Bush Becomes President
On January 20, 2001, Bush
became the 43rd president of the United States. In his Inaugural Address,
President Bush called for "inclusion, not division," saying that America should
be united. The need for unity and cooperation was important in Congress as well.
After the election the Senate was evenly split-50 Republicans and 50 Democrats.
In May 2001 Vermont
senator James Jeffords left the Republican Party and became an independent. This
led to a historic switch in power, transferring control to the Democrats in
mid-session. However, in the midterm elections of 2002, the Republicans
regained control of the Senate and increased their majority in the House.
When assembling his
cabinet, President Bush sought people from different career backgrounds. He
appointed popular retired Army general Colin Powell as secretary of state. He
also named Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense. Rumsfeld previously served
as secretary of defense during the Ford administration. The Bush cabinet also
reflected much of the country's diversity, including three African Americans,
two Asians, and one Latino.
In addition, five women
served in President Bush's cabinet. Elaine Chao, the secretary of labor, was the
first Asian American woman to serve in a president's cabinet.
Other women played leading
roles in the new administration. Condoleza Rice, the first woman in history to
hold the job of national security adviser, was instrumental in shaping foreign
policy. First Lady Laura Bush promoted education. She called attention to the
need for recruiting more teachers and improving reading skills.
Once in office, President
Bush focused on his domestic plans: cutting taxes, improving public education,
reforming Social Security and Medicare, and strengthening the nation's defenses.
Bush's first task was to carry out his campaign pledge to cut taxes. Some
politicians argued that the tax money lost could be used more responsibly, for
example, to pay off the national debt. Supporters claimed the cut would help the
economy, which had gone into a slump during the election campaign.
In June 2001, Congress passed and Bush signed into law the 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax-cut bill. After passage of the tax-cut plan, Bush proposed reforms in education. He called for public schools to hold yearly tests to measure student performance. He also wanted to allow parents to use federal funds to pay for private schools if their public schools were doing a poor job. Congress refused to give federal funds to private schools, but it did vote in favor of annual testing in public schools for grades 3 to 8. This law became known as the No Child Left Behind Act.
In foreign affairs, Bush
pushed for new military programs. One was a National Missile Defense System
designed to shoot down incoming missiles before they reached the United States.
The president argued that missile defense was needed because many hostile
nations were developing long-range missiles.
Meanwhile, a horrifying event took place on September 11, 2001, that changed everything. A stunned nation realized that it was not immune to the dangers of a violent world. A new kind of war had begun.