U.S. President George Bush says he is ready to work with leaders of the opposition Democratic Party who take charge of both houses of Congress on Thursday. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

President Bush says the new year brings new opportunities for progress, and he is looking forward to working with the new Congress.

"The Congress has changed. Our obligations to the country have not changed," he said. "Tomorrow, members of the 110th Congress will take their oath of office and I congratulate them. I welcome their arrival into town. I am looking forward to working with them."

President Bush says he is encouraged by what he says have been productive meetings with leaders from both parties. He says it is time to set aside politics and focus on the nation's future.

Democrats won control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate in November elections that focused largely on voter discontent over the war in Iraq.

With the president preparing what he says will be a new way forward in Iraq, Democratic leaders plan to start their legislative agenda with domestic issues, including a higher minimum wage.

President Bush says the new Congress should make sure it spends the people's money wisely. He says legislators should reform the federal retirement program and subsidized medical care.

He wants Democrats to give him a line-item veto and to rein in spending on legislative earmarks that direct money to specific projects in members' districts, a tactic that has come to be known as pork-barrel politics.

"One important message we all should take from the elections is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to get billions of dollars directed to projects, many of them pork-barrel projects that have never been reviewed or voted on by the Congress," he said.

The president says he will send Congress a five-year budget proposal that will balance the federal budget by 2012. He says his proposal will restrain spending, but will continue to fund the fight against terrorism.