- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2007

President Bush this morning said that Congress ended the year on a high note by passing a number of key bills, but also derided Democrats unsuccessful attempts to force a withdrawal from Iraq and their delay of the federal budget.

Mr. Bush, at his year-end White House press conference, commended Congress for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, passing an energy bill, stopping a tax on the middle class, and helping struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages.

Recent days have been a moment that the country can be proud of, said the president, who will head to Camp David tomorrow for Christmas with his family, and then go to his Crawford, Tx., ranch until the new year.

But the president also blasted the Democratic-led Congress for waiting until the end of the year to pass the federal budget, and disparaged their attempts to impose a deadline for withdrawal on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Congress initially spent a lot of time on passing resolutions and, you know, sentimenttrying to tell our commanders how to conduct the war. And it just didn’t work, Mr. Bush said. But they spent a lot of time on the subject, which meant when we came down to the end of the year, there was a lot of unfinished business.

When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas, it is not a responsible way to run this government, the president said.

Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, the fourth-ranking House Democrat from Illinois, said that in 2007, Congress brought change to Washington, but President Bushs veto pen prevented the kind of significant change our country needs.

The House yesterday gave final approval to a $555-billion bill to fund the federal government, handing a political victory to Mr. Bush by cutting most of the $22 billion in extra spending that the president opposed.

They included a $70 billion bridge fund for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which falls short of the full $196 billion supplemental requested by Mr. Bush, but which was still viewed as a defeat by anti-war lawmakers and activists.

CodePink co-founder Gael Murphy called the war funding yet one more slap in the face to the voters who put this Congress in power in November 2006.

Although Mr. Bush said he was grateful for the war funding, he was not happy with the number of earmarks in the massive omnibus bill.

Mr. Bush promised action next year by his Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Nussle, in response to the 9,800 earmarks in the omnibus, bringing the years total to 11,900.

Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush also said he was disappointed that Congress failed to pass a permanent update to the government ability to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists, in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Mr. Bush said that Congress should take up FISA reform first thing when they return after Christmas.

Mr. Bush defended the Environmental Protection Agencys decision yesterday to prevent California and 16 other states from increasing fuel-efficiency requirements on automakers.

Mr. Bush said the national strategy in the recently passed energy bill, requiring a boost in fuel efficiency from 25 miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, is sufficient.

Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush also said he will not comment on the destruction of two CIA interrogation tapes until an investigation is completed, and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was named Time magazines person of the year because he has been a consequential leader.

Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said he has not spoken with Mr. Putin about the possibility of the Russian president becoming prime minister after he steps down following a March election.

Mr. Bush said.

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