Bush renews call for Social Security action by Congress

August 04, 2005|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

GRAPEVINE, Texas - President Bush, beginning an extended working vacation yesterday, hailed a series of Republican legislative successes in Congress and called on lawmakers to overhaul Social Security and to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. for the Supreme Court when they return from their summer break.

Bush's speech to an audience of conservative state legislators came after news that 14 Marines had been killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. They were among 21 Marines killed there in three days.

"Our men and women who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan and in this war on terror have died in a noble cause, in a selfless cause," Bush said.

"Their families can know that American citizens pray for them. And the families can know that we will honor their loved ones' sacrifice by completing the mission, by laying the foundations for peace for generations to come."

In a wide-ranging, 47-minute speech, Bush said he hoped that Congress "gets a good rest because they got a lot of work to do when they get back."

He renewed his vow to push for two goals that will require significant effort by lawmakers: reworking the tax code and passing a guest-worker program.

In an interview after the president's remarks, former Sen. John B. Breaux, a Louisiana Democrat, pronounced as dead the creation of individual retirement accounts, the centerpiece of Bush's Social Security overhaul plan.

He said such a plan has no chance of passing the Senate Finance Committee, on which Breaux had served. Breaux is now co-chairman of a commission that Bush appointed to review options for an overhaul of the tax code.

Breaux did say, however, that Bush had earned bragging rights to having enacted many initiatives, including new restrictions on class-action lawsuits, a bill funding highway construction, a national energy policy and the Central America Free Trade Agreement.

"He's had a lot of accomplishments, whether you like them or not," Breaux said.

On immigration, Bush renewed his plea for a guest-worker program.

"Listen, we'd rather have people coming in with a card that said, `I'm a legal worker,' than trying to sneak across the border," the president said. "I'd rather our Border Patrol agents be looking for terrorists and drugs and guns being smuggled across our border."

Bush addressed the American Legislative Executive Council, a nonpartisan association of 2,400 state legislators who advocate free markets and limited government.

After flying by helicopter from this Dallas suburb back to his ranch near Waco, Bush planned a vigorous mountain-bike ride - "if I can survive the heat," he said, referring to the near-100 degree central Texas temperatures.

The president arrived in Texas on Tuesday evening to start his August vacation. Although he does not plan to return to Washington until early September, he will make several day trips and overnight trips in the coming weeks.

To further highlight recent legislative victories in Congress, Bush will sign the energy bill Monday at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and the highway bill Wednesday in Illinois.

He also plans to visit Southern California in late August.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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