- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2007

1:23 p.m.

Lawmakers today welcomed President Bush’s appeal to take up problems in energy, health insurance and immigration though seeing a prospect for common ground starkly missing when it comes to the Iraq war.

Mr. Bush highlighted his new domestic proposals in a trip to Delaware promoting research into ethanol production and put the government on a stricter energy diet by signing an executive order requiring federal vehicles and buildings to use more alternative fuels.

In Washington, senators subjected his plan for a troop buildup in Iraq to harsh scrutiny as members of the Foreign Relations Committee debated a nonbinding resolution opposing the deployment.

“There is no strategy,” said Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the only Republican on the committee to back the resolution. “This is a Ping-Pong game with American lives.”

Mr. Bush appealed to Congress in his State of the Union speech last night to give his Iraq strategy a chance to work, but he ran into a wall of skepticism, especially from Democrats who control the House and Senate.

That response carried over into the morning talk shows, where Democratic presidential hopefuls Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico voiced firm opposition to Mr. Bush’s troop escalation.

“He has not made the case,” Mr. Obama said.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and another 2008 hopeful, countered that there is no choice but to give Mr. Bush’s plan a chance to succeed. “It’s the only game in town,” Mr. McCain said.

The president also urged lawmakers in his speech last night to send him legislation to help more Americans afford health insurance, reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, overhaul immigration laws and improve his signature No Child Left Behind Act. He declared climate change a “serious challenge” but did not endorse proposals for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

In Congress and in the campaign, his domestic proposals won a more respectful hearing at first blush than his war policy.

“The idea of climate change finally passed his lips,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s long overdue.”

Mr. McCain also welcomed the president’s acknowledgment, while saying “of course” the United States needs to go further than Mr. Bush has proposed on the issue. “We’ve got to start reducing these greenhouse gas emissions before our planet is unalterably heated, and the consequences of that are catastrophic,” he said on CNN.

Mr. Richardson predicted that the president and the Democratic Congress will be able to work together on a comprehensive plan to control illegal immigration. Mr. McCain agreed: “We can come together on that issue.”

In Wilmington, Del., Mr. Bush plugged his energy proposals at a DuPont Co. facility where scientists conduct research on biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol, made from wood chips, switch grass and parts of the corn plant other than the kernels used in traditional ethanol.

But Democrats kept the spotlight on the war as senators took up the nonbinding measure that rejects Mr. Bush’s planned troop increase as “not in the national interest.”

In power for the first time in a dozen years, Democrats have talked optimistically of finding common ground with the president and Republican lawmakers on immigration, education and other areas.

However, they voiced concern with his proposal to subject a portion of some taxpayers’ employer-provided health insurance to taxes and were unenthusiastic about his proposals on energy.

“For me, the president’s speech was more notable for what he didn’t say on global warming than what he did say,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat.

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