Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN)
Southern Republican Leadership Conference
Memphis, Tennessee
March 11, 2006
[prepared remarks]

It’s great to be home in Tennessee.  And it’s great to be back in Memphis.

Karyn and I couldn’t be happier to be with you, who’ve been so good to us and to our 3 boys—with your letters, your prayers, your support—these last 12 years.

It was just 12 years ago that I made my first campaign stop here in Memphis.

Karyn and I had driven down for a meet-and-greet with the Shelby County GOP. It was raining cats and dogs that night, and we were sure that no one would show up.

But to my surprise – I’ll never forget – walking into the Holiday Inn to see 26 Shelby County GOP supporters.  I know it was 26 because I counted each and every one.

You never forget friends like that—the grassroots who made these 12 years possible, the grassroots who made our Republican Majority possible.

To those of you who came out that day and to all of you who who’ve been with me on that journey ever since — thank you.

Thank you for taking a chance on me.  And it was a chance.   I’d never run for public office.  I’d never served in public office.

People wondered, why bother?  Why not stick with what I knew best?

Well, day by day, listening to my patients, I was hearing about more than just heart disease.  I was hearing about problems that couldn’t be fixed from an operating room in a hospital.

I was hearing about a welfare system that trapped mothers in a cycle of dependency about health care costs that were driving hardworking families into debt.

Career politicians in Washington weren’t taking on the tough problems. They weren’t leading with long-term vision.

Washington had become a 2-year town focused on the next election instead of a 20-year town preparing for the next generation.

So I had the idea that maybe — just maybe — this outsider could go to Washington, could take a risk, could make a change.


As a doctor, I lived by a simple rule —“act with solutions.”

In an emergency when the patient is crashing, you don’t just talk about the problem.  You act.  You fix it.

My hope was that by leading on principle — Republican principles — and “acting with solutions,” I could help make a difference.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who thought America needed a change.

All across America people were looking for answers.

So that year you sent a Republican Majority to Congress.  A majority who stood for low taxes and limited government, personal accountability and fiscal responsibility.

A Majority who believed—as we believe today—that the strength of America isn’t determined by the hand of government, but by the power of the individual.

America’s strength is found—not in the halls of Congress—but in the genius and power of 300 million Americans with the freedom and opportunity to dream, to innovate, to achieve.

And government’s role is to protect that freedom; to enhance that opportunity…not stand in the way.


These last 11 years…those are the principles we’ve led by.


It’s not just a philosophy.

The Constitution spells out—and it spells out clearly—the process for filling vacancies on our federal courts.

The President names a qualified nominee, and the Senate provides “advice and consent.”

For 214 years, that’s the way it was done until 2003 when the Democrats filibustered one nominee, then another, then another.

Their litmus test was simple: if a nominee didn’t subscribe to a liberal, activist, ideological agenda, they didn’t get a vote.

So we led on principle – every nominee deserves a fair up-or-down vote.

I made it clear that if the Democrats didn’t stop using the filibuster to unfairly obstruct, I would – on May 23, 2005 at 2:30 p.m. – use the nuclear option.

No “ifs,” no “ands,” no “buts.”

Because we acted, 6 of the President’s filibustered nominees – are now proudly serving this nation as federal judges.

Because we acted, as we sit here today, a new Chief Justice – Chief Justice John Roberts – serves at the helm of the highest court in the land.  And, Sam Alito sits at his side.

And because we acted, today we’re one step closer to:

An America where activist judges can’t clear the way for government to seize your property and hand it off to a developer.

An America where activist judges can’t declare that a 14-year-old girl can walk into a clinic and have an abortion without her parents’ consent.

An America where activist judges can’t take it upon themselves to re-define the institution of marriage.


By reshaping our judiciary—Republicans have helped President Bush secure a legacy that will impact your children’s future more than anything else we could possibly do.

By the end of his Presidency, George W. Bush will have appointed, and this Senate will have confirmed, 1 out of every 3 Federal judges serving this nation.  Mainstream judges making lasting decisions who will reflect our conservative values, not just for years, but for decades to come.


We believe in limited government.

When you have freedom to save, spend, and invest as you choose, the economy has more freedom to grow.


So as the Democrats called out to raise your taxes.  Republicans responded with tax cut, after tax cut, after tax cut.

In 2001 we passed $1.4 trillion in tax relief.   2 years later, another $350 billion.

We cut taxes on income and marriage.

We doubled the child tax credit.

And we slashed taxes on capital gains and dividends in half.

And because we did, our economy has grown.

We’ve created over 5 million new jobs.

Unemployment is the lowest it’s been since September 11th.

70% of Americans own their homes.  And minority homeownership is at an all time high.

You won’t ever hear a Democrat admit it, but our tax cuts are working.

They’ve led to three years of record growth, and now is the time to make those tax cuts permanent.


And while we’re on the topic of taxes, you tell me what’s the most offensive tax of all?

You got it—the tax that actually punishes you for dying.

This May I’ll bring the death tax to the Senate floor.  And you have my word,  I will do everything in my power to bury the death tax once and for all.

The progress of the past 11 years rests on a simple philosophy.  Freedom and opportunity are the building blocks for a more hopeful future for every American.  As I look to our future, we are called to lead on that principle.


An example: we are the Party of fiscal discipline.  A balanced budget is the cornerstone of governing effectively.

Failing to balance our budget and make ends meet burdens our children with higher taxes and impedes their path to prosperity.

Yes, these last 5 years, we’ve been hit with unexpected challenges — a recession, 9/11, homeland security, the war on terror, Katrina.  They’ve required action and investment.

But they’re not justification for a one-way ticket down a wayward path of wasteful Washington spending.


Now is the time to re-affirm our roots as the Party of fiscal discipline, beginning with the line-item veto.

If families in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio can tighten their belts, so can bureaucrats in Washington.

The solution is clear:

No more hidden earmarks.

No more mortgaging our children’s future.

No more bridges to nowhere.


And no more runaway entitlement spending.

This is our greatest challenge.

Today our federal budget is already heavily weighted toward entitlements — Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.  Every day, they’re gobbling up a larger and larger share of our budget.

If we do nothing—if we continue to let these programs run on autopilot—in just 30 years we won’t have a dime left to pay for anything else.  Not for defense.  Not for education.  Not for cures for cancer.

At risk is the security of the American dream.

Republicans must lead, and the place to begin is Medicare.  In 15 short years, Medicare will be bankrupt – 20 years earlier than Social Security.

The good news is we can fix it. We give patients more control, focus on prevention, and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse—to get more for our money.


And this is the difference between us and them.

We know what we believe.  We know where we stand.  We know where we’re going.

We see a problem, and we act.

They see a problem, and they obstruct.

We are the party of ideas and principles. They are the party of “no.”


Your healthcare costs are too high. Whether it’s a hospital bill, a co-pay, or a prescription drug, you feel the pinch.

And we know the best way to lower those healthcare costs is not to give Washington more control, it’s to put you in charge.

Some folks out there disagree. Folks with names like Hillary, Howard, Harry, and Ted.

For them, it’s not enough for the federal government to be on your backs, on your land, and in your wallets — they want to be there in the doctor’s office, too.

As a doctor, I’ve transplanted lungs, patched holes in babies’ hearts, and used lasers to cure cancer. I’ve been lucky to be a part of the best healthcare in the world.

But I’ve also seen a dad refuse a heart transplant because he didn’t want to saddle his kids with debt.  And sick patients throw away prescriptions because they couldn’t afford to fill them.

We have a solution: affordable health insurance that you own, that you control, that you can take with you throughout your life.  It’s the security that every man, woman, and child in this country deserves.

An America where you can step on that ladder of freedom and opportunity...and climb as far and as high as your God-given talents will take you.

An America where government won’t weigh you down, but help you climb faster and higher.


It’s the America I learned about long ago from a kid named Tommy.

And it’s Tommy’s story I leave you with today.


Come with me, to Meridian, Mississippi, at the turn of the 20th century, where you’ll meet Tommy, the son of the local train stationmaster.

One day Tommy’s dad spots an elderly woman crossing the tracks – her grandson in her arms – just as a train is barreling toward them.

Without hesitation, he jumps down from his post – races across the tracks – and pushes them both to safety.

In the heroic act, he is struck by the train, and young Tommy loses his dad.


To pay the bills, Tommy’s mom converts their home into a boarding house.

One boarder is a doctor – a Dr. Hairston – who takes young Tommy under his wing.

He takes him on house calls, and impresses upon him the humble aspects of the healing profession.

Young Tommy dreams of someday being a doctor, just like Dr. Hairston.

He works hard in school and goes on to college.  To pay his way through, he does every odd job imaginable – from washing uniforms to lugging students’ trunks from the train station.  He sends his mom every extra dime he has.


Tommy’s dream comes true.  He gets into medical school. And later opens his own medical practice.

When local health needs aren’t being met, he creates a new community hospital.

And he grows that single hospital into a network of hospitals around the state, building in rural communities where health care wasn’t available. And then expanding them around the country.

Yes, Tommy’s dream of healing as a doctor – one-on-one – grows to healing millions through hospitals all throughout America.

This little kid from Meridian.


Tommy died eight years ago. But his legacy lives on in my heart.

You see, Tommy was my dad.

And among the many things he taught me was that nothing is impossible.

In this land of infinite freedom, of unbounded opportunity nothing is impossible.

We will protect that freedom.

We will secure that opportunity.

We will hold fast to that shining American dream.

We will move this great nation forward.

And – right here from Memphis – the GOP will lead the way.