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Democrats: Time running out 'to solve our problems'

  • Story Highlights
  • Gov. Kathleen Sebelius calls on Bush to sign children's health insurance bill
  • "Join us" to create "green" initiatives, responsible energy policy, says Kansan
  • Sebelius on some VP short lists as possible Democratic running mate
  • Pelosi: Bush's "vision tonight may have been too small" for many challenges
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius called for "a new course" for the nation on Monday, saying Americans "have no more patience with divisive politics" and urging President Bush to join "the vast majority of Americans" to make needed change.

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"Time is running out ... to meet our challenges and solve our problems," said Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Speaking from Topeka, Kansas, Sebelius said her "American response" to the president's State of the Union address was "a national call to action on behalf of the struggling families here in the heartland, and across this great country" and "a wake-up call to Washington, on behalf of a new American majority, that time is running out on our opportunities to meet our challenges and solve our problems."

The 58-year-old Sebelius said that the American people "are not nearly as divided as our rancorous politics might suggest."

"The new Democratic majority of Congress and the vast majority of Americans are ready -- ready to chart a new course," she said, adding that restoring America's status in the world and improving the fight against terrorism would not have to wait for a new president if "more Republicans in Congress stand with us this year."

Sebelius, in her second term as governor of Kansas, called for President Bush to use the remaining days of his final term in office to "give the American people renewed optimism that their challenges are the top priority."

"Working together, working hard, committing to results, we can get the job done," she said. "In fact, over the last year, the Democratic majority in Congress has begun to move us in the right direction, with bipartisan action on significant initiatives to bolster our national security, raise the minimum wage, and reduce the costs of college loans.

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"These are encouraging first steps. But there is still more to be done."

Taking aim at America's economic struggles, Sebelius praised last week's quick bipartisan action on an economic stimulus package, action she called "encouraging."

"But you and I know that a temporary fix is only the first step toward meeting our challenges and solving our problems," the governor said.

Sebelius also called on Bush to sign the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill that has twice passed Congress only to be met by the president's veto. Video Watch Sebelius' complete speech »

"We know that caring for our children, so they have a healthy and better start in life, is what grownups do," she said. "Governors in both parties, and a large majority of the Congress are ready, right now, to provide health care to 10 million American children, as a first step in overhauling our health care system. Join us, Mr. President, sign the bill and let's get to work."

She also called for Bush to "join us" in creating new "green" initiatives, formulating a responsible energy policy.

On foreign policy, Sebelius said that five years of the war in Iraq have "cost us dearly -- in lives lost; in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same; in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere. America's foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies. See interactive of Bush speech highlights »

"Join us, Mr. President, and working together with Congress to make tough, smart decisions, we will regain our standing in the world and protect our people and our interests," she said.

Despite "uncertain times," Sebelius said that "new leaders on the horizon" portend certain change.

"In spite of the attempts to convince us that we are divided as a people, a new American majority has come together," she said. "We're tired of leaders who rather than asking us what we can do for our country, ask nothing of us at all.

"We're Americans sharing a belief in something greater than ourselves, a nation coming together to meet challenges and find solutions; to share sacrifices and share prosperity; and focus, once again, not only on the individual good but on the common good.

"On behalf of the new American majority -- the majority of elected officials at the national, state and local level, and the majority of Americans, we ask you, Mr. President, to join us. We're ready to work together, to be the America we have been -- and can be once again."

Earlier, Bush called on Congress to create reform programs for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He proposed a $300 million "Pell Grants for Kids" program and pushed for Congress to make his tax cuts permanent and to reduce so-called earmarks that set aside money for pet projects. Bush also urged passage of an anti-recession bill under construction on Capitol Hill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, issued what her office called a "rapid response" to Bush's address.

In it, she said Bush's "vision tonight may have been too small for many of the challenges we face -- but his pledge to 'cooperate for results' is right for the times."

On Iraq, Pelosi said Bush "gave no hope for an end to the war." On the economy, she said, "We will work with the president -- where possible -- to bolster the housing market ... restore confidence in consumer goods ... and to give our workers and employers more tools to compete in a global economy."

Since she moved into the governor's mansion, Newsweek has identified Sebelius as "one to watch." Time named her one of four "rising stars from the heartland," and short-listed her as one of the nation's five best governors.

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"Mark my words, Sebelius will be on everyone's VP short list in 2008," Democratic blogger Markos Moulitsas said on his Daily Kos Web site, as he applauded her 2006 success in wooing disaffected Kansas Republicans.

So far, Sebelius has downplayed the scenario. But she has begun to have an impact beyond the Midwest. During her first term, she visited National Guard troops serving in Iraq. Last year, she took on a high-profile national assignment, serving as chairwoman of the Democratic Governors Association. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About George W. BushDemocratic PartyKathleen Sebelius

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