Bush Presses for Action on Stimulus, Surveillance
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - President Bush today gave House Republicans a brief preview of Monday's State of the Union speech by stressing the importance of the administration's two biggest congressional priorities: an economic stimulus package and passage of an electronic surveillance law.
Speaking to members assembled here at the Greenbrier resort for their annual retreat, Bush focused on one issue that has been marked so far by bipartisan cooperation, a $150-billion economic stimulus plan, and one that has definitely not -- surveillance.
Bush pointedly warned against the Senate tinkering with the stimulus package worked out by the administration and House Democratic and GOP leaders now on the table. Praising Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) for their leadership in reaching a stimulus deal, Bush said, "Congress should move it quickly. And I understand the desire to add provisions from both the right and the left. I strongly believe it would be a mistake to delay or derail this bill."
While he lauded the stimulus deal currently on the table, Bush did strike a note conservatives in the audience were waiting for by calling for the major tax cuts approved shortly after he took office to be made permanent. That drew a standing ovation.
On the surveillance bill, which is being debated in the Senate today, Bush called for quick passage of the measure before the existing, temporary law runs out next week.
"Unfortunately, the [current] bill expires in seven days," Bush said. "The threat to America does not expire in seven days."
After the press was escorted out of the room, Bush gave the members what one source who was present described as a "rah-rah" speech, telling them that they can re-capture the House if they work hard and stick to their ideals. Members asked Bush questions on a range of issues, from Iraq and Colombia to children's health care. The source said Bush spent a good deal of time discussing the current crisis in Israel and the importance of finding a long-term, peaceful solution there.
Members of the GOP leadership echoed Bush's themes at a press conference following the luncheon. Boehner said he hoped "the House will move this [stimulus] package as quickly as possible and get it to the Senate," though he said he was not sure when exactly the bill would be on his chamber's floor.
"The Senate is another body," Boehner said. "They've got their own issues they have to deal with. They're going to speak on it. I just hope they do it quickly."
As for whether Boehner and Pelosi can replicate on other issues the cooperative spirit they've shown on the stimulus, Boehner expressed hope that they could.
"At the end of the day, I'm not a very hard guy to get along with," he said.
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