Bush Says He Is Relevant

President Bush speaks during a press conference, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007, in the press briefing room as the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
President Bush speaks during a press conference, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2007, in the press briefing room as the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds) (Ron Edmonds - AP)

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The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 17, 2007; 4:55 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush, weakened by record-low poll ratings, asserted he is still politically relevant and scolded the Democratic-led Congress on Wednesday for having "little to show for all the time that has gone by."

Trying to shape the political debate, Bush used a midmorning news conference to lecture lawmakers about their failure to complete action on any spending bills to keep the government running or to send him legislation dealing with education, housing and other matters.

Saying he did not share any blame for Congress' failure to act, Bush said, "I think it is their fault that bills aren't moving."

With his presidency in its final 15 months, his approval ratings at just 31 percent in the latest Associated Press-Ipsos poll and Democrats running Congress, Bush has little clout to push his own agenda through Congress.

However, he can stop the Democrats' proposals with his veto since Congress has been unable so far to override his rejection of troop withdrawal deadlines in Iraq and expanded stem cell research. The House on Thursday is expected to fail to override his veto of an expansion of a popular children's health insurance program.

Bush said his veto pen was "one way to ensure that I am relevant; that's one way to ensure that I am in the process. And I intend to use the veto."

Bush said Congress, under Democratic control for nine months, has not "managed to pass many important bills. Now the clock is winding down and in some key areas Congress is just getting started." Congress should act on mortgage relief for homeowners hit by the housing crisis, trade deals that would strengthen allies, legislation expanding U.S. markets and aid to military veterans, Bush said.

"I'm looking forward to getting some things done for the American people," Bush said. "And if it doesn't get done, I'm looking forward to reminding people as to why it's not getting done."

Democrats were quick to return Bush's criticism.

"While the Democratic Congress works to pass children's health insurance, to protect Americans while preserving civil liberties, and to end the disastrous Iraq war, the president chose to launch another partisan attack," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

While Bush opened his news conference with criticism of Congress, reporters turned the questioning to foreign policy subjects.

The president spoke candidly about the souring of relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a leader he once praised as straightforward and trustworthy. Relations have cooled because of U.S. criticism of Russia's backsliding on democracy, and Russia's objections to a U.S.-planned missile defense system in eastern Europe.

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© 2007 The Associated Press

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