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Lawmakers React to Bush Speech, Resume Political Battles


Reaction continues in the U.S. legislature to President Bush's State of the Union Address. VOA's Dan Robinson reports on a flurry of activity, with Republicans and Democrats returning to battle over important legislation, while also debating issues such as Iraq and the economy.

As the House of Representatives resumed its work in full, there was heated debate over the first pieces of legislation in the new session dealing with budget reduction, and extending the Patriot Act anti-terror law.

All of this occurred as reaction continues from both sides of the political aisle to President Bush's speech.

In a speech Wednesday, and similar ones in coming days, the president is amplifying the major domestic and foreign themes of his State of the Union Address.

He told an audience in Nashville he understands that despite what he called a roaring economy there is still anxiety among Americans about the economy.

"There is some uncertainty in people's minds," said Mr. Bush. "People are uncertain in spite of our strong union, because of war, and I understand that."

Opposition Democrats continue to criticize Mr. Bush. They single out his policies and proposals on energy, saying they are moving the country in the wrong direction.

Democrat's strategy also involves highlighting ethical lapses by Republicans, against the background of the influence-pedaling scandal and investigation that is still playing out.

"It is character and conduct that is at issue here, and the American people are focused on this issue," said Congressman Steny Hoyer. "They want change in America. They think we're on the wrong track and they are going to change the leadership of this Congress in November."

Republicans such as Congressman David Dreier say President Bush's optimistic tone and treatment of domestic and foreign policy issues conveyed an image of strong leadership and clear vision.

"I will say that his [the president's] point with the speech was [to be] visionary, optimistic, and also realistic, and I was very impressed with it," he said.

Republicans welcomed Mr. Bush's reaffirmation that there will be no sudden U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Democrat Congressman John Murtha, the pro-military lawmaker who surprised the White House last year by urging a withdrawal of U.S. forces within six months, had this response to the president.

"Iraq is not the center of the war on terrorism. In fact, I believe Iraq has diverted our attention away from the fight against global terrorism, and has depleted the required resources needed to wage an effective war," said Mr. Murtha.

Meanwhile, the competition among three House Republicans to become the new House Majority Leader reached a fever pitch.

An election Thursday will choose a successor to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, who was forced to step down last year after he was indicted on criminal charges in Texas.

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