May 31, 2008, Washington, DC – President Bush has a to-do list awaiting Congress when lawmakers return from their Memorial Day recess.
“I hope members of Congress return rested because they have a lot of work left on important issues and limited time to get it done,” Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.
On his work list for lawmakers: a war funding bill, intelligence legislation, veterans benefits, a free trade pact and giving a nod to Steve Preston, his nominee for housing secretary.
“In all these areas, Congress has failed to act,” Bush said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rebutted Bush’s claim that Congress isn’t getting its work done. She pointed to the economic stimulus bill passed by lawmakers.
“We are working now to tackle the housing foreclosure crisis, combat record prices at the pump, extend unemployment insurance to the growing number of Americans looking for work, make healthy food affordable to millions of Americans, launch a new GI Bill for a full, four-year education for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and help restore consumer confidence by protecting our children from toxic toys,” Pelosi said in response to the president’s radio address.
Bush said Congress needs to pass a war funding bill that is not “loaded up” with unrelated domestic spending.
The Senate on May 22 ignored Bush’s veto threat and added tens of billions of dollars for veterans and the unemployed to his Iraq war spending bill. A majority of Republicans broke ranks with Bush on a veto-proof 75-22 vote while adding more than $10 billion for various other domestic programs, including heating subsidies for the poor, wildfire fighting, road and bridge repair and health research.
Bush has enough GOP support in the House to sustain a veto. But the spectacle of 25 Senate Republicans abandoning the White House and voting to extend jobless benefits by 13 weeks and boost the GI Bill to provide veterans enough money to pay for a four-year education at a public institution made it plain that Bush’s influence is waning.
Bush voiced his opposition to a plan to expand the GI bill to guarantee full college scholarships for people with three years of military service. The administration opposes the expansion, saying that offering such a benefit after only three years of service would encourage members of the military to leave after only one enlistment.
The Democratic-led Senate has passed the measure, sponsored by Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., on a 75-22 vote. Republicans have proposed a bill to increase benefits commensurate with a veteran’s length of service.
Bush also reprimanded Congress over an intelligence law that expired more than three months ago.
The law is intended to help the government pursue suspected terrorists by making it easier to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails between foreigners abroad and Americans in the U.S. Efforts to renew the law have been tied up for months, primarily because of a dispute over how to resolve roughly 40 civil lawsuits filed against telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated in the so-called warrantless wiretapping program.
On trade, Bush is pushing lawmakers to approve a free-trade deal with Colombia.
Bush has said the House’s decision to block a vote on a Colombia free trade agreement was a serious error and urged Congress to reconsider. Democrats have cited the continued violence against organized labor in Colombia and differences with the administration over how to extend a program that helps U.S. workers displaced by foreign competition.
The president argues that the U.S. must show its support for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who is working to transform his country from a near-failed state to a stable democracy with a growing economy and has been a partner with the United States in fighting drugs and terrorism.
“Unless this agreement is brought up for a vote, it will die,” the president said.