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Bush Heads Home to Contentious Congress


President Bush returns from a six-nation tour of Europe Monday facing a contentious Congress pressing him over the fate of his embattled Attorney General and legislation to reform U.S. immigration law. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the president's last European stop, Sofia, Bulgaria.

President Bush says Monday's debate over a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will have no bearing on whether the long-time legal adviser stays in office.

"I guess it reflects the political atmosphere of Washington," he said. "They can try to have their votes of no confidence, but it is not going to make the determination of who serves in my government."

The president told reporters in Bulgaria that he will decide whether Gonzales is effective or not, not legislators who he says are using a meaningless resolution to play politics.

"This process has been drug-out a long time, which says to me it is political," he said. "There is no wrong doing."

Opposition Democrats are calling for the Attorney General's ouster over what they say is the politically-motivated firing of eight federal prosecutors. The Justice Department says those dismissals were based on poor performance.

During this trip to Europe, President Bush also suffered a set-back to his top legislative priority of the year: comprehensive immigration reform.

A bipartisan bill fell short of the votes it needed in the Senate because some members of the president's own party object to its provisions giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

The president says he knows it is a tough debate, but he is still optimistic about getting the bill through.

"I believe we can get an immigration bill," he said. "Now it is going to require leadership from the Democrat leaders in the Senate, and it is going to require me to stay engaged and work with Republicans who want a bill."

While in Europe, the president telephoned three Republican Senators to lobby for the immigration bill. He will go to Capitol Hill Tuesday to press them further.

"It is important that we address this issue now and I believe we can get it done," he said. "Listen, a lot of progress was made between people in both parties making hard decisions necessary to move a comprehensive plan."

Mr. Bush says the legislative process often takes two steps forward and one step back. He says he will start Tuesday to work toward taking some steps forward again, telling a reporter on the trip, "I will see you at the bill signing."

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