President Bush has left the White House for a month of work, rest, and travel almost exclusively outside Washington. He will return to the nation's capital for just one day next week to sign important trade legislation and get his annual health check-up.
As he prepared to board his helicopter on the White House lawn, the president paused briefly to praise Congress.
He thanked lawmakers for completing action this week on bills that provide extra funding for the war on terrorism, and expand his trade negotiating powers. He called it a time "of accomplishment," noting he had quickly signed one piece of legislation into law. "Today I signed a supplemental [spending bill] that provided needed money for our military, needed money for the ongoing war on terror, money for homeland security," he said.
Mr. Bush said he plans to sign the trade bill on Tuesday after he returns from the first part of his working vacation, a long weekend at his parents' summer home in the state of Maine. Under the measure, Congress can only approve or reject trade deals negotiated by the administration. It cannot change them. The president said his new trade promotion authority will ultimately boost exports and help create jobs. He noted new figures show unemployment in the United States held steady in July at 5.9 percent. "We've got a lot of work to do to make sure that people can find work," he said, "and this trade bill is going to help a lot."
After the trade bill signing Tuesday, the president will leave for his Texas ranch for the rest of the month.
Aides bristle at complaints the president is taking a long vacation. They note he will continue to get his regular briefings on national security matters, and will conduct a lot of White House business at his Texas home. On August 13, Mr. Bush will take part in a day long economic forum in the nearby city of Waco, and the White House notes one foreign leader will visit his ranch later this month. All indications are the guest will be Mexican President Vicente Fox.