Bush Scolds Congress for Inaction
Monday, December 3, 2007; 5:07 PM
President Bush welcomed the Democratic-led Congress back from Thanksgiving break this morning with a stern warning and a blunt to-do list.
The president demanded that legislators authorize funding for the war in Iraq without requiring troop withdrawals; permanently approve legislation that allows eavesdropping in terrorism probes while also prohibiting private lawsuits against telecommunications companies that have provided the data; adjust the alternative minimum tax to reflect wage inflation; and pass 11 pending government spending bills without loading them down with pork.
Congress "has little to show" for the year since Democrats returned to the majority, an unsmiling Bush said. Noting that only two weeks remain before the lawmakers' end-of-the-year recess, Bush added: "That's not really a lot of time to squeeze in nearly a year's worth of business."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) responded this afternoon, saying Democrats are working through the unfinished legislation and chastising Bush and Republicans in the Senate for failing to work with them toward compromises.
"Democrats want to work with the President, yet he continues to engage in the same tired rhetoric that does not serve the best interests of the American people," she said in a written statement. "Democrats are hard at work on a sweeping new energy policy, tax relief for middle-class Americans, and bringing our troops home from Iraq. As always, we will accomplish our goals in a bipartisan and fiscally responsible way."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) echoed that sentiment in a speech on the Senate floor today. In his prepared remarks, he said he is "confident we can get this job done for the American people," and he blamed the president and Republican leaders with stopping progress on the legislation.
"President Bush and his Republican supporters here in the Senate determined that while bipartisanship made good policy, obstruction made better politics," Reid said. "For the past several months, we have seen an unprecedented level of obstruction."
Bush's scolding statement touched on several topics on which the White House and Congress are sparring over legislative initiatives or proposed policy changes, showdowns that could come by the end of the calendar year.
He said U.S. troops and the American public would be at risk if Congress did not take the actions he was requesting. Without passage of the military spending bill, for example, Bush said the Defense Department would need to lay off civilian employees, a task force searching for ways to defend against roadside bombs would run out of money and, soon after that, the operations and maintenance funds of the Army and Marine Corps would be depleted.
"It is time for members of Congress to meet their responsibility to our men and women in uniform," Bush said. " . . . They should stay in session until they pass these emergency funds for our troops."
Democratic leaders and Bush critics have said they are pushing for versions of the funding and eavesdropping legislation that would make the government more accountable to the public and create opportunities for the administration to begin drawing down troops.
Democrats say that troops will receive the needed money for current operations, but that a change in administration policy is necessary to ensure that U.S. forces don't stay in Iraq indefinitely. Shortly after the president spoke, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), chairman of the House Democratic caucus, questioned Bush's priorities.