Dems Try To Pre-Empt State Of the Union
By Laurie Kellman
Congressional Democrats, trying to have the first word on President Bush's State of the Union speech, challenged him Friday to renounce use of waterboarding in interrogations, close Guantanamo Bay to detainees and outline new policies toward Pakistan and Iran.
Domestically, Democrats said they expect Bush to invest more in the development of renewable energy and to support any compromise Republicans and Democrats strike to renew a law governing the president's secretive surveillance program.
At the National Press Club, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid launched into a tightly coordinated pair of speeches in which Pelosi focused on domestic policy — especially job creation — and the Nevada Democrat demanded that Bush restore the nation's standing in the international community.
Pelosi opened her speech with an acknowledgment of the political context in which Bush will deliver the last State of the Union address of his presidency. "Let's hope this is our last Democratic pre-buttal, that next year, we will have a Democratic president," Pelosi ad-libbed at the top.
In a bow to the end of his presidency, Bush is expected to focus Monday night on unfinished business and forgo the big ideas he unveiled in States of the Union past, the White House said.
The economy will be a dominant theme, and Bush will ask Congress to make permanent the tax cuts that are set to expire in 2010. He will prod Congress to extend a law allowing surveillance on suspected terrorists, renew his education law and approve free-trade pacts with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
He also is likely to recycle ideas on alternative energy, affordable health care and housing reform, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.