving, and caring for their families, and advancing toward the realization of their dreams. To ensure that all Americans have an opportunity to build better lives, we must provide the framework in which communities can flourish. That requires access to affordable and accessible health care, protection of America's environment and natural resources, the maintenance of public safety and prosecution of people who violate the peace of communities, guaranteed rights and equal opportunities for all members of society, and compassionate help for our fellow citizens who are trapped in unhealthy or harmful situations. Republicans know that the heart and soul of America are found in communities across the nation. We honor the individual character and diversity of communities throughout America, and we seek to help citizens strengthen the places they call home.
Promoting Affordable, Accessible Health Care
Republicans recognize that health care is intrinsic to every family's economic comfort. Americans must have the security to know that the next illness will not wipe out their savings or drive them into debt. We appreciate the fact that market-based health care has given America the most advanced medical system in the world. Proposals discussed earlier, such as Health Savings Accounts and Association Health Plans, provide economic benefits while also making health care more consumer-driven and increasing access to high-quality, affordable health care. We reject any notion of government-run universal health care because we have seen evidence from around the world that government-run health care leads to inefficiencies, long waiting periods, and often substandard health care. And we applaud efforts by President Bush and the Republican Congress to reform the broken medical liability system that is raising health care costs and limiting patients' access to doctors – doctors who are being driven out of their practices by excessive medical liability costs. We support continued efforts to make health care more affordable, more accessible, and more consumer-driven.
In 2003, the Congress passed and President Bush signed historic legislation that strengthens and adds a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The new prescription drug benefit will be available to 40 million seniors and people with disabilities on January 1, 2006. Until that time, beneficiaries have access to immediate and significant savings on prescription drugs through Medicare-approved prescription drug discount cards. Since drug discount cards became available on June 1, four million Medicare beneficiaries have enrolled in the program and 100,000 more enroll each week. Seniors are saving up to 30 percent off the retail price of brand name drugs and up to 60 percent off the price of generic drugs. In addition, more help is available for those who need it most. Low-income seniors receive $600 this year and next year to assist them with the costs of their prescriptions.
Under the new drug benefit, seniors who like the coverage they have today can keep it. The new law will encourage employers to continue their retiree health benefits by offering them subsidies for their current plans and giving them the option to supplement the new Medicare drug benefit in the same way they supplement current Medicare doctor and hospital benefits.
The Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act improves many facets of the Medicare program. It increases funding for doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, especially in rural areas where reimbursement levels are far below what is paid in other regions of the country. The new law will also transform Medicare into a program that not only enables the treatment of disease, but helps people stay healthy. In addition to a new "Welcome to Medicare" physical, the program will contain new services and screenings to help detect and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and other major illnesses.
We also applaud the addition of income relation for the Medicare Part B premium to further protect the Medicare program for the future and to protect low income seniors from increased costs.
We applaud the President and Republicans in Congress for their determination to follow through on this promise to America's seniors. While others spent many years talking about adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, this President and this Congress got it done.
Community Health Centers
To improve access for the underserved, the Republican Congress and the White House have championed the largest expansion in the history of the community health centers program. Community health centers are locally-controlled, private providers of primary and preventive care services in the most underserved communities in the country. Health centers are not federal providers. Funds are awarded competitively to underserved communities through the federal grant program. Community health centers provide access to doctors and nurses regardless of a patient's ability to pay. One in four children from low-income families receives health care at community health centers.
The President and Congress have already made it possible for community health centers to serve an additional 3 million Americans – a total of 13 million – as part of the President's five-year plan to fund 1,200 new or expanded sites to serve an additional 6.1 million people. Today, there are more than 600 new or expanded health centers delivering preventive and primary care to patients in medically underserved communities across America. We endorse plans to continue increasing access to community health centers, so that uninsured and low-income Americans have reliable options for receiving high-quality medical care.
Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
The President has worked to help states develop new approaches to expand coverage in their Medicaid and SCHIP programs. Waivers and state plan amendments approved by the Department of Health and Human Services have expanded eligibility under these programs to more than 2.6 million children and improved benefits for more than 8 million children and adults since 2001. By working with governors of both parties, the Bush Administration is fostering the creation of innovative approaches to health care access and delivery by the states. We support enhancing efforts to reach the parents of children who are eligible for SCHIP so that more children receive health coverage.
Health Insurance Tax Relief
We applaud the President's commitment to increasing health coverage for all Americans. He proposed a refundable tax credit that will make health insurance more affordable to millions of Americans who do not have employer-provided insurance or public insurance. The Treasury Department estimates the tax credit will extend insurance to between four and five million Americans.
The Trade Promotion Authority bill, supported by the Republican Congress and signed by President Bush, provides a tax credit to help workers obtain health insurance coverage if they have lost their jobs due to international trade. The tax credit has helped thousands of displaced workers get insurance coverage.
As Republicans, we hold dear the health and vitality of our families. Our efforts to build healthier families must begin with women – our mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and granddaughters. Women have unique health care needs. They are underrepresented in medical research and often do not have access to the appropriate level of medical care and treatment. Across this country, and at all levels of government, Republicans are aggressively developing health care initiatives targeted specifically at the needs of women – through expanded research, treatment, disease management, prevention, and screening initiatives.
The enormous increases in the budget of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) brought about by the Republican Congress and President Bush are making possible groundbreaking clinical trials and new research into diseases and health issues that disproportionately affect women. This new research also has yielded important discoveries pertaining to conditions that affect the elderly, the majority of whom are women, and should promote future benefit.
The increasing focus upon health care for the elderly holds promise for advances in the treatment of osteoporosis, heart disease, and other ailments that should no longer be considered the inevitable price of old age. We also are leading efforts to reach out to underserved and minority female populations, where disparities persist in life expectancy, infant mortality, and death rates from cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. Moreover, we favor increased efforts – both through expanded research and expanded care – to improve maternal and child health care, as well as health care services for women before, during, and after pregnancy.
Republicans are dedicated to pursuing women's health care initiatives that include access to state-of-the-art medical advances and technology; equality for women in the delivery of health care services; medical research that focuses specifically on women; appropriate representation of women in clinical trials; expanded access to prevention, screening, health promotion, chronic care, and disease management services; and direct access to women's health providers.
Eliminating Health Care Disparities
Disparities in health and health care based upon race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or geography are unacceptable. Historically, African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have experienced poorer health outcomes and received lower-quality care than the majority of Americans. For example, infant mortality rates are twice as high among African Americans as whites, and African American children are twice as likely to have asthma and six times as likely to die from asthma as white children. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Latino populations is four times higher than among whites while the prevalence among African Americans is nine times higher than that of whites. In addition, Hispanics are nearly twice as likely to die from diabetes as whites, and African American adults are almost twice as likely to die from heart disease as whites. There is also strong evidence that people living in rural and other non-metropolitan areas, regardless of their race or ethnicity, are more likely to experience access problems and poorer health outcomes. Republicans are committed to addressing these health and health care disparities.
Progress has been made in recent years in a number of areas, including enhancement of federal research on health disparities, identification of barriers to care for our increasingly diverse population, expansion of the number of health professionals who are committed to serving minority and underserved patients and their communities, and improvement in the quality of care for uninsured and underserved populations. Republicans believe we must build on this success and increase these efforts.
We strongly support initiatives to improve the quality of care delivered to all Americans. We applaud President Bush for supporting treatment of mental illness. Mental and physical illness should be treated equitably and fairly. In addition, we support improved training for health providers, including efforts to improve communication, collaboration, and understanding between patients and doctors. We are funding research to find cures and treatments for illnesses that disproportionately affect minority populations, as well as targeted, well-coordinated programs to prevent, manage, and treat these diseases. We support efforts to encourage qualified minorities to enter the fields of science and medicine.
Investing in Cutting Edge Medical Research
America is the world's leader in developing the medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs that have revolutionized health care. President Bush and the Republican Congress recognize and strongly support scientific advancement, especially in the area of biomedical research. Working together with President Bush, the Republican Congress has fulfilled its pledge to double funding for the National Institutes of Health. With increased funding, the NIH is now supporting nearly 40,000 projects, an all-time high. Government investment in biomedical research yields tangible benefits, resulting in decreased death rates, better access to health care, and a better quality of life for all Americans – especially for underserved and minority populations. Quality research provides benefits including disease prevention, early detection, and new, more effective treatments for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, and HIV/AIDS. Republicans continue to be active leaders in setting sound biomedical research policy and remain committed to placing a high priority on continued world leadership in research, while maintaining accountability for the use of resources and a responsibility to uphold the highest ethical standards.
Stem Cell Research
Republicans have supported, and will continue to support, important scientific research without undermining the fundamental ethical principles that have guided medical research in this country for decades. We especially welcome and encourage a stronger emphasis on adult stem cell and cord blood stem cell research, which has already provided benefits to hundreds of patients and provides real promise for treatments to help millions of Americans.
We recognize that President Bush made a carefully considered decision to allow federal funding for stem cell research for the first time, and did not affect stem cell research in the private sector. We strongly support the President's policy that prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to encourage the future destruction of human embryos. In addition, we applaud the President's call for a comprehensive ban on human cloning and on the creation of human embryos solely for experimentation.
In August 2001, President Bush stated: "[T]he hope [it] offers is amazing…. Yet the ethics of medicine are not infinitely adaptable. There is at least one bright line: We do not end some lives for the medical benefit of others." We wholeheartedly agree.
Long-Term Care Insurance
As Americans live longer, we must consider the costs of spending more years in retirement and the increasing health care needs associated with aging. There is a growing need for long-term care and it calls for long-term planning, both by individuals and by government. We encourage, at all levels of government, regulatory flexibility and sensitivity to individual needs in nursing homes and related facilities. Sacrifices are being made by millions of men and women to care for their mothers and fathers. We support proposals by President Bush and Republicans in Congress to recognize and reward individual responsibility and compassion by creating an above-the-line tax deduction for premiums of long-term care insurance and allowing an additional personal tax exemption for taking care of an elderly parent at home.
Honoring America's Veterans
As Americans, we must honor our commitment to the 25 million veterans in the United States. America is dedicated to honoring its commitment to these patriots. Veterans have helped shape the American character, and their service represents the highest form of national service. President Bush and Congress have increased funding for veterans services, including substantial increases in Veterans' Administration (VA) health care funding. This additional funding has made it possible for the VA to improve health care access for veterans who need it most, including low-income veterans, those with service-connected disabilities, and those who need VA's specialized services. President Bush has twice signed legislation effectively providing "concurrent receipt" of both military retiree pay and VA disability compensation for combat-injured and highly-disabled veterans, thus reversing a century-old law preventing concurrent receipts. In addition, President Bush has fulfilled his promise to cut the disability claims backlog that existed when he took office and reduce waiting times for veterans seeking initial medical care. We support more care to more veterans in more places where they need it most. We also applaud the President's efforts to maintain and expand our national cemeteries. And with World War II veterans dying at the rate of 4,000 a day, we note with great appreciation the opening of the nation's World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Our veterans have fought and defended this country in many wars and proudly raised the American flag on such far-away places as San Juan Hill, Iwo Jima, and Pork Chop Hill, and it has become a symbol of our American spirit and unity. We, as well as they, deplore the deliberate desecration of our flag and state that its deliberate desecration is not "free speech," but rather an assault against both our proud history and our greatest hopes. We therefore support a Constitutional amendment that will restore to the people, through their elected representatives, their right to safeguard Old Glory.
Respecting and Protecting the Environment
Republicans know that economic prosperity is essential to environmental progress. That belief is supported by compelling historical evidence. For example, over the last 30 years, air pollution from the six major pollutants decreased substantially, even as our population grew, our energy consumption increased, and the economy expanded.
Our Party's environmental policies are geared towards results. Thanks to President Bush's strong leadership and the commitment of Congressional Republicans to reform and innovation, air pollution has been reduced, water quality has improved, wetlands have been restored, and more than a thousand brownfields sites are being revitalized. Republicans also acknowledge the progress made by states and local communities in environmental stewardship efforts. As the laboratories of innovation, they should be given flexibility and authority to address many environmental concerns.
Finally, we link the security of private property to our environmental agenda because environmental stewardship has been best advanced where property is privately held. After all, people who live on the land, work the land, and own the land also love the land and protect it. President Bush and the Republican Congress will safeguard private property rights by enforcing the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and by providing just compensation whenever private property is needed to achieve a compelling public purpose.
We support President Bush's Clear Skies proposal, the most aggressive Presidential initiative in history to reduce power plant emissions. Clear Skies, through a proven cap-and-trade system, will reduce by 70 percent emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury. The market-based policies in Clear Skies, along with a 90 percent cut in pollution from diesel vehicles, will help states meet new, more stringent standards to protect public health. The President's plan also provides regulatory certainty, enabling power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies. These steps will lead to significant environmental improvements while ensuring a reliable, affordable electricity supply and keeping America's coal industry strong.
Revitalizing Urban Communities
Two years ago, President Bush fulfilled a campaign promise and signed legislation to clean up more of the abandoned and polluted industrial sites known as brownfields. So far, the Bush Administration has restored more than 1,000 brownfields to usable condition, which is more than were restored in the previous seven years. And that work continues. By prioritizing cleanup of brownfields, we are encouraging growth on existing sites and thus preserving greenfields and undeveloped land. We are also opening usable land for small businesses and residents in hundreds of communities, and creating thousands of jobs. We support these efforts to revitalize urban neighborhoods, both aesthetically and economically.
President Bush's commitment to national parks is producing results: parks are better managed, better funded, and better protected. Over the last four years, President Bush has been fulfilling his campaign promise to address the $4.9 billion maintenance backlog plaguing the National Park system. Republicans will continue to support President Bush's approach to improving national parks, and will move forward with common-sense management reforms that maximize visitor satisfaction and protect and conserve the parks' natural resources for future generations.
Land Conservation and Stewardship
Our air, land, and water have all become cleaner in the last four years – and this progress can be seen all across America. The 2002 Farm Bill provided unprecedented levels of funding to enhance conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers. And last year President Bush worked with the Republican leadership in Congress to pass the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. This law, based on the President's Healthy Forests Initiative, is reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire, saving lives and property, and improving the health of our forests.
Protecting America's Water Resources
America's wetlands serve as habitat for thousands of species of wildlife. They also help to trap pollution, clean the water, reduce the impact of floods, and stabilize shore areas. Three decades ago, the United States was losing wetlands at the rate of about 500,000 acres each year. President Bush is working with the Republican Congress and state and local officials to fulfill his new national goal to increase wetland acres and quality by restoring, improving, and protecting at least three million wetland acres over the next five years. To achieve this worthy goal, our Party also will focus on critical resource needs, including implementing a sensible plan to address coastal erosion in the Gulf Coast region.
Chronic water shortages in the West are one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the nation in the coming decades. We support efforts by the Administration to work with states and local communities in the West to expand the use of proven tools like market-based voluntary transfers through water banks and other water-marketing tools. We also endorse the President's efforts to work with the state of Florida to implement the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Our Party reaffirms the traditional primacy of states over water allocation. We steadfastly oppose diverting water away from the Great Lakes region.
Republicans are committed to developing an integrated, comprehensive national oceans policy. The President and Congress have supported the work of the U.S. Oceans Commission, which will offer important recommendations to improve management, observation, and conservation of oceans and coastal resources for future generations.
Global Climate Change
Republicans are committed to meeting the challenge of long-term global climate change by relying on markets and new technologies to improve energy efficiency. These efforts will help reduce emissions over time while allowing the economy to grow. Our President and our Party strongly oppose the Kyoto Protocol and similar mandatory carbon emissions controls that harm economic growth and destroy American jobs.
Modernizing the Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) serves a noble purpose, which Americans overwhelmingly support. Our Party remains committed to the goal of protecting species to enhance their chances for survival. Over the last 30 years, successes under ESA have been limited due to confrontation and polarization – including an ever-growing barrage of litigation preventing the Fish and Wildlife Service from protecting new species and recovering plants and animals already listed as threatened or endangered.
Republicans believe we can achieve greater progress in protecting species for future generations through results-based cooperative conservation programs and voluntary agreements that encourage private stewardship. The ESA must be updated to reflect new approaches that focus resources on species in need of recovery, not lawsuits. As with other major federal environmental laws, ESA should require peer-reviewed science, so resources can be focused on the most pressing recovery efforts. Just as importantly, the Act should encourage expansion of voluntary agreements with private property owners while ensuring that ESA enforcement respects and upholds private property rights.
Agriculture and Rural America
American farm and ranch families embody some of the best values of our nation: hard work and risk-taking, love of the land and love of our country. Farming is the first industry of America – the industry that feeds us, the industry that clothes us, and the industry that increasingly provides more of our energy. The success of America's farmers and ranchers is essential to the success of the American economy. The President put his words into action when he signed the 2002 Farm Bill, passed with strong support from Republicans in Congress. And President Bush continues to pursue and enforce international trade agreements that affect farmers and ranchers.
Republican policies are working, such as the recently revitalized WTO Doha round negotiations that will create new opportunities for U.S. farmers and ranchers by cutting foreign tariffs, expanding quotas for American products, and eliminating agricultural export subsidies. Since 2001, the U.S. farm economy has enjoyed tremendous improvement and is today in a position of historic strength. Farmers' net cash income for 2003 was $63 billion, an 11.5 percent increase from 2000. And farmers' equity reached a record $1.16 trillion last year, putting American agriculture in its best financial health ever.
There is much more to rural America than agriculture, ranching, and forestry. The kind of economic development that generates family-sustaining jobs is critical to small towns and rural communities. President Bush and the Republican Congress are promoting good schools, accessible health care, decent housing, safe drinking water and waste disposal, and efficient transportation. They also are expanding the availability of the Internet and broadband service to allow people in rural America to access world-class technology.
Revitalizing America's Cities
We are proud to meet in a city that enjoyed a new birth of vitality under the leadership of one of America's foremost Republican mayors, Rudy Giuliani. New York City evolved from a city plagued by crime, smothered by government, and void of opportunity, into one that attracts both families and young people looking to build careers and enjoy an urban lifestyle. New York's turnaround is a testament to the great power of turning Republican ideals into policies and solutions. By focusing on economic growth and opportunity, business development, crime control, and the revitalization of urban eyesores, we can inject fresh energy and opportunity into America's urban centers.
Lower taxes, passed by the Republican Congress, are stimulating development and investment in cities around the country. New homeownership opportunities are giving residents a stake in urban neighborhoods. Violent crime rates, including robberies and rapes, were down in 2003. The President's commitment to cleaning up brownfields and making them ready for productive purposes is transforming once-crumbling communities. His Faith-Based Initiative is extending the work of religious and charitable groups that operate in cities – serving meals, helping the homeless, and providing mentors for children. And the No Child Left Behind law is bringing new hope to parents and students in inner city schools.
President Bush is building on the successes of Republican mayors who bring opportunity to inner cities. At the same time, the President is working with mayors and local leaders across America to ensure that the unprecedented homeland security funding provided by the Republican Congress is spent on shoring up the security of major cities and preparing first responders for any potential future attack. By making America's cities places of opportunity and safety, attractive to citizens of all backgrounds, we ensure that urban centers remain vital and vibrant communities.
The District of Columbia
Washington, D.C., is a special responsibility of the federal government and should be a model for urban areas throughout the country. The city's downhill slide was stopped in the 1990s, both through its own internal efforts and through the active intervention of Congressional Republicans. The D.C. homebuyer's tax credit helped to revitalize marginal neighborhoods and should be reinstated. A landmark tuition assistance act opened the doors of America's public colleges and universities to residents of the District. And, thanks to President Bush acting in concert with Republicans in Congress, District elementary and high school students are now benefiting from the $14 million D.C. School Choice initiative – the first federally-funded school choice demonstration program.
Local government reform is an issue of importance to both Congress and residents of the District. Recent city administrations have made great strides in improving the operations of city government and, as these efforts continue, we support yielding more budgetary and legal autonomy to local elected officials.
As the seat of our federal government and a likely target of the September 11th attacks, Washington, D.C. also plays a critical role in homeland security. The federal government should continue to work closely with city officials to ensure maximum public safety for both residents of and visitors to the District, and respect the unique budgetary constraints under which the city operates.
We respect the design of the Framers of the Constitution that our nation's capital has a unique status and should remain independent of any individual state.
Combating Chronic Homelessness
We support efforts to end chronic homelessness by providing support services and housing for chronically homeless individuals. Although these individuals comprise roughly ten percent of the homeless population, they consume a disproportionately large share of all homeless emergency services because their housing, health, and other needs have not before been comprehensively addressed. By taking on the toughest cases, we can bring help and hope to individuals who may feel that society long ago left them behind.
Protecting Our Rights, Fighting Criminals, and Supporting Victims
Republicans and President Bush strongly support an individual right to own guns, which is explicitly protected by the Constitution's Second Amendment. Our Party honors the great American tradition of hunting and we applaud efforts by the Bush Administration to make more public lands available to hunters, to increase access to hunting clinics and safety programs for children and adults, and to improve opportunities for hunting for Americans with disabilities.
We believe the Second Amendment and all of the rights guaranteed by it should enable law-abiding citizens throughout the country to own firearms in their homes for self-defense. To protect the rights and safety of law-abiding citizens, the Congress passed and President Bush signed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which allows active and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed guns in public while off-duty. We support efforts by the Administration and Congress to enhance the instant background check system for gun purchases and to ensure that records of lawful transactions are destroyed in a timely manner. We applaud Congressional Republicans for seeking to stop frivolous lawsuits against firearms manufacturers, which is a transparent attempt to deprive citizens of their Second Amendment rights. We oppose federal licensing of law-abiding gun owners and national gun registration as a violation of the Second Amendment and an invasion of privacy of honest citizens.
We agree that the best way to deter crime is to enforce existing laws and hand down tough penalties against anyone who commits a crime with a gun. This approach is working. Since Project Safe Neighborhoods was instituted in 2001, hundreds of new federal, state, and local prosecutors have been hired to target criminals who use guns. Prosecutions are up 68 percent, and the violent crime victimization rate is down 21 percent. The Republican Party and President Bush support a federal Constitutional amendment for victims of violent crime that would provide specific rights for victims protected under the U.S. Constitution. We support courts having the option to impose the death penalty in capital murder cases. We praise President Bush and Republicans in Congress for the measures they have taken to protect pregnant women from violent crime by passing Laci and Conner's law, which recognizes the common-sense proposition that when a crime of violence against a pregnant woman kills or injures her unborn child, there are two victims and two offenses that should be punished.
Helping Ex-Offenders Contribute to Society
This year, more than 600,000 inmates will be released from prison. Studies show that, without intervention, approximately two-thirds will likely be rearrested within three years of their release. The President has proposed a four-year, $300 million initiative to reduce recidivism and help released inmates contribute to their communities. The initiative will harness the resources and experience of faith-based and community organizations in providing job training and placement services to 50,000 non-violent adult ex-offenders, transitional housing for up to 30,000, and voluntary mentoring support for those desiring it.
Promoting Drug-Free Communities
Drug abuse and addiction ruin lives. There can be no debate about it. Every adult has a responsibility to teach children about the dangers of drugs – in terms of both physical harm and potential death, as well as lost opportunities for success. After witnessing eight years of Presidential inaction on the war against drugs during the prior Administration, we applaud President Bush for his steady commitment to reducing drug use among teens. The Administration recently exceeded its two-year goal of reducing drug use among young people. The most recent survey shows an 11 percent drop between 2001 and 2003 in the use of illicit drugs by teenagers. Among teens, some drugs— such as LSD— have dropped to record-low levels of use. For other drugs, we are seeing the lowest levels of use in almost a decade.
To continue this progress, we must ensure that jail time is used as an effective deterrent to drug use and support the continued funding of grants to assist schools in drug testing. At the same time, we should make drug treatment available to people willing to take the courageous step of admitting they have a problem and working hard to overcome it. The President's Access to Recovery (ATR) program is giving individuals seeking drug treatment expanded access to effective providers through a new voucher program.
Faith-Based and Community Initiatives
The renewal of entire communities is an awesome task that involves one human face, and one human heart at a time. But the American people have a long and seasoned history of working wonders. Government does have a role to play, but as a partner, not a rival, to the armies of compassion. These forces have roots in the areas they serve, often based in local churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples. Their leaders are people to whom the disadvantaged are not statistics, but neighbors, friends, and moral individuals created in the image of God.
We applaud President Bush's efforts to promote the generous and compassionate work of America's faith-based and neighborhood charities. The President established the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the White House to coordinate federal, state, and local efforts to tear down barriers that have prevented religiously affiliated groups from applying for government grants on an equal footing with secular organizations. While the federal government must not promote religious activity, advocate on behalf of any religion, or fund any organization that discriminates on the basis of religion when providing taxpayer-funded services, no organization should be disqualified from receiving federal funds simply because it displays religious symbols, has a statement of faith in its mission statement, or has a religious leader on its board.
As a result of the President's leadership, the federal government is ending discrimination against faith-based organizations and now welcomes these groups as partners and allies in the effort to deliver social services to people in need. Faith-based groups must show that their programs are effective at providing help – whether it be serving the needs of the homeless, mentoring children, or helping Americans who battle addiction. Faith can often be a crucial element in the struggle to overcome personal challenges – and now Americans have the option of receiving treatment that meets their physical as well as spiritual needs. We commend the President for his steadfast support of people and institutions of faith, and we urge the Congress to act on legislative proposals to enhance private-sector works of charity and compassion. We also affirm that the hiring rights of religious organizations must be maintained so that religious charities do not have to abandon their religious character in order to provide publicly funded services.
Calling Americans to Service
We support the President's efforts to encourage volunteer service and civic involvement to strengthen our communities and our nation, and to help people in need. In 2002, the President called on all Americans to dedicate at least two years or 4,000 hours over the course of their lifetimes to serving others, and created the USA Freedom Corps to strengthen America's culture of service. Today more than 63 million Americans are answering the call to serve. The number of volunteers has increased by 4 million since 2002. The new Citizens Corps is training people to respond to law enforcement and emergency needs in more than 1,300 communities across America and Peace Corps enrollment is at its highest level in 28 years.
Ensuring Equal Opportunities
Our nation is a land of opportunity for all, and our communities must represent the ideal of equality and justice for every citizen. The Republican Party favors aggressive, proactive measures to ensure that no individual is discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin, gender, or other characteristics covered by our civil rights laws. We also favor recruitment and outreach policies that cast the widest possible net so that the best qualified individuals are encouraged to apply for jobs, contracts, and university admissions. We believe in the principle of affirmative access – taking steps to ensure that disadvantaged individuals of all colors and ethnic backgrounds have the opportunity to compete economically and that no child is left behind educationally. We support a reasonable approach to Title IX that seeks to expand opportunities for women without adversely affecting men's athletics. We praise President Bush for his strong record on civil rights enforcement, and for becoming the first President ever to ban racial profiling by the federal government. Finally, because we are opposed to discrimination, we reject preferences, quotas, and set-asides based on skin color, ethnicity, or gender, which perpetuate divisions and can lead people to question the accomplishments of successful minorities and women.
The foundation of our democratic republic is our commitment to conducting free and fair elections. Unfortunately, in November 2000, too many people believed they were denied the right to vote. Many African Americans, Hispanics, and others fear they may lose the right to vote because of inaccurate or insecure technology or because of a rolling back in the gains made by the passage of civil rights legislation. Our national commitment to a voting process that has integrity was underscored in 2002 when the Congress passed and the President signed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). We will continue to do all we can to ensure that every lawful vote counts for all Americans.
Removing Barriers for Americans with Disabilities
We support the New Freedom Initiative, President Bush's plan for fully integrating Americans with disabilities into all aspects of American life. The New Freedom Initiative is helping Americans with disabilities by increasing access to assistive technologies, expanding educational opportunities, increasing the ability of Americans with disabilities to integrate into the workforce, and promoting increased access into daily community life. These are strong efforts to help Americans with disabilities lead independent, fulfilling lives.
We applaud the President and Congress for increasing funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that eligible students with disabilities be provided a free, appropriate public education. We also endorse efforts to protect children and their parents from being coerced into administering a controlled substance in order to attend school.
The federal government has a special responsibility, ethical and legal, to make the American dream accessible to Native Americans. Unfortunately, the resources that the United States holds in trust for them, financial and otherwise, have been misused and abused. While many tribes have become energetic participants in the mainstream of American life, the serious social ills afflicting some reservations have been worsened by decades of mismanagement from Washington. In its place, we offer these guiding principles:
- Tribal governments are best situated to gauge the needs of their communities and members.
- Political self-determination and economic self-sufficiency are twin pillars of an effective Indian policy.
- Private sector initiatives, rather than public assistance, can best improve material conditions in Indian communities.
- High taxes and unreasonable regulations stifle new and expanded businesses and thwart the creation of job opportunities and prosperity.
We will continue to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make the tribal recognition process more transparent. We will strengthen Native American self-determination by respecting tribal sovereignty, encouraging economic development on Native lands, and working with them to reorganize the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service. We applaud President Bush for keeping his promise to eliminate within five years the maintenance and repairs backlog afflicting Indian schools. This promise will be achieved in only four years with funding in the 2005 budget. We support efforts to provide higher quality health care through the Indian Health Service. We uphold the unique government-to-government relationship between the tribes and the United States and honor our nation's trust obligations to them. We support efforts to ensure equitable participation in federal programs by Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Native Hawaiians and to preserve their cultures and languages.
In an age of new threats, we recognize the critical role tribes play in securing our homeland and contributing to our national defense. We honor the sacrifices made by Native Americans serving in the military today. They are upholding the high ideal of service on behalf of liberty. We will ensure that Indian veterans receive the care and respect they have earned through their service to America.
Supporting Judges Who Uphold the Law
In the federal courts, scores of judges with activist backgrounds in the hard-left now have lifetime tenure. Recent events have made it clear that these judges threaten America's dearest institutions and our very way of life. In some states, activist judges are redefining the institution of marriage. The Pledge of Allegiance has already been invalidated by the courts once, and the Supreme Court's ruling has left the Pledge in danger of being struck down again – not because the American people have rejected it and the values that it embodies, but because a handful of activist judges threaten to overturn commonsense and tradition. And while the vast majority of Americans support a ban on partial birth abortion, this brutal and violent practice will likely continue by judicial fiat. We believe that the self-proclaimed supremacy of these judicial activists is antithetical to the democratic ideals on which our nation was founded. President Bush has established a solid record of nominating only judges who have demonstrated respect for the Constitution and the democratic processes of our republic, and Republicans in the Senate have strongly supported those nominees. We call upon obstructionist Democrats in the Senate to abandon their unprecedented and highly irresponsible filibuster of President Bush's highly qualified judicial nominees, and to allow the Republican Party to restore respect for the law to America's courts.
The sound principle of judicial review has turned into an intolerable presumption of judicial supremacy. A Republican Congress, working with a Republican president, will restore the separation of powers and re-establish a government of law. There are different ways to achieve that goal, such as using Article III of the Constitution to limit federal court jurisdiction; for example, in instances where judges are abusing their power by banning the use of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or prohibiting depictions of the Ten Commandments, and potential actions invalidating the [[Defense of Marriage Act[[ (DOMA). Additionally, we condemn judicial activists and their unwarranted and unconstitutional restrictions on the free exercise of religion in the public square.
Leading the Fight against HIV/AIDS – At Home and Abroad
HIV/AIDS is one of the deadliest epidemics in human history. An estimated 38 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS and more than 20 million people have died as a result of the disease. This disease has created an estimated 14 million HIV/AIDS orphans – children who have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS. In the U.S., nearly one million Americans are believed to be infected with HIV.
We fully support the President's leadership in dramatically expanding resources to find an HIV/AIDS vaccine and in devoting at least $15 billion over five years towards global prevention, care, and treatment programs. Since taking office, President Bush has virtually tripled the United States' annual financial commitment to the global war on HIV/AIDS.
We support the emphasis on prevention in the President's Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS relief and endorse its embrace of the successful Ugandan model promoting the "ABC" approach to prevention that encourages abstinence and being faithful to one lifetime partner, along with other behavioral changes intended to eliminate or reduce exposure risk. We support the President's Advancing HIV Prevention Initiative that emphasizes routine testing, early diagnosis, ongoing monitoring, and elimination of HIV/AIDS in newborn babies and infants. We also support the President's efforts to double the amount spent on abstinence-only education and to promote healthy relationships.
We recognize the unique and special vulnerability of women and girls to HIV infection from abusive and coercive behavior beyond their control and encourage expanded efforts to address this problem through legal and cultural reform. We also support more efforts to eradicate sex trafficking and prostitution and their underlying causes.
We support the expansion of programs providing support for those orphaned by HIV/AIDS. We fully support the use of faith-based organizations as partners on the ground in HIV/AIDS relief efforts because they often have the most capability, credibility, and conviction for performing this important work in different communities, regions, and countries. We also believe treatment and prevention of drug abuse are essential components of HIV protection.
We commend the President for his support of the Ryan White CARE Act and call for its reauthorization. We believe that ensuring access to treatment must be the priority of HIV/AIDS care programs. The President's policy is to provide safe, effective, high quality HIV/AIDS drugs at the lowest possible cost. He has accelerated the FDA review process for HIV/AIDS drugs and therapies for use under the Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief.
President Bush led the G-8 in endorsing the establishment of a Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, a virtual consortium to accelerate HIV vaccine development. The President also announced plans to establish a second HIV Vaccine Research and Development Center in the U.S., in addition to the one at the National Institutes of Health. The new center will become a key component of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise.
Americans In The Territories
We welcome greater participation in all aspects of the political process by Americans residing in Guam, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and Puerto Rico. Since no single approach can meet the needs of those diverse communities, we emphasize respect for their wishes regarding their relationship to the rest of the Union. We affirm their right to seek the full extension of the Constitution, with all the rights and responsibilities it entails.
We support the Native American Samoans' efforts to preserve their culture and land-tenure system, which fosters self-reliance and strong extended-family values.
We support increased local self-government for the United States citizens of the Virgin Islands, and closer cooperation between the local and federal governments to promote private sector-led development and self-sufficiency. We recognize that Guam is a strategically vital U.S. territory in the far western Pacific, an American fortress in the Asian region. We affirm our support for the patriotic U.S. citizens of Guam to achieve greater local self-government, an improved federal-territorial relationship, new economic development strategies, and continued self-determination as desired with respect to political status.
We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the Constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the United States government.
Supporting Humane and Legal Immigration
The Republican Party supports reforming the immigration system to ensure that it is legal, safe, orderly and humane. It also supports measures to ensure that the immigration system is structured to address the needs of national security. America is a stronger and better nation because of the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants, and the Republican Party honors them. A growing economy requires a growing number of workers, and President Bush has proposed a new temporary worker program that applies when no Americans can be found to fill the jobs. This new program would allow workers who currently hold jobs to come out of the shadows and to participate legally in America's economy. It would allow men and women who enter the program to apply for citizenship in the same manner as those who apply from outside the United States. There must be strong workplace enforcement with tough penalties against employees and employers who violate immigration laws. We oppose amnesty because it would have the effect of encouraging illegal immigration and would give an unfair advantage to those who have broken our laws.
To better ensure that immigrants enter the United States only through legal means that allow for verification of their identity, reconnaissance cameras, border patrol agents, and unmanned aerial flights have all been increased at the border. In addition, Border Patrol agents now have sweeping new powers to deport illegal aliens without having first to go through the cumbersome process of allowing the illegal alien to have a hearing before an immigration judge. We support these efforts to enforce the law while welcoming immigrants who enter America through legal avenues.