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Democrats Criticize Bush on Eve of State of the Union Address

On the eve of his State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people, Democrats are criticizing President Bush on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues.

Democrats picked up where they left off last week, hammering away at the president on Iraq, the war on terrorism, homeland security, the economy, and corruption.

They say President Bush must strike what they call a more conciliatory tone when he addresses the joint session of Congress.

In an interview with radio correspondents on Capitol Hill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the president needs to reach out across the political aisle.

"I think it is very important for the president to unite the American people," said Ms. Pelosi. "I wish he would extend a hand of cooperation to the other side of the aisle, to work in a positive way, to keep the American people safe, and to keep us number one."

In remarks Monday after a meeting with his cabinet, President Bush said that is exactly what he intends to do.

"I'll do my best to elevate the tone here in Washington, DC, so we can work together to achieve big things for the American people," said Mr. Bush.

President Bush came to office in 2000 with a pledge to be a "uniter rather than a divider" in working with Congress.

With an eye on helping Republicans maintain control of Congress in November mid-term legislative elections, Mr. Bush faces pressure to send more signals of cooperation, while working to improve poor public approval ratings of recent months.

Speaking Monday on the floor of the Senate, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Americans hope to hear more than just rhetoric in the State of the Union Address.

"The president's State of the Union message is really a credibility test," said Mr. Reid. "Will he acknowledge the real state of our union, and offer to take our country down a path that unites us and makes us stronger. Or will he gave us more of the same empty promises and partisanship that have weakened our country and divided Americans for the last five years."

The president's State of the Union Address marks the beginning of what promises to be a hectic schedule for both houses of Congress.

Immigration reform and renewal of the Patriot Act anti-terror law are high on the agenda as the House of Representatives resumes work after a long break.

One of the big tests of bipartisan cooperation will be legislation aimed at revising and strengthening laws on dealings between lawmakers and lobbyists, sparked by the scandal involving Jack Abramoff.

This Thursday, House Republicans make the most important leadership decision they have had in eight years, as they elect a replacement for former Majority Leader Tom DeLay.