Jan 10 2003


As we enter a new year, we have many important issues to face as a nation and as a Congress. We are still in the midst of a global war on terrorism, and the threat of rogue nations like Iraq and North Korea continue to increase and threaten peace worldwide. Domestically we face many challenges as well, including a struggling economy and important questions about homeland security.

Despite this uncertainty, I am not discouraged, but rather optimistic about the future of our nation and Alabama. Americans are resilient and resourceful, and we will confront these challenges like we always have and, together, help to build a stronger, safer nation for future generations. I want to take this opportunity to share with you some of the challenges I see and plan to tackle this year as we begin a new session of Congress.

With the close of the 107th Congress, I leave the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. I served on the Committee for eight years - four and a half of those years as Chairman and the last one and a half as Vice- Chairman. The importance and seriousness of my work on that Committee cannot be overstated. My responsibilities to that Committee took a tremendous amount of my focus, and I leave grateful that I had the opportunity to serve our nation in this important capacity. Although term limits for Committees require me to step down from the Intelligence Committee, I will continue to work with the President to ensure the safety of all Americans both here and abroad.

With the change in majority Congress, I now have the privilege to serve as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. This Committee will take up many important issues this year, some anticipated and some not anticipated.

The primary focus of my attention in the coming year will be to do whatever is necessary to further restore and ensure the integrity and credibility of our capital markets. I believe that the Committee and the Congress have an important and active role to play in achieving this goal and it will be my overarching concern.

I still firmly believe that the United States has the most transparent and vibrant markets in the world. So as we work to restore the confidence that has been lost in our markets, it is vitally important that we act thoughtfully and prudently in order to do no harm to the market as we seek to prevent harm to the market. History tells us that many times our markets are very capable of fixing themselves, so as we legislate, we need to be mindful not to disrupt these positive market forces while at the same time setting the kinds of standards and accountability we need to restore investor confidence, both at home and globally.

Another important issue we will face in this Congress is the issue of tax cuts to stimulate the economy. While I agree with those who say it is important to pay down the national debt, I believe we can do this in a responsible manner and still pay back surplus dividends to the American people. It is essential to reduce the tax burdens on Alabamians and all Americans in order to stimulate spending and the economy. This is one of the quickest ways to boost a slumping economy – putting money back into the hands of the people who earned it. I look forward to working with Congress and the President to come up with a responsible tax stimulus package that will ease the tax burden we all face.

Great challenges and great opportunities lie ahead in the 108th Congress, and must be approached with responsible leadership. I look forward to the year ahead, and to working hard for a stronger economy and safer America for all Alabamians.