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Bush lauds past year's congressional actions

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George W. Bush
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(CNN) -- President Bush said Congress members heading home for the August recess had a year of "great progress," citing, among other things, energy and Central American trade legislation.

"Our achievements so far this year show how much can be done when we come together to do what is right for the American people," Bush said in his weekly radio address to the nation.

In the backdrop of the adminstration's strides, dissatisfaction is emerging among the public. A Gallup poll released Friday that put the Bush's approval rating at the lowest of his presidency -- 44 percent, with 51 percent disapproving of the job he is doing as president.

Bush lauded the administration's economic policies.

"Thanks to the tax relief we passed and the spending restraint, our economy today is growing faster than any other major industrialized country ... the 2005 deficit is projected to be $94 billion less than previously expected," he said.

Many economists have complained that the deficit will add to the nation's unprecedented debt.

Among Bush's achievements were the Central American Free Trade Agreement, which the House passed narrowly Thursday, and the vast energy bill that both bodies of Congress approved earlier this week.

An issue that nearly split the House along party lines, CAFTA will eliminate trade barriers between the United States and several Central American countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, as well as the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean.

Bush had championed CAFTA for months, saying it would "level the playing ground between Central America and the United States." He called it a "historic agreement" on Saturday.

Opponents of the bill, such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., contend that CAFTA "was a setback for workers in Central America and it is a job killer in the U.S."

The Senate passed CAFTA in June.

The energy bill, which passed with sweeping bipartisan support, answers Bush's persistent calls for an energy plan to address the nation's dependence on foreign energy sources.

"I look forward to signing it into law," Bush said Saturday.

Bush also praised the House earlier this week for renewing sections of the Patriot Act set to expire at the end of the year. The Senate unanimously late Friday night passed reauthorization of the Patriot Act sections set to expire.

Turning then toward September, when Congress will return, the president reiterated his request for a "timely and dignified" Senate confirmation hearing for Judge John G. Roberts, his choice to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

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