Reality Check: Did President Bush Keep Promises From 2006 State of the Union Address?

Jan. 23, 2007 — -- President Bush speaks before Congress and the nation tonight to deliver his priorities for 2007 in the annual State of the Union address.

But how well did Bush do on the promises he made this time last year?

Tonight, Bush is expected to defend his Iraq War strategy, and outline his goals this year for global warming and alternative energy fuels, as well as immigration, health care and education.

ABC News researched the promises Bush kept -- and the promises forgotten -- after his 2006 State of the Union speech.

Of the concrete promises the president made in his 2006 speech, ABC News found that only one-third of them had been kept.

However, analysts argue that the State of the Union speeches often include long lists of policies the president hopes to see the Congress act upon, rather than measures that lawmakers can reasonably be expected to see passed into legislation.

"The speech usually defines the direction of where a president wants to be, but not necessarily what can get passed," said John Fortier, a political scientist and research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

This year, Fortier said, Bush is further hampered by a Democratic Congress, which isn't as likely to pass his priorities as the Republican-led Congress last year.

Therefore the president will structure his speech around less contentious domestic issues such as the environment, energy and immigration, Fortier said.

"He knows he's constrained by the Democratic majority in Congress, and so he will focus on domestic issues where he has common ground with the Democrats," he said.

Promise Not Kept: Making Bush's First-Term Tax Cuts Permanent

In an effort to push the Republican-led Congress to pass legislation making his first-term tax cuts permanent, Bush said in the 2006 State of the Union speech, "We need more than temporary tax relief. I urge the Congress to act responsibly, and make the tax cuts permanent."

Bush's first-term tax cuts expire by the year 2011. While Democrats have said they won't seek to repeal Bush's major first-term cuts, they oppose legislation making the tax cuts permanent.

Promise Not Kept: Passing the Line-Item Veto

In last year's speech, Bush said, "I am pleased that members of Congress are working on earmark reform, because the federal budget has too many special-interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto."

Supporters of the presidential line-item veto power argue that it would serve to cut down on the process of slipping earmarks into spending bills. However, opponents argue the line-item veto would give the executive branch far-reaching powers over legislation created by elected representatives.

The House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 4890) on June 22, 2006, that would have given Bush a six-year line-item veto, and would have allowed him to strike spending and tax provisions from legislation without vetoing the bill.

However, a bipartisan group of senators opposed the measure, and the Senate never took up the House bill.

Promise Not Kept: Guest Worker Program

In his 2006 State of the Union speech, Bush said, "We must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty, allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally, and reduces smuggling and crime at the border."

However, the 109th Congress reached an impasse on illegal immigration, with the House Republican majority insisting on an approach that strongly emphasized enforcement.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan Senate group -- backed by Bush -- sought broader changes, including guest worker programs and pathways to legal status for illegal workers.

Promise Not Kept: Affordable Health Care

In 2006, the president said his administration would "do more" to make health coverage portable, so workers could switch jobs without having to worry about losing their health insurance.

Today, Americans are no closer to having portable health-care coverage, and health care is widely seen as a problem that needs fixing.

Promise Not Kept: Medical Liability Reform Legislation

Arguing that medical malpractice lawsuits drove good doctors out of business, President Bush urged Congress to pass medical liability reform.

The House passed a bill (H.R. 5) that would limit medical malpractice awards, setting a $250,000 limit. The House passed similar bills twice in the 108th Congress, but the measure repeatedly failed in the Senate to draw the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture or limit debate.

In 2006, Senate Republicans offered a new proposal capping liability damages at $750,000. They hoped that it would win them more support than previous bills. However, the measure failed in a vote in the Senate on May 8, 2006.

Promise Not Kept: Baby Boomers Commission

"I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," President Bush said in last year's speech.

However, a commission examining the impact of baby boomers does not exist and was never set up.

Promise Not Kept: Make the Research and Development Tax Credit Permanent

President Bush said he would encourage "bolder private-sector initiatives in technology" by proposing to make permanent the R&D tax credit. However, the federal R&D credit is currently expired.

Promise Not Kept: Pass Legislation to Ban Human Cloning

On March, 17, 2005, Republican Sen. Sam Brownback introduced a bill (S. 658) that would amend the Public Health Service Act or prohibit human cloning.

A companion bill was introduced in the House (H.R. 1357) in May 2005 by Republican Rep. Dave Weldon. However, the bills never made it out of committee.

Promise Not Kept: Switch Grass and Other Fuel Technologies

Bush raised eyebrows last year when he called for using switch grass as an alternative source for ethanol, but we are no closer today to seeing that become a reality.

ABC News reported in February 2006 that experts who worked in the alternative fuel industry said that research was already well under way, and that what's really needed was a commercial plant to convert switch grass to ethanol on a large scale.

Promise Not Kept: End Waiting Lists for AIDS Medicines in America

In 2006, President Bush said, "I ask Congress to reform and reauthorize the Ryan White Act, and provide new funding to states, so we end the waiting lists for AIDS medicines in America."

In Washington, the D.C. AIDS Agency has lost count of its cases because it has so many. The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act is federal legislation that addresses the unmet health needs of persons living with HIV disease (PLWH) by funding primary health care and support services.

The CARE Act was named after Ryan White, an Indiana teenager whose courageous struggle with HIV/AIDS and against AIDS-related discrimination helped educate the nation. However, Congress has not reauthorized the Ryan White Act.

Promise Kept: Lead Nationwide Effort to Deliver HIV Tests to Millions of Americans

In last year's State of the Union, President Bush said, "We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African-American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions, end the stigma of AIDS, and come closer to the day when there are no new infections in America."

On Sept. 21, 2006, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued "unprecedented" new guidelines, urging doctors and all health-care providers to make HIV screening a routine part of medical care for everyone from 13 to 64.

Promise Kept: Immigration Enforcement and Border Protection

President Bush began 2006 talking about the need for tough immigration enforcement -- and won. National Guard troops started arriving along the U.S.-Mexico border June 15, 2006, and 6,000 were in place by August 2006.

In his 2006 speech, he said, "Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection."

Promise Kept: Invest in Zero-Emission, Coal-Fired Power Plants

On Dec. 27, 2006, the Department of Energy announced the selection of five projects totaling nearly $12 million that targeted cost-effective technologies to improve the performance and economics of near-zero emission, coal-based power-generation systems.

Promise Kept: Hybrid Car Battery Research

On Dec. 6, 2006, the United States Advanced Battery Consortium, an organization composed of the Big Three U.S. automakers and half-funded by the Department of Energy, awarded a $15 million lithium iron phosphate battery technology development contract to A123Systems of Watertown, Mass.

The consortium awarded the contract in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop lithium iron phosphate battery technology for hybrid-electric vehicle applications.

The contract is for 36 months with a focus on systems that are high power, abuse tolerant and cost effective.

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