By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
May 31, 2005
"The American people expect people of both parties to work together," Bush said during a 51-minute news conference in the White House Rose Garden. "They look forward to the Congress setting aside partisan differences and getting something done. And so do I. I'm looking forward to that."
Bush, who has conducted news briefings on a monthly basis since the outset of his second term in January, asserted his Social Security campaign represents "just the beginning of a very difficult debate" and that he has succeeded in convincing the public that the national retirement program is in deep financial trouble requiring governmental action.
"And that's the first step toward getting Congress to do something," he said. "See, once they hear from the people, 'we got a problem,' the next ... question the people are going to ask: 'What do you intend to do about it?' "
But Social Security isn't the only problem facing the university.
Senate Democrats have stalled his nomination of John Bolton to serve as ambassador to the United Nations, claiming the administration has refused to turn over pertinent information about the State Department official. A recent agreement among 14 members of the upper chamber might preclude all of the president's nominees to the federal bench from receiving an up-or-down vote.
And in the House, which almost always follows the presidents direction, lawmakers last week passed a stem cell research-funding bill Bush has vowed to veto.
Bush said the public doesn't like the Washington mindset that "we can't work together" and that Congress will be judged on "whether or not they're capable of getting anything done." But he also acknowledged that "things don't happen instantly in Washington, D.C."
"I'm asking Congress to do some difficult things," Bush said. "And I'm going to keep asking them to do some difficult things. And I'm optimistic, when it's all said and done, that we will have come together and have helped solve some of these significant problems."
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, said he hopes the president's statements mean "he will join us to get the job done for America's families."
"For months, Washington Republicans have used their power to pursue the goals of right-wing activists, while Democrats have focused on a reform agenda that meets the challenges facing the American people," Reid said. "If, as he suggested today, President Bush is prepared to stop caving to the demands of the far right and to start working on the problems confronting America's families, Democrats welcome him to this effort."
On other issues, Bush expressed confidence in the Iraqi government, maintaining the elections in that war torn country dealt "a serious blow" to terrorists despite reports of ongoing violence. As of Tuesday, 1,663 U.S. soldiers have died as a result of fighting in Iraq.
"What you're seeing is a group of frustrated and desperate people who kill innocent life," he said, referring to insurgents. "And obviously, we mourn the loss of every life. But I believe the Iraqi government is going to be plenty capable of dealing with them, and our job is to help train them so that they can."
Bush also dismissed a report released last week by Amnesty International that said the U.S. has formed "a new gulag" to hold suspected Islamic terrorists, include the prison at Guantanamo, calling the claims "absurd."
"In terms of the detainees, we've had thousands of people detained," he said. "We've investigated every single complaint against the detainees. It seemed like to me they based some of their decisions on the word of - and the allegations by - people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble - that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report. It just is."
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