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Bush: Congress is not getting its work done

  • Story Highlights
  • Bush: Senate "wasting valuable time" with children's health insurance bill
  • Congress "holding hostage" funds for troops, Bush says
  • Bush accuses Congress of gridlock, failing to promote anyone's agenda
  • Democrats fire back, saying Bush's words "ring hollow"
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(CNN) -- President Bush blasted the Democratic-controlled Congress on Tuesday for having "the worst record in 20 years."

"Congress is not getting its work done," Bush said, flanked by members of the Republican House leadership. "The House of Representatives has wasted valuable time on a constant stream of investigations, and the Senate has wasted valuable time on an endless series of failed votes to pull our troops out of Iraq."

Bush criticized Congress for not being able to send "a single appropriations bill" to him.

"They haven't seen a bill they could not solve without shoving a tax hike into it," he said.

Democrats quickly fired back. Jim Manley, senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said, "Taking advice from President Bush about fiscal responsibility and getting things done for the American people is like taking hunting lessons from Dick Cheney. Neither is a very good idea."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Illinois, issued a statement saying, "President Bush's rally this morning reminds us that congressional Republicans remain ready and willing to rubber-stamp the Bush agenda: No to children's health care; no to a new direction in Iraq; and no to investing in America's future. The White House and congressional Republicans want to continue the status quo."

Bush said the Senate was "wasting valuable time" by taking up the children's health insurance bill, which he had earlier vetoed. Video Watch Bush describe what he thinks Congress is doing wrong »

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, issued a statement calling Bush "the biggest obstacle" to extending health coverage to "10 million low-income, working-class American children."

Hoyer said GOP House leaders need to "stop posing for pictures, and sit down with Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are working together to extend coverage to our children."

The State Children's Health Insurance Program measure passed in the House last week would expand the program by nearly $35 billion over five years, the same as the measure Bush vetoed on October 3. Bush had proposed adding $5 billion to the program, and said the version he vetoed would have encouraged families to leave the private insurance market for the federally funded, state-run program.

Democratic leaders said the new version addresses Republican objections by tightening restrictions on illegal immigrants receiving SCHIP benefits; capping the income levels of families that qualify for the program; and preventing adults from receiving benefits.

The program currently covers about 6 million children whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor, but who can't afford private insurance. Democrats want to extend the program to another 4 million, paying for it with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal tax on cigarettes.

Bush said Congress knows the current version of the children's health bill "does not have a chance," to get enough votes to override another veto.

Hoyer accused Bush of breaking a promise he made in 2004 to extend coverage under the SCHIP program. "Now, Congress must do what the president said he would do," he said in his statement.

The Senate could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday.

Bush also threatened to veto a "three-bill pileup."

"There are now reports that Congressional leaders may be considering combining the Veterans and Department of Defense appropriations bills, and then add a bloated labor, health and education spending bill to both of them," he said.

"Congress should pass each bill one at a time in a fiscally responsible manner," he said.

Bush also urged Congress to send him a "clean defense appropriations bill and a war supplemental bill."

"They ought to get me a bill that funds among other things bullets and body armor," he said.

Bush also criticized Congress for trying to "hold hostage" funding for troops.

"It would be irresponsible to not give our troops the resources they need to get their job done because Congress was unable to get its job done," he said.

Hoyer's release said Bush's comments on appropriations bills and fiscal responsibility "ring hollow."

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"The fact is, this administration has pursued the most fiscally irresponsible policies in American history, turning record surpluses into record deficits and adding more than $3 trillion to the national debt," he said.

"Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility today because we believe our government must pay for the things it purchases and not force our children to pay our bills. The fight over 2008 appropriations bills is not a fight over spending. It is a fight over priorities." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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