Chattanooga Times Free Press - Edward Lee Pitts
WASHINGTON — President Bush outlined a domestic agenda Tuesday in his State of the Union address that included a global-competitiveness initiative championed by U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
Sen. Alexander touted the issue of global competitiveness at a White House meeting in late 2005. He said science and technology are key elements to winning the war on terror, bolstering the nation’s economy and obtaining energy independence.
The senator said he has 60 Senate co-sponsors for bills he introduced last week that are designed to address science and technology shortcomings and energy independence.
"All it was lacking was the president putting it front and center in his agenda, and it got that tonight," Sen. Alexander said. "This makes it very likely the bills will move."
Sen. Alexander said his colleagues have scheduled hearings this month on his $9.5 billion legislative package, which is aimed at helping the nation bolster its declining competitive edge in science and technology.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he was confident that some portions of global-competitiveness package dealing with recruiting math and science teachers would pass this year. He said approval of the entire package depends on bipartisan cooperation.
Sen. Frist said the president’s proposal would create high-paying jobs that would boost the economy. He said he would put his priorities on passing medical liability reform, achieving affordable health care and reining in entitlement spending, all of which the president addressed.
U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., said he thought the president’s address was practical and not confrontational in tone, but it was lacking in one key area.
"I was disappointed there was not a greater focus on ethics," Rep. Ford said. "People must understand that for government to accomplish anything, the public must have confidence in it."
Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., said in a statement that bipartisan cooperation is the key for success in Iraq as well as combating problems at home.
"Only through a bipartisan effort can we win sooner," Rep. Davis said.
The president also touted an energy policy that Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said would lead to more jobs in Tennessee.
Rep. Wamp said the president’s energy comments show that his oil background will not keep him from supporting other fuel sources.
"The president is now singing our song," Rep. Wamp said. "Those technologies mean jobs in the Tennessee Valley, and those technologies mean the solution to our energy problems and our long-term security and prosperity."
Sens. Frist and Alexander are joining President Bush today in Nashville for the president’s first post-State of the Union speech.