Bush Presses Congress on Spending Bill

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By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Saturday, December 1, 2007; 1:57 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has a full slate of assignments for Congress when it returns from its Thanksgiving recess next week _ everything from approving government spending bills to passing intelligence legislation to reforming the tax code.

"Members are coming back to a lot of unfinished business," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address. "The clock will be ticking, because they have only a few weeks to get their work done before leaving again for Christmas."

Bush has been pushing Congress to approve war funding and finish its debate over rules for government eavesdropping within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

He also wants lawmakers to pass annual government spending bills _ but not in "one monstrous piece of legislation" filled with money for special interests. And he wants Congress to send him legislation that keeps middle-class Americans from being hit by the alternative minimum tax.

The AMT was created in 1969 to ensure that a small number of wealthy people could not use tax breaks or deductions to avoid paying any taxes. It was never indexed for inflation, and every year the AMT net falls on more middle-income taxpayers. This year some 4 million people could be subject to the tax.

"If Congress fails to pass legislation to fix the AMT, as many as 25 million Americans would be subject to the AMT," Bush said. "On average, these taxpayers would have to send an extra $2,000 to the IRS next year."

Since the end of the summer, Bush has focused at least 17 events or remarks on budget-related disputes with Congress. In his Nov. 17 radio address, Bush demanded that Congress fix the AMT. And on Thursday at the Pentagon, Bush pressed Democrats to approve money to fund the Iraq war "without strings and without delay" before leaving for the Christmas holidays.

After more failed attempts to pass legislation ordering troops home from Iraq, Democrats have said they plan to sit on Bush's $196 billion request for war spending until next year.

The House has passed a $50 billion bill that would keep war operations afloat for several more months, but set a goal of bringing most troops home by December 2008. After Bush threatened to veto the measure, Senate Republicans blocked it. In turn, Democratic leaders said they won't send Bush a war spending bill this year at all.

Pentagon officials said that if the money is not approved soon, the military will have to take cost-cutting measures. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered the Army and Marine Corps to begin planning for a series of expected cutbacks, including civilian layoffs, termination of contracts and reduced operations at bases.

"The funds include money to carry out combat operations against the enemy in Afghanistan and Iraq," Bush said. "They include money to train the Afghan and Iraqi security forces to take on more responsibility for the defense of their countries. And they include money for intelligence operations to protect our troops on the battlefield."

In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is holding a press conference Monday to discuss Democrats' efforts to change course in Iraq.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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