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Bush scolds Congress for funding pet projects

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  • NEW: Bush refuses to comment on destruction of CIA tapes
  • Bush praises Democratically controlled Congress for "ending on a high note"
  • The president faults Congress for adding earmarks to $555 billion spending bill
  • Bush praises energy bill, fix to alternative minimum tax
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While praising Congress for "ending on a high note," President Bush Thursday chastised lawmakers for adding billions of dollars in earmarks to an omnibus spending bill.

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President Bush says his budget director will review the omnibus spending bill for wasteful spending.

The president said he had ordered his budget director to review the bill.

Bush's comments come a day after the House gave final approval to a $555 billion omnibus spending bill by a vote of 272-142 Wednesday evening. The bill contains an additional $70 billion in war spending, a move that was bitterly opposed by anti-war Democrats.

"The congressional leaders ran in the last election on a promise that they would curb earmarks. And they made some progress and there's more transparency in the process," Bush said during a year-end White House press conference. "But they have not made enough progress." Video Watch Bush blast Congress for adding 'wasteful' spending »

An earmark -- also known as pork barrel spending -- is money set aside for a special project benefiting only a congressional member's district.

Bush also faulted Congress for passing "at the last minute" the spending that funds the government for the 2008 fiscal year three months after the fiscal year began on October 1.

Bush, however, praised the Democratically controlled Congress for sending him, in the week before the holiday recess begins, an energy bill that raised auto fuel efficiency standards for the first time in over three decades and a measure that would keep many middle-class families from paying alternative minimum tax.

The alternative minimum tax was originally created to force wealth individuals to pay taxes.

"I think recent days have been a moment that the country can be proud of," Bush said. "In the past few days, we have stopped a tax increase on the middle-class families. We improved our energy security. We delivered a relief to struggling homeowners, and we funded our troops."

In the wide-ranging press conference, Bush said he would not comment on the destruction of CIA videotapes showing the interrogation of terrorism suspects until the investigation into the matter is completed.

"Until the oversight is finished, I will be rendering no opinion from the podium," he said.

The issue surfaced this month, when the CIA disclosed that it had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes. The tapes showed the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, one of the first high-ranking al Qaeda members captured by U.S. agents, and another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Video Watch Bush say he has confidence in the ongoing investigations »

Bush also said he was disappointed that Congress did not pass a permanent revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. A temporary revision to FISA that expanded the National Security Agency's ability to conduct surveillance is set to expire on February 1.

The temporary revision allows the government to obtain information about communications between terrorist suspects in foreign countries, that nevertheless goes through switches in the United States, without seeking court approval.

Passage was delayed after some lawmakers objected to a measure that gave telecommunication companies that cooperated with domestic government surveillance programs retroactive immunity from lawsuits.

Bush said the bill "wasn't perfect, but it was good" and pressed Congress to immediately take up the permanent revision as soon as the sessions resume in the new year.

"They have a duty to give our professionals the tools necessary to protect the American people," he said.

Bush also told reporters he was pleased with what he considers progress in Iraq, but acknowledged the situation wasn't settled.

"Are we satisfied with the progress in Baghdad? No. But to say nothing's happening is simply not the case," he said.

Asked if U.S. allies in NATO are "avoiding the fight" in Afghanistan, Bush said he understood that some countries could not commit combat troops.

"My biggest concern is that people say we're kind of tired of Afghanistan so we're going to leave," he said.

But he said he was confident democracy will work in Afghanistan. "I believe in the universality of freedom," he said.

The president also touched on the topic of climate change, saying a two-pronged strategy is needed to combat global warming: bring other countries to the table and develop a national plan.

Bush said he opposed the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, because China wasn't a participant.

Any initiative will not work until all the key players -- countries that emit greenhouse gases -- are involved, he said.

At the same time, Bush said, the United States needs a national plan -- but it cannot compromise the American standard of living. He advocated nuclear power as a possible solution.

"If you're truly serious about dealing with greenhouse gases, then it seems like you ought to be a strong supporter of nuclear power," he said.

"It is by far the best solution to making sure that we have econmomic growth and at the same time be good stewards of the environment."

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Bush also vowed that his administration will consider every option to stimulate the economy.

"My view of the economy is that the fundamentals are strong," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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