WASHINGTON — 1/8 TC WASHINGTON -- President Bush made an urgent appeal to Congress and the American people last night to help him cut the budget deficit and U.S. dependence on foreign oil in order to maintain the nation's ability to respond to threats such as the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
While vowing that the United States will prevail in its confrontation with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Mr. Bush warned in a televised address before a joint session of Congress, "Our ability to function effectively as a great power abroad depends on how we conduct ourselves here at home."
The president said he could not predict how long U.S. military forces would have to remain in the gulf region as part of his drive to force Mr. Hussein to give Kuwait back to its former rulers.
But he told the lawmakers that "long after" the troops assigned to this mission come home, there would be "a lasting role for the United States in assisting nations of the region ... to deter future aggression."
U.S. officials said privately that such a role is not likely to involve ground troops, but a continued naval presence of the kind the United States has maintained in the gulf for decades.
Grinning broadly, the president received an extended ovation upon his arrival in the House chamber last night, and his speech was interrupted many times by applause.
But this warm reaction soured among many Democrats when it became clear that the president intends to blame Congress if budget talks fail and automatic spending cuts take effect.
"If the Congress cannot get me a budget, then Americans will have to face a tough, mandated sequester," Mr. Bush said, using the technical term for what could be $100 billion worth of cuts in government services.
The president said he was "pleased with recent progress" in the talks between White House and congressional negotiators aimed at reaching a five-year accord on a deficit-reduction package, apparently reflecting concessions made by both sides yesterday.
But if a final deal is not struck by the start of the new fiscal year Oct. 1, when automatic spending cuts would take effect, Mr. Bush asked for "a straight up-or-down vote" on a budget package favored by the administration.
The president used the opportunity of the Persian Gulf crisis, and the overwhelming support he has received for his actions there, to urge action on domestic problems that have proved stubbornly resistant to solutions.
"The gulf situation helps us realize we are more economically vulnerable than we ever should be," Mr. Bush argued. "Americans must never again enter any crisis -- economic or military -- with an excessive dependence on foreign oil and an excessive burden of federal debt."
The president noted that insufficient funds had already forced him to dispatch his secretaries of treasury and state around the world seeking financial contributions to the Persian Gulf effort.
He also called upon Congress to enact bills designed to increase domestic energy production by providing tax incentives for domestic oil exploration and to accelerate the development of Alaskan energy resources, legislation that has been stalled for lack of support.
Reporting upon his weekend meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Mr. Bush proclaimed the support he received for the gulf effort means: "No longer can a dictator count on East-West confrontation to stymie concerned United Nations action against aggression."
Mr. Bush said that the nations now stand on the threshold of a "new world order ... where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle."
Mr. Bush also paid tribute to the more than 100,000 U.S. troops stationed in the Persian Gulf, saying America is "proud" and "grateful" for their service.
The president will try to generate internal pressure within Iraq to resist Mr. Hussein's takeover of Kuwait through a televised message he is scheduled to tape at the White House this Wednesday morning.
Produced with Arabic subtitles and dubbing in response to an indirect Iraqi invitation, the tape will be given to Iraqi officials for airing on the state network. If Iraqi television does not show the tape, as the White House anticipates, the tape is to be distributed internationally by the U.S. government.
Mr. Bush had complained that he could not get the same access to the Iraqi people that Mr. Hussein has to the American public through commercial television interviews and broadcasts by his spokesman.
Iraq offered to send a team of interviewers, but Mr. Bush preferred to deliver his message directly without editing, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said.