The U.S. Congress goes back to work Wednesday, and President Bush is pushing hard for action on energy, trade and a package of tax cuts and incentives to boost the economy. Mr. Bush says they are all part of an effort to create American jobs in the midst of an economic recession.
The president went to the hills of West Virginia to make his case. "Congress is coming back tomorrow to Washington," he said. "And my call to Congress is not to let the year 2002 become a bitter political year."
But Mr. Bush knows there is no avoiding politics, that elections in November will determine which political party controls both the House and the Senate. And so he is campaigning hard as lawmakers return to Washington, hoping to take some of his popularity as commander in chief and turn it into support for his domestic agenda.
"Energy is more important than political party," Mr. Bush said. "Jobs are more important than political party."
In West Virginia, these two issues, jobs and energy, are intertwined. West Virginia is a coal-producing state. And Mr. Bush's energy proposals were greeted with loud and sustained applause, first at an airport rally, and later at a visit to a company that sells and services much of the heavy machinery used by the coal industry.
"A lot of people don't realize that a good energy policy means jobs," he said. "A bad energy policy means we might lose jobs. A good energy policy means we can create jobs."
The president said congress must understand that with new technologies it is possible to use more coal without creating more pollution. He also said he wants to work closely with labor unions. The unions have not been traditional allies of Republican presidents, but they are backing President Bush's energy proposals because they focus on domestic production.
"See, I am the president of everybody, not just a few," the president said. "I am the president of people whether they voted for me or not. I am the president of union and non-union."
But as President Bush spoke there were new signs from Washington that he can expect a tough Senate fight on his energy plan. Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry said the plan is designed to help energy companies. Senator Kerry said instead of focusing on drilling for oil on protected wilderness land in Alaska, Congress should adopt stricter energy conservation measures.