Monday, November 8, 2004

The Bush administration and Republican leaders yesterday signaled that a domestic agenda including a constitutional amendment on marriage will dominate the congressional calendar, even though foreign policy and the war in Iraq dominated the presidential campaign.

When the 109th Congress convenes in January with more Republicans taking seats in the House and Senate, the focus will also include health care, as well as restructuring Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service.

Ballot measures against same-sex “marriage” passed last week in 11 states.

Karl Rove, senior White House political adviser, said “absolutely” Mr. Bush will continue to push for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“We cannot allow activist judges to overturn that,” Mr. Rove told “Fox News Sunday.”

“We cannot allow activist local elected officials to thumb their nose at 5,000 years of human history and determine that marriage is something else.

“If we want to have a hopeful and decent society, we ought to aim for the ideal, and the ideal is that marriage ought to be, and should be, a union of a man and a woman,” Mr. Rove said.

Mr. Rove said the president does not oppose states allowing some legal recognition short of marriage for homosexual couples.

“Some of the issues that have been raised, for example, visitation rights in hospitals or the right to inherit or benefit rights, property rights … can all be dealt with at the state level without overturning the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman,” he said.

Broad reforms top the list of the House agenda, including malpractice and tort reforms, Social Security and the tax system, said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican.

“I think this is the only time in generations that you might have a chance to be able to do it,” Mr. Hastert said of the political climate for change.

Intelligence-reform measures will likely be completed during the lame-duck session when Congress returns Nov. 16 for unfinished business.

“I think we need to get it done. It’s important for the security of this country. It’s important for us to know what’s happening — you know, and to keep our intelligence and to keep our security sound,” Mr. Hastert said.

“We also have some other important things to do. We need to get the budget done. I would hope that we can do that. And we have a highway bill that means over 1.5 million jobs in this country. It also helps the economy and the transportation needs, that we need to get that done as well,” Mr. Hastert said.

Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, said the White House will be more engaged in negotiations to finish the intelligence-reform bill.

“The president will need to get into this, I think, in order to get it across the finish line,” Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, said, while appearing with Miss Collins on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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