By Dan Robinson, VOA, Washington
Democratic leaders in Congress are challenging President Bush on foreign and domestic policy, in advance of his State of the Union address on Monday. VOA's Dan Robinson reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid combined a list of Democratic accomplishments with criticisms of the president's policies.
The sharpest comments were on foreign policy, with Senator Reid presenting a list of failures he attributes to the president and his policies.
"One hundred fifty eight thousand Americans arise each morning in the deserts of Iraq to face another day of risk they cannot predict and hatred they did not create. Osama Bin Laden remains free and the al-Qaida network grows stronger. Afghanistan, once hailed as a great success, continues to backslide into violence, extremism and a rampant drug trade. The path toward democracy in Pakistan waivers with billions of American anti-terrorism dollars unaccounted [for]," he said.
Reid said the U.S. must work to restore moral authority damaged by the Iraq war. He urged the president to make a firm statement against the use of torture in interrogations, and to state stronger support for democracy in Pakistan, and take new diplomatic steps toward Iran.
Speaker Pelosi also touched on Iraq, saying the president has pursued what she called a head-in-the-sand approach, with serious consequences for the U.S. economy.
Pelosi said the recent bipartisan agreement with Republicans and the president on a $150 billion economic stimulus package could encourage additional cooperation in coming months, but only if the president takes the initiative. "In order to have bipartisanship, you have to share common values or you have to be in a position where you have to negotiate. Hopefully, this stimulus will serve as a model of how we can go forward and hopefully immigration can be one of those issues," she said.
In a speech Friday, President Bush praised Pelosi and House Republican leader John Boehner for working together on the stimulus plan involving tax rebates, warning against any delay in approval by Congress. "It's a sound package.It makes a lot of sense. It is needed, and you need to pass it as quickly as possible to get money in the hands of the people who are going to help this economy stay strong," he said.
The president combined that with calls for Congress to quickly approve revised anti-terrorist surveillance legislation, and make tax cuts passed during his time in office permanent.
At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino had this response to a question about what the president thinks he can accomplish with Congress and majority Democrats in coming months regarding two major domestic goals that have not been achieved, social security and immigration reform.
"Social security and immigration are two huge issues confronting the American people. The president showed very bold leadership in putting out very detailed policies. This Congress has either been unable or unwilling to get anything done. It is unrealistic to expect that this Congress is going to take on such big problems this year," she said.
On prospects for cooperation, Senator Reid said Friday he believes Senate Republicans worried about losing additional seats to Democrats in the November election would do well to show more bipartisanship.
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