In State of the Union, Bush unfurls a long 'to do' list for Congress
He called Monday on lawmakers to pass a stimulus plan, health-insurance tax breaks, and education reform – while trimming pork-barrel spending.
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Bush pushed for congressional renewal of his No Child Left Behind education act and of the law governing warrantless wiretaps, which expires Feb. 1. The wiretap law is essential to help track terrorists, said Bush, pivoting neatly into a push for that bill to include liability protection for telecommunications firms that cooperated with National Security Agency eavesdropping efforts in the past.
"If you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger," Bush told the assembled members of the House and Senate.
Overall, Bush had quite a to-do list for lawmakers, especially for an election year. Most will want to be out of Washington and on the campaign trail by August.
"I would say between tonight and somewhere in the Fourth-of-July/August-recess time frame, we'll have some opportunities to get some things done," said Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie at a Jan. 28 briefing for reporters.
Yet many of Bush's proposals are things Congress has previously rejected or declined to take up.
In foreign policy, presidents are freer to act on their own, and thus the half of the speech devoted to international affairs was less Congress-centric and sounded more like a chief executive presenting his legacy to history.
High-profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, and sectarian killings are down, said Bush. He hailed the spread of cooperation with Sunni tribal leaders tired of Al Qaeda's brutality. As he has so often, Bush called the US fight against Islamist extremism as "the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century."
Other world references were short and generally restated administration policies. Bush's reference to the Israeli-Palestinian Middle East peace process, for instance, was barely a paragraph, despite the administration's recent increased involvement in the issue.
• Gail Russell Chaddock contributed to this report.