Bush Heads to Vegas for Republican Fundraiser

President Bush has arrived here for a campaign fundraiser and the presentation of a volunteer award to a nurse who helped Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

The president was greeted at McCarran International Airport by the state's top Republicans — Gov. Kenny Guinn, Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Jim Gibbons — while about 100 demonstrators awaited his arrival at The Venetian hotel resort, chanting and waving signs such as, "Drop Bush, Not Bombs; No Blood for Oil."

"He needs to go," said Mike Prior, 57, a cook at the Wynn hotel-casino who belongs to the Culinary Union in Las Vegas. Prior joined peace and environmental activists, senior citizens, students and immigrant rights groups blaming Bush for war in Iraq and high gas prices, and criticizing the administration prescription drug plan and efforts to privatize Social Security.

Inside The Venetian, Bush's luncheon was planned as a joint fundraiser for the state Republican party and U.S. Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev. Guests were charged $500 to $2,100.

Porter is facing a challenge from Democrat Tessa Hafen, former press secretary to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Hafen has reported raising almost $370,000 during six weeks of campaigning.

Nevada's five-member congressional delegation opposes administration plans for opening and expanding the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The project has suffered setbacks including a criminal investigation into accusations that government scientists falsified quality control reports, and the invalidation of a proposed radiation safety standard.

Earlier this month, Porter also criticized proposed legislation to speed up development of the Yucca Mountain repository as "a desperate attempt" by the Energy Department "to move the project forward before more problems can be uncovered."

Bush, who last visited Las Vegas while campaigning for re-election in 2004, was due Monday to give the President's Volunteer Service Award to Patty Murphy, a volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps of Clark County.

Murphy deployed in September 2005, to Mobile, Ala., to work on the M.S. Holiday, a cruise ship that temporarily housed evacuees following Hurricane Katrina.