Wednesday, August 3, 2005

GRAPEVINE, Texas — On the first day of his monthlong “vacation,” President Bush yesterday used a speech to a conservative group to lay out an expansive agenda he wants Congress to take up after lawmakers return from summer recess.

Fresh from legislative victories in Washington on energy and trade bills, the president urged the Senate to quickly confirm Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. He also pushed for swift action on his immigration and Social Security plans, as well as reform of the tax code.

“The Senate has got work to do, starting with the confirmation of a fine man, Judge John Roberts,” Mr. Bush said at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of conservative government officials and policy-makers.

“They must be deliberate, but they also must hear this call: Roberts needs to get his hearing done and the confirmation completed so he can be seated before the Supreme Court reconvenes in early October.”

One of Mr. Bush’s top agenda items for the fall will be his immigration proposal. Under the program, stalled in Congress, as many as 11 million illegal aliens who have entered the U.S. would face no penalty and could remain in the country for an extended number of years as long as they hold jobs no American wants.

“One way to protect this border is to recognize that people are sneaking in here to work,” the president said. “If you have somebody looking for work, and you can’t find an American, there ought to be a legal way — not an illegal way — a legal way for you to be able to employ that person.”

Mr. Bush used the opportunity to reassert that he’s against amnesty.

“I think amnesty would be a mistake,” he said, but added that the vast number of illegal immigrants in the United States and an overstretched border guard agency require a solution.

Mr. Bush also urged lawmakers to return to his second-term agenda centerpiece: Social Security. He encouraged them to move forward on his proposal to create a sliding scale for benefits tied to income and to reconsider his plan for personal savings accounts.

On a day when a roadside bomb attack in Iraq killed 14 U.S. Marines, Mr. Bush reiterated his resolve to stay in Iraq until “the mission is complete.”

“The violence in recent days in Iraq is a grim reminder of the enemies we face,” the president said. “These terrorists and insurgents will use brutal tactics because they’re trying to shake the will of the United States of America.”

Mr. Bush, who spends much of his time at his ranch working, will meet today with the president of Colombia. On Monday, he will travel to Albuquerque, N.M., to sign the recently passed energy legislation and then Tuesday meet with economic advisers before flying to the Chicago area to sign the highway bill.

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