Scandal-scarred Republicans question Bush’s actions

    President Bush came under fire from angry
    Republicans Friday for his failed policies on Irag, health care,
    immigration and other hot-button issues in a closed meeting meant to
    rally shell-shocked party members for this year’s congressional

    Some went so far as to call Bush an “embarrassment”
    to the party and the nation and grumbled that the party would stand a
    better chance in the November mid-term elections if he were not
    President, although none went so far as to suggest he be impeached…at
    least not yet.

    “It became evident in the meeting that a growing
    number of Republican members of Congress feel the President is no
    longer an asset to the party,” says one GOP congressman who asked not
    to be identified.

    Republicans in the House of Representatives claimed publicly Bush drew
    an ovation when he defended his program to eavesdrop without court
    warrants on Americans with suspected terrorist ties, a program that has
    been questioned by both Democrats and some Republicans.

    But sources in the meeting, who asked
    not to be named as the meeting was formally closed, said lawmakers,
    anxious over polls showing waning faith in them and the president,
    called the President to task for his growing list of failures.

    Many members of the president’s party
    have voiced concerns about the $2.77 trillion federal budget that Bush
    proposed this week, which would boost defense spending but bring cuts
    in 141 domestic programs, from veterans health care to housing.

    Others raised questions about Bush’s
    domestic-spying program, saying his refusal to follow the law on
    allowing the National Security Agency to wiretap Americans will hurt
    the party in the upcoming mid-term elections.

    While some Republicans tried to put a
    brave face on what was often a contentious meeting with the leader of
    their party, many admitted privately that most in the room showed
    displeasure with Bush and openly questioned both his commitment to the
    party and the American people.

    In brief opening remarks, which were
    public, Bush cited what he said had been major House accomplishments in
    2006, including passage of bills on energy, bankruptcy, immigration and
    the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act.

    “And we’re ready to lead again,” Bush
    told the second day of a three-day meeting of House Republicans in
    Cambridge, Md., a two-hour bus ride from Washington. “We don’t fear the
    future because we’re going to shape the future.”

    Many senior lawmakers have been drawn
    into an investigation of powerful Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff,
    who last month pleaded guilty to fraud and agreed to cooperate with

    One Republican said Bush defended the
    new Medicare prescription drug program, whose introduction has drawn
    enormous criticism, saying, “When you enroll 26 million people into
    program in 30 days, there are going to be some glitches.”

    Many political analysts say public
    dissatisfaction over the ethics scandal, the Iraq war and other issues
    including health care, threatens the party’s control of the House,
    which it has held since 1995.

    Bush shrugged off the importance of
    opinion polls. One attendee at the meeting said he drew laughter by
    joking: “If I watched the poll numbers every day, I’d be lying in the
    fetal position. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight.” Bush said he acted on
    the basis of what he believes is right, not polls.

    Bush again asserted that the domestic
    surveillance program was legal, and he drew support from House Speaker
    Dennis Hastert, who told reporters, “There are adequate protections.”

    “If somebody in this country, whether he
    is a foreign national or a citizen, is talking to al Qaeda somebody
    ought to know about it and know why it is happening,” Hastert said.

    House Republicans described their
    retreat as a chance to regroup and discuss their emerging legislative
    agenda, which they say will include lobbying and ethics reform.

    The retreat was to end on Saturday after
    members and staff attend a seminar on the House’s ethics rules. “I
    think it’ll help ensure that members and staff live up to those rules,”
    said House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.

    Boehner was elected House majority
    leader last week, replacing Rep. Tom DeLay, who was forced to step down
    from the leadership post last year after being indicted in his home
    state of Texas on campaign-related felony charges.

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