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Bush, Congress clash over economy

The president chastises Democrats for not addressing soaring gas and food prices and the housing crisis.

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"Americans are concerned about rising food prices. Unfortunately, Congress is considering a massive, bloated farm bill that would do little to solve the problem," he said.

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While the president's approval ratings are low, the ratings for Congress are lower still. At press time, Senate Democratic leaders, who typically brief the press after caucus lunches, did not have a formal response to the president's charges.

Democrats charge that Senate Republicans have used obstructionist tactics to block legislation that would have helped relieve the energy crisis and other concerns of American voters.

"I suppose by delay, the president was referring to [Senate] Republicans Filibuster No. 78," said Sen. Carl Levin (D) of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Under George Bush's tenure, median household income has declined $1,100, energy costs nearly doubled, college costs are up 60 percent. Pointing fingers doesn't solve these problems for American families or answer his own record on these issues," says House Democratic caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) of New Mexico, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, rejected claims that drilling in ANWR would be a fix for high gas prices. "It's well known on both sides that it will take eight to 10 years before any oil could be produced in ANWR," he says.

In recent weeks, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on the president to stop filling the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve. On Monday, 14 Republicans joined Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) of Texas in calling for an immediate halt of deposits of domestic crude oil into the SPR.

"As we enter the busiest driving season of the year, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil hovers around a record $120," said Senator Hutchison, who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, in her letter to the White House.

In his press briefing, Bush declined to move on this front.

Purchases for the SPR account for only 0.1 percent of global demand. "I don't think that's going to affect price when you affect 0.1 percent," he said. "And I do believe it is in our national interest to get the [reserve] filled, in case there is a major disruption of crude oil around the world."