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Bush tells Congress it has a lot of work to do

  • Story Highlights
  • Congress reconvenes this week after recess for Thanksgiving holiday
  • President Bush urges lawmakers to approve extra funding for wars
  • Senate majority leader is set to detail legislative agenda Monday afternoon
  • Bush calls on Congress to get to work on taxes, FISA, federal budget
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(CNN) -- President Bush on Monday pressured Congress to wrap up "unfinished business" as the lawmakers return from their Thanksgiving holiday break.

"In fairness, Congress was not entirely out over the last two weeks," the president said in a speech at the White House Rose Garden, referring to the Senate's "pro forma" sessions.

The sessions, lasting about 30 seconds, prevented the president from making any appointments while lawmakers were in recess.

"Under the Senate rules, this counts as a full day. If 30 seconds is a full day, no wonder Congress has got a lot of work to do," Bush said.

Bush has filled vacancies before while lawmakers were in recess to install nominees whose confirmation Senate Democrats had blocked.

In detailing his priorities for Congress, the president again called on lawmakers to approve billions of dollars in additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Video Watch Bush slam Congress »

"Instead of listening to the judgment of Gen. [David] Petraeus, they are threatening to withhold money he needs unless they can mandate an arbitrary date of withdrawal," Bush said, adding that attaching a deadline for withdrawal would threaten the security of the United States.

The president did not take any questions, but he will hold a press conference Tuesday morning.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, is expected to lay out the legislative agenda for December and address the war funding bill Monday afternoon.

A $50 billion war spending bill, which would have required U.S. troops to begin leaving Iraq within 30 days, passed the House of Representatives but stalled last month in the Senate -- with Republicans balking at the withdrawal provision.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, said last week that he and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the president's adviser on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, discussed a compromise in which Congress would provide additional funds for the wars if the Bush administration accepted readiness standards for the troops sent into battle and a ban on the use of torture.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, showed no sign of accepting such a compromise, saying the Democratic Congress would not pass a war funding bill other than the one that already had passed the House.

The president said if Congress does not clear the funds, the Defense Department soon will have to give layoff notices to about 100,000 civilian workers, and the Army will run out of operations and maintenance money in February.

"It is time for members of Congress to meet their responsibility to our men and women in uniform, and they should stay in session until they pass these emergency funds for our troops," he said.

Congressional Democrats have said the Pentagon could shift existing funds to continue the efforts.

"The president demands more money to continue his failed war policy, yet he and his enablers in Congress have rejected our proposal for an additional $50 billion provided they work with us to change course in Iraq," Reid said last week. "He cannot have it both ways."

Bush on Monday also urged Congress to make permanent changes enacted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act so that "intelligence professionals can continue to monitor terrorist communications."

The current FISA legislation expires on February 1.

Additionally, the president said Congress needs to act "immediately" to prevent the alternative minimum tax from affecting more Americans this year.

"The AMT was enacted in 1969 to ensure that a few hundred wealthy individuals paid their fair share of taxes. But when Congress passed the AMT, it was not indexed for inflation. As a result, the AMT's higher tax burden is being imposed on more and more middle-class families," Bush said.

Bush wants Congress to pass a temporary fix so "as many as 25 million Americans" aren't subject to tax increases.

"The longer Congress delays action, the longer Americans will wait -- likely wait to get their tax refund checks next year," he said. "At a time when many Americans are struggling with home mortgages and health care costs, the last thing they need is for Congress to stick them with an additional tax increase."

The president wrapped up his speech by blasting Congress for not passing spending bills.

"One of the Congress' most basic duties is to fund the day-to-day operations of the federal government, yet only one of the 12 spending bills has made it into law," Bush said.

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The president said Congress needs to pass the remaining spending bills in a fiscally responsible way, or else he will use his veto power.

"The end of 2007 is approaching fast, and the new Congress has little to show for it," he said. "I call on members to use the time left to support our troops and to protect our citizens, prevent harmful tax increases and responsibly fund our government." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About John MurthaIraq WarGeorge W. Bush

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