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John King: Bush hopes for bipartisanship

John King
John King  

(CNN) -- President Bush signed a landmark education bill into law Tuesday, following through on a campaign pledge to reform the nation's public education system.

The president didn't just sit in his office and sign the bill. He embarked on a three-state tour that he hoped would encourage more of the sort of congressional cooperation that highlighted the bill's creation. With Democrats and Republicans squabbling over an economic stimulus bill, the president clearly wanted to send a message to lawmakers that they need to work together.

CNN's John King had more on this from Hamilton, Ohio, where the bill was signed.

JOHN KING: The noise you might hear behind me is the president's helicopter. He will leave Hamilton High School quite quickly, fly back to a local Air Force base. Then it's on to New Hampshire, then on to Massachusetts, to repeat, pretty much, what you just heard from the president.

He's calling this the most sweeping education reform in decades. He says the billions of dollars spent by the federal government should finally now, in his view, produce results. Here in Ohio, he's with a conservative Republican, John Boehner, the chairman of the House Education Committee. No surprise there.

But he's also traveling with two very liberal Democrats -- Ted Kennedy, senator of Massachusetts and George Miller a congressman from California. The president holding out this legislation as ... "a great symbol of what is possible when people in Washington get together and do the people's business." This a bipartisan achievement of last year, the president's first year in Washington. Overlooked, in part, because of partisan debates over the budget, and then, of course, the September 11th attacks and the war on terrorism.

So, the president is taking what I believe you called a victory lap today to celebrate this achievement and hoping ... that perhaps there will also be some carry-over or a reigniting, if you will, of the bipartisan spirit.

The president is right now in quite a partisan fight with congressional Democrats over the economy and just what Washington should do to try to give the economy a boost. That fight is dominating all discussion of domestic policy in this, a congressional election year. So the president is good today -- his kind words for the Democrats on stage with him, are a tribute to the work last year. But the president also hopes for some sort of a carry-over into this new year, which, so far, is off to a much more partisan start.

CNN: And so from here it's on to New Hampshire and Massachusetts?

KING: New Hampshire first. Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican, is the ranking Republican on the Senate Education Committee, a key architect of this legislation. Then on to Boston, Massachusetts, where he will go to Boston Latin School. And at that stop [he will] focus on Senator Kennedy's work in this legislation.

The president is paying tribute to the Democrats and the Republicans who helped shape this bill [with] record spending levels for education, beginning in 2005. And unheard-of tests for grades 3 through 8: Students must be tested every year in reading and math. It was a major achievement in the eyes of Democrats and Republicans -- and one that didn't get much attention when it finally was agreed to -- the compromise late last year, because of all the focus on the war on terrorism.




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