- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 4, 2001

President Bush, who capped his first six months in office with a slew of late-session legislative wins in Congress, yesterday told lawmakers that Americans will not stand for partisan gridlock on his agenda.
Mr. Bush, surrounded by his entire Cabinet for a Rose Garden event, said Congress must act quickly on his top initiatives, many of which have passed only one chamber or are stalled in House-Senate conference committees.
"Our nation has needs that will not wait. Americans, come September, will be watching. They want us to be principled, not partisan. They want us to look for agreement, instead of looking for fights and arguments.
"Americans know obstructionism when they see it. And when necessary, I will point it out," the president said.
Mr. Bush leaves today on a monthlong "working vacation" in Texas, which will include trips each week to states across the country, including New Mexico, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado. He will return to Washington after Labor Day, about the same time Congress returns from its summer recess.
In the five-minute speech to reporters, Mr. Bush sketched the next phase of his agenda, which includes:
Supporting parents trying to raise "responsible, motivated and moral children."
Helping "disadvantaged Americans find opportunity and ownership and tools to succeed in our free economy."
Showing that American society welcomes and "values the ideals and contributions of immigrants."
Challenging Americans "to be citizens, not spectators, in the renewal of their neighborhoods and their cities."
"Within a limited budget, we must have an active, compassionate government. Beginning in September, I'll be proposing creative ways to tackle some of the toughest problems in our society," said the president. "In September, the second stage of our work begins."
This morning, Mr. Bush will get a head start on that work by proposing to give states more flexibility in determining the Medicaid benefits some people will receive in order that they might cover more people without medical insurance at all.
The proposal, which Mr. Bush will outline in today's radio address, would not affect benefits for the poorest Americans, the 28 million people whom states must cover under Medicaid, a White House official told the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Under current law, if a state chooses to cover a group of less-poor people, it must provide those people the same Medicaid benefits as anyone else, regardless of cost to the state. According to the White House source, Mr. Bush would let states design different benefits packages in order to cover more people at the same or a less-prohibitive cost.
White House officials said Mr. Bush also plans to address issues such as teen pregnancy, adoption and school safety and to offer several proposals to give parents more time with their children.
In yesterday's Rose Garden event, Mr. Bush lauded his Cabinet, saying: "I am pleased with the progress we have made together, progress that touches every American family.
"Six months ago, I chose a distinguished Cabinet, took a solemn oath and promised to fight for the things close to my heart. My administration pledged to bring civility and high standards to Washington."
The president also thanked lawmakers for their "good will" in supporting many of his top agenda items, including a $1.3 trillion tax cut, a new national energy policy, an education-spending package with stricter accountability standards and an HMO patient-protection proposal. Only the first of these, however, is law yet.
"Together with Congress, we're proving that a new tone, a clear agenda, and active leadership can bring significant progress to the nation's capital. We're ending deadlock and drift, and making our system work on behalf of the American people," he said.
"I want to express my thanks for every legislator who made tough decisions, every legislator who chose long-term progress over short-term political gain," he said.
The White House yesterday put out a list of the president's accomplishments, from increased pay for the U.S. military to his surprise missile defense agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"The president accomplished all this — and more — despite having a razor-thin majority in the House and a Senate that is now controlled by the opposition party. By comparison, President Clinton in 1993 enjoyed large majorities (82 seats in the House and 14 seats in the Senate) yet still wasn't able to deliver on his key campaign priorities," the White House said.
Citing a slew of positive poll numbers, the White House also said the president's message is resonating with Americans.
"The president's approval rating is 59 percent; Americans say the president is taking a stronger leadership role than congressional Democrats by 51-38 … 67 percent say the president has a vision for the future."
Mr. Bush heads to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda this morning for his annual presidential physical before heading to his 1,500-acre ranch in Crawford, Texas. But he plans several trips to "the heartland to listen to the American people and to talk about the values that unite and sustain our country."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president will travel for about two days per week during his visit to Texas. Next week, he will spend one day in nearby Waco to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity.
The following week, the president will travel to Colorado and New Mexico. The week after that, Mr. Bush will travel "roughly three days to Wisconsin and other locations" to be determined, as well as to Pennsylvania, said Mr. Fleischer.
When not traveling, Mr. Bush will be "enjoying a little downtime and a little running, and a little cedar clearing," not to mention the president's favorite pastime, fishing, said the spokesman.
But Mr. Fleischer also said Mr. Bush is likely to decide during this period on the issue of federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, one of the most politically contentious decisions of his presidency to date.

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