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Bush blasts Congress on several fronts

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  • Congress should not be "antagonizing" Turkey, Bush says
  • Democrats trying to expand government medicine, Bush says
  • President criticizes progress of bills through Congress
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush attacked Congress on Wednesday, ripping the new Democratic leadership for failing to achieve much in their first nine months of power.

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President Bush speaks at a White House press conference on Wednesday.

Bush used his opening statement to list areas where he said "Congress has work to do": health care; security; the budget; education; housing; trade; help for military veterans; law enforcement and the judiciary.

He complained about progress on a number of bills before Congress, including children's health insurance, spending plans and internal surveillance legislation, saying Congress has wasted much of the past nine months.

"Now the clock is winding down. In some key areas, Congress is just getting started," Bush said.

"One of Congress' basic duties is to fund the day-to-day operations of the federal government. Yet Congress has not sent me a single appropriations bill," Bush said. Video Watch Bush scold Congress for inaction »

Bush said congressional Democrats are wasting time with proposed legislation calling the actions of Ottoman Turks against Armenians during World War I "genocide."

"With all these pressing responsibilities, one thing Congress should not be doing is sorting out the historical record of the Ottoman Empire," Bush said. "The resolution on the mass killings of Armenians beginning in 1915 is counterproductive. ...

"Congress has more important work to do than antagonizing a democratic ally in the Muslim world, especially one that's providing vital support for our military every day," Bush said.

U.S.-Turkey relations were strained further Wednesday as the Turkish parliament overwhelmingly approved military action against Kurdish separatists based in Iraq. Turkey has massed 60,000 troops along its border with Iraq.

Bush said the U.S. is asking the Turkish government for restraint.

"We are making it very clear to Turkey that we don't think it is in their interests to send troops into Iraq," he said while acknowledging that some Turkish troops have crossed the border.

On the war on terror, Bush said it was important that Congress act on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that progress can continue to be made against al Qaeda.

"Al Qaeda's still dangerous. They're dangerous in Iraq. They're dangerous elsewhere. Al Qaeda's not going to go away any time," Bush said. "That's why it's important for us to be listening -- you know, finding out what their intentions are and what are their plans, so we can respond to them."

Bush also addressed the issue of private security contractors in Iraq after an Iraqi probe found Blackwater guards randomly shot civilians without provocation in a Baghdad square last month. Seventeen people were killed, Iraqi officials say.

The U.S. State Department and the FBI are conducting their own investigation into the September 16 killings, and a joint U.S.-Iraqi commission is reviewing the results of both probes.

"A firm like Blackwater provides a valuable service. They protect people's lives. And I appreciate the sacrifice and the service that the Blackwater employees have made," Bush said. But, he said, "I will be anxious to see the analysis of their performance."

On his veto this month of legislation that would increase spending for the State Children's Health Insurance Program by $35 billion over five years, Bush said he would support a bill that provided enough money to cover half a million children who aren't covered now.

"I want to provide enough money to make sure those 500,000 do get covered. That ought to be the focus of our efforts," Bush said.

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Bush said raising the income eligibility threshold to $83,000 in the bill "is an attempt by some in Congress to expand the reach of the federal government in medicine."

Bush has called for a $5 billion increase in the SCHIP program. Congressional Democrats are trying to gather enough votes to override a veto, with a vote expected Thursday. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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