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Bush Encouraged by Budget Talks


President Bush has signed legislation to keep the US government open for another week as lawmakers continue work on a final budget deal. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says he is encouraged by signs that lawmakers are making progress on resolving differences over funding federal programs and the war in Iraq.

"In recent days, lawmakers have made some important progress in working out such differences," said President Bush. "I am pleased to hear that they are close to reaching an agreement on a budget."

"There are a lot of details left to be worked out, and I hope they will pass a bill that is fiscally responsible and does not raise taxes. I also understand that Congress may provide a down payment on the war funding I requested without artificial timetables for withdrawal," he said.

If lawmakers are unable to reach an overall budget deal, President Bush says they should not carry the unfinished business of 2007 into next year. Instead, he says they should pass a one-year continuing resolution funding government operations at current levels without wasteful spending or higher taxes.

After his last Cabinet meeting of the year, Mr. Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden that he congratulates the Senate for passing an energy bill that he will sign into law.

The president also wants an extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which allows for eavesdropping on suspected terrorists and on Americans speaking on overseas calls.

"Congress must pass legislation to ensure our intelligence professionals can continue to effectively monitor terrorist communications," said President Bush.

The House has approved legislation that would prohibit U.S. intelligence officials from using a number of controversial interrogation techniques, including simulated drowning.

The president is threatening to veto that measure, which would require all government employees or private contractors to adhere to interrogation limits in the U.S. Army Field Manual.

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