Crowded Agenda Greets Returning Congress

The Associated Press
Monday, December 3, 2007; 6:55 PM

WASHINGTON -- President Bush scolded Congress for its meager accomplishments as lawmakers returned Monday for an abbreviated holiday season session.

Taxes, spending, paying for the war, energy, farm subsidies and wiretapping top a crowded list of items Congress will consider during the three weeks.

"The end of 2007 is approaching fast and the new Congress has little to show for it," Bush said in the Rose Garden. "I call on members to use the time left to support our troops, and to protect our citizens, prevent harmful tax increases and responsibly fund our government."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Bush _ not Congress _ was to blame.

"We could have already given our troops what they need in Iraq and funded our critical needs at home if not for the stubborn refusal of President Bush and his Republican enablers to work with us," Reid said.

Partisan feelings are especially intense and fights are brewing on multiple fronts between Democrats who control Congress and Bush.

The Democrats' goal is to make sure they don't stumble over must-do legislation funding government agencies and programs, and preventing millions of upper middle income taxpayers from falling prey to the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.

They vow to bring the appropriations process to a close, even at the price of giving in to Bush's strict funding levels for domestic programs like education, grants to local governments and energy research. But many Congress-watchers thinks it's just as likely Congress will limp home for Christmas having passed yet another temporary stopgap funding bill.

"If they send me an irresponsible spending bill, I will veto it," Bush said.

Bush insisted that Congress pass his war funding request; he is expected to devote much of December to attacking Democrats for trying to condition additional money on a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq. His war-related requests so far this year have totaled almost $200 billion.

Democrats counter that the Pentagon can juggle its books to provide the needed money for current operations, but that further funding a change in administration policy was necessary to make sure U.S. forces don't stay in Iraq indefinitely.

Addressing reporters before opening the Senate, Reid said Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress that the Army has until March 1 and the Marines until mid March. Reid suggested that Bush was exaggerating about how quickly the troops will need the money by depicting more of a doomsday scenario.

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