Washington — President Bush opened a push Saturday for congressional action on domestic legislation that has been sidetracked since Sept. 11.
Bush said during his weekly radio address that he had heard during his town meeting last week in Florida that the American people "want action on an agenda of economic growth, energy independence, patients' rights, education, faith-based legislation all of which are important issues that are stuck in Congress."
"As we wage war against terror, Americans made it clear they are also worried about the challenges we are facing here at home," Bush said. He asked listeners to call lawmakers to urge passage of economic stimulus legislation: "Let them know you want action not just on national security or homeland security, you want action to protect America's economic security as well."
The president plugged his plan to help religious charities provide federally funded social services. "At this season of the year, we're especially reminded of the importance of compassion," Bush said. "I sent Congress a bill to encourage charitable giving and to support the good work done by people of faith without entangling government and religion. The House has acted. The Senate has not."
Democrats contended that work on the stimulus package was delayed by the departure of the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., to attend a political fund-raiser in California.
Jay Carson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., pointed to passage of a use-of-force resolution, anti-terrorism legislation and an aviation security package. "The Senate, under Democratic leadership, has accomplished monumental goals in the face of great tragedy, and we have done so in a bipartisan manner," Carson said.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Friday that Senate Democrats' plans to require two-thirds approval by their caucus for any stimulus deal is "a formula for partisanship, gridlock and inaction."
"The Senate leadership needs to build a bridge that brings people together, but they won't be able to get anything done for the country if they make it a one-way road," he said. "The president believes it's vital for the Senate to work diligently, productively and in a bipartisan fashion so our country can make progress."
Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors' Assn., used the Democratic radio address to accuse congressional Republicans of pushing an economic package that "rewards their most generous financial supporters while doing little or nothing to help those who are already bearing the brunt of this recession."