WSJ: Bush "Challenges" Democratic Congress

President George W. Bush
President George W. Bush

President Bush outlined his agenda for the remaining two years of his presidency today. He did so at the White House Rose Garden with his cabinet standing behind him. But his words were only a brief synopsis of a much larger outline written by the President in today’s Wall Street Journal (subscription needed). For perspective we talked with CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood and The Wall Street Journal's Assistant Managing Editor, Alan Murray.

At the White House--Bush said he welcomed new members of Congress (Democrats take over tomorrow) and said he's eager to work with them on the nation's priorities during the remaining two years of his presidency.

"Congress has changed," Bush said. "Our obligations to the country haven't changed."

President Bush also said he'll submit a five-year budget proposal that will balance the federal budget by 2012 and called on Congress to sharply cut back on costly pet projects hidden in spending bills. "It's time to set aside politics and focus on the future," Bush said.

Harwood said the President is trying to get control of the message and make his case that tax cuts have worked, the economy is in good shape, and the budget deficit will come down.

Murray added that there are only two years left in the term and President Bush is looking at his legacy. He won’t have any big new initiatives over the next two years, so what he’s got is Iraq and the tax cuts. And the only way he can hope to protect the tax cuts after he leaves office is to get the deficit under control.

In the WSJ editorial (subscription needed) Bush also laid out a challenge to Democrats. He said “If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate. If a different approach is taken, the next two years can be fruitful ones for our nation. We can show the American people that Republicans and Democrats can come together to find ways to help make America a more secure, prosperous and hopeful society."