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Bush, Congressional Leaders Discuss Legislative Agenda - 2002-02-27

President Bush met with Congressional leaders Wednesday to brief them on his trip to Asia last week. They also discussed the upcoming legislative agenda in Congress.

The leaders met for more than an hour over breakfast in the Oval Office.

Republican House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert says President Bush discussed his trip to Asia last week where he repeated concerns about weapons production in North Korea, backed economic reform in Japan, and urged Chinese leaders to end religious persecution. Mr. Hastert said the president also brought them up to date on the war against terrorism. "He gave us a briefing certainly on East Asia, his trip to Korea, Japan, and China," he said. "He talked about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan and his insights."

Majority Leader Hastert said the president discussed the budget he has sent to Congress and what legislators are going to do as they approach the government's legal debt limit.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott said the regular weekly breakfasts set "a good tone" for the president's relations with Congress, especially as they prepare for an important month of budget appropriations. "It is good for the president to reach out to us and go over what is happening in the war against terror and foreign policy issues, but also to discuss among ourselves the domestic agenda," he said.

Senator Lott said the leaders discussed a schedule for passing the president's budget which includes large increases for defense spending and homeland security.

Senate Majority Leader Democrat Tom Daschle said he also hopes to reach agreement on campaign finance reform, the president's energy plan, and his call for trade promotion authority, which would allow Mr. Bush to negotiate foreign contracts to be put to Congress for a simple yes or no vote. "There is a good deal of work to be done in the near future," he said. "This was a very cordial and again, very productive session, a good discussion, exchange of views and comparing notes on where we are with a lot of important pieces of legislation."

House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt said Democrats are also pressing the president to extend health insurance for unemployed workers in the midst of economic recession.