Bush Lukewarm to Congressional Progress
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
President Bush, this morning is giving his end of the year press conference. He began by weighing in on the work Congress has done and left undone.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm disappointed that Congress resorted to passing all the spending in one massive, more than 1,400-page omnimus(ph) bill, rather than considering and passing individual spending bills in the normal process.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Brian Naylor is watching the president's press conference, and joins us now. Good morning.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Hi, Renee.
MONTAGNE: And as we just heard, like many people, at this time of the year, the president has spending on his mind and debts.
NAYLOR: That's right.
MONTAGNE: He worries about debt.
NAYLOR: …and report cards. Yeah, well, he said - it was interesting. The president sounded very upbeat about what Congress has accomplished in this - last week. He said it had ended the moment - had ended the year on a moment the country can be proud of. Talking mostly about the budget, he had sought $933 billion in spending overall for the current fiscal year. And that's what Congress agreed too because he had threatened to veto anything more than that. He said he was disappointed that it was all in one. I thought he said ominous bill. He think he meant omnibus.
NAYLOR: But - yeah. And he was disappointed that there were so many thousands of earmarks in it. But overall, he was pleased. He has also praised Congress for passing an energy bill that includes a boost in gas mileage standards, and for approving the fix for the alternative minimum tax so that millions of middle-income taxpayers won't have to deal with that next year.
MONTAGNE: And so what remains to be done for the Congress?
NAYLOR: Well, the big thing of - for - on the president's agenda is the FISA bill, which deals how the government can listen in on conversations, it says, between terrorists overseas.
The big issue in Congress dealing with that bill is whether the nation's telecommunications companies should be given immunity for lawsuits that have been brought by several people, several groups because they were not authorized to listen in on conversations.
The president is demanding immunity, and the Congress hasn't been able to quite work its way through that yet. And it's - the current bill expires the first part of February and the Congress comes back at the end of January. So it's not got a lot of time to deal with it.
MONTAGNE: The president has also been asked in this morning's press conference about the presidential campaign and what it takes to sit in the Oval Office. Here's a little of what he said.
Pres. BUSH: You can't be the president unless you have a firm set of principles to guide you as you sort through all the problems the world faces. And I would be very hesitant to support somebody who relied upon opinion polls and focus groups to define a way forward for a president.
MONTAGNE: This is interesting. We've seen the early moment of the president talking about the next president.
NAYLOR: Right, right.
MONTAGNE: What else does he have to say?
NAYLOR: Well, it's interesting because the president doesn't like to be drawn into these conversations about the current campaign. And the president is not always so introspective, I guess - is the word to use - about these sorts of things.
He said, though, that it's important how a leaders - the who a leader surrounds himself with. You have to have good people around you. There's a lot of issues, he said, that come in to the Oval Office. It's a complex world in there. And, by and large, though, it's all about what your own principles are that guides you in making these decisions.
MONTAGNE: And that press conference - that year-end press conference of President Bush is still going on. But we're going to have to end this conversation.
NPR's Brian Naylor, joining us from the capitol, thanks very much.
NAYLOR: Thanks, Renee.
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