Reaction to Bush Address Follows Partisan Lines



Reaction to President Bush's State of the Union address is predictably along partisan lines. Members of his Republican Party praised his leadership and the goals he proposed on domestic and foreign issues, while majority Democrats criticized him on the same issues. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill.

Because the main themes of the address were known well in advance of the president's appearance, reaction began to roll in hours before he spoke to a joint session of Congress.

Even before the address, Senate Democrat Robert Byrd took aim at the president's assertion that, although Americans are concerned about the economy, they can be confident about long-term economic prospects.

Pointing to the president's call for Congress to make permanent tax cuts passed during his time in office, Byrd said the president presided over sharply increased deficits and debt while, as Byrd put it, "[squandering] billions of dollars every week in Iraq."

In the formal Democratic response, Kathleen Sebelius, Democratic governor of the state of Kansas, urged President Bush to work with majority Democrats and to make a change of course in Iraq.

"The last five years have cost us dearly - in lives lost; in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same; in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere," she said. "America's foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies. Join us, Mr. President, and working together with Congress to make tough, smart decisions, we will regain our standing in the world and protect our people and our interests."

Republicans generally praised the president for concentrating on key points of his agenda he believes can be accomplished in coming months, while maintaining his commitment to Iraq.

"What he has done is a smart thing," said Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican. "He stuck with his relevant issues and he is going to keep pushing them through, rather than come out here with 11 months to go in his presidency and introduce a whole bunch of new things."

Florida Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz faults the president for what she describes as a lack of vision.

"The president did not speak to my generation, and the generation of young Americans who are looking for some hope, looking for some vision that will give them the opportunity to move in a new direction, on education, on health care, on bringing our troops home from the war in Iraq that we are hopelessly mired in," she said. "On making sure we can really focus on global warming instead of just saying it's a problem. Let's see some action. Let's see some funding."

In his address, President Bush said defeating the Taliban and al-Qaida forces fighting American and NATO troops in Afghanistan remains critical to U.S. security, noting the deployment of an additional 3,200 U.S. Marines there.

But Democratic House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton says the added forces fall far short of numbers needed for a long-term strategy for Afghanistan.

The president's final State of the Union address came with his public approval ratings still in the 30 percent range, and with the economy now a top concern.

Tuesday, the House of Representatives is to debate the $150 billion economic stimulus package agreed to by the White House and House Democrats and Republicans, a measure the president warned should not be delayed or derailed.

But his other priorities face uphill battles, including a permanent revision of anti-terrorist electronic surveillance legislation, and free trade agreements for Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Some key fiscally-conservative Republicans expressed disappointment with President Bush's pledge to take steps to limit lawmaker's ability to designate millions of additional dollars in legislation for special projects benefiting their own districts - known as earmarks - saying much more needs to be done to bring this spending under control.

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