By BILL STRAUB
Scripps Howard News Service
June 01, 2005
During his first term, Bush confronted few hurdles in pushing his agenda through the Republican-controlled Congress, a list of initiatives that included three separate tax cuts. He fell short of attracting sufficient votes to adopt his national energy policy, but it remains on the table. And on those rare occasions when lawmakers successfully ventured forward without administration sanction - as they did with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security - the president simply embraced the idea as his own.
The first four months of Bush's second term have told a different story. He has been forced to deal with a less compliant Congress on issues ranging from Social Security to stem cell research. Rather than seek compromise on those issues, the president remains steadfast in insisting that legislators stick to his agenda.
The most recent example stems from the debate over John Bolton, Bush's choice to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Most Senate Democrats oppose the nomination, citing Bolton's temperament and reports that he massaged data to conform to his worldview during his tenure in the State Department. Even so, Democrats promised a vote if the administration provided documents related to Bolton that some members are seeking.
On Tuesday, during a Rose Garden news conference, the president indicated he won't comply with the request and challenged the Senate to vote on his nominee. Bush said the White House has forwarded plenty of information and characterized the document request as "just another stall tactic, another way to delay, another way not to allow Bolton to get an up or down vote."
There are other instances:
- The Bush Social Security reform plan has met with substantial legislative and public resistance and has attracted opposition from the powerful senior lobby, the AARP. Still, the president continues to say that any resolution to the national retirement system's financial problems must include a provision for private accounts - which would create an additional drain - and prohibit any increase in the payroll tax.
- Bush maintains he will veto House-passed legislation dedicating more federal funds to stem cell research should it reach his desk. The president has yet to veto a single piece of legislation during his time in office, but he shows no sign of recanting his opposition to legislation that carries substantial legislative and public support.
- Some nominees to the federal bench who fell victim to Democratic filibusters during Bush's first four years - like former Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen and California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown - were re-nominated by Bush shortly after his second term began. That led Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee to threaten an end to judicial filibusters, sparking a raucous debate that divided the Senate. A bipartisan coalition of 14 senators brokered a compromise, including a recommendation that the president consult more closely with lawmakers before announcing his nominees.
In response, Bush said he will continue to consult with individual senators about his choices: "I told the American people I would find people of a certain temperament that would serve on the bench, and I intend to do that, but we will consult with the Senate."
Despite indications that he is not in a compromising mood, the president pledged to work with Congress on major issues.
"Listen, I readily concede there is this attitude in Washington where, we can't work together because one party may benefit and the other party may not benefit," he said. "The people don't like that. They don't like that attitude. They expect members of both parties to come together to solve problems."
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