Published January 28, 2008
WASHINGTON – President Bush is preparing to deliver his final State of the Union address Monday night but he is unlikely to spark any fireworks as he seeks to extend some key initiatives already in place and endorse the economic stimulus deal approved by House negotiators last week.
The president has no scheduled events on Sunday or Monday as he puts the finishing touches on the speech to be delivered in the House chamber of the Capitol.
Watch FOX News Channel and FOXNews.com for President Bush's State of the Union address live at 9 p.m. ET Monday night.
As usual, the president will be escorted by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle into the packed room for the 9 p.m. ET address. His Cabinet, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Supreme Court Justices will all get ringside seats. The gallery where first lady Laura Bush sits will be filled in part with guests of the White House. Lawmakers will sit according to party on either side of the chamber.
Despite the emphasis on achievements over the last seven years, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said Monday night's address will not be a walk down memory lane.
"The speech is focused on the future; it is not a review of the first seven years of his time as president," Perino said Friday. "It will reflect the president's mind set that he is going to sprint to the finish, as you have all heard him say before. His address will advocate his philosophy of trusting Americans, empowering them to make good and wise decisions, especially when it comes to keeping more of their hard-earned money, rather than sending it to Washington."
In addition, Perino said, "It will identify potential areas of agreement with a Democratic Congress. And these areas of common ground include new policy proposals with realistic chances of enactment this year."
But the president is also going to lay out policies that can be implemented through executive or administrative action without congressional approval, she said.
Among the policies the president wishes to extend through Congress are the No Child Left Behind education program and tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003, but set to expire in 2011.
Much sooner than that, a significant law expanding terror surveillance measures allowed by the federal government is set to expire on Friday. The law expands the role of the nation's secret surveillance court and updates the ways in which national security agencies can listen in on suspected terrorists.
A temporary update to the law was passed in August with a six-month expiration date to allow lawmakers to come up with a more permanent fix. Last week, senators failed to take action on competing plans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unsuccessfully sought a one-month extension so that Congress could weigh the plans more thoroughly.
The plan currently up for debate on the Senate floor offers protections to telecommunications firms that assisted the U.S. government in providing without a warrant phone numbers of Americans suspected of talking to suspected terrorists. Sen. Chris Dodd told FOX News Radio on Friday that he will try to mount a filibuster against the bill if immunity for the telecom companies is not removed, but admitted that he probably does not have enough support.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who is testifying on Wednesday to the Senate Judiciary Committee, bristled at a separate notion that the Senate would add sunset provisions to the updated law. But he said any bill can be amended in the future.
"We need to conduct foreign surveillance of foreign targets without going to a court," Mukasey said of the administration's preferences found in the measure that could still pass this week. "We need immunity for private parties who cooperated with the government retroactive to 9/11 and we need (the law) to be permanent."
On another topic, the president is also pushing for Congress to wrap up a new $150 billion tax rebate deal.
Last week, House leaders and the White House struck a deal on the package, which could return as much as $1,200 to married households and offer business tax breaks to stimulate the economy. But Senate Republicans and some Democrats say they want changes made to the package.
Senate lawmakers are talking about more unemployment benefits, food stamps, heating assistance, aid to states for Medicaid and money for infrastructure projects. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson called the additional proposals too complicated for this particular package and a risk to a rare bipartisan agreement on helping the sagging economy.
Paulson didn't talk about a veto but stressed that the president wants a clean package passed by February so checks can get into the hands of Americans by May.
In his State of the Union, Bush is also expected to make the case for the build-up last year of 30,000 additional troops in Iraq, and was to talk about improved security in that nation as a result. Some troops have started returning home without additional troops being sent over there, a situation that Perino said demonstrates the surge was working.
On the subject of the U.S. military, the president will call on Congress to make sure the troops have what they need, when they need it. He will speak about his commitment to continuing to improve the quality of life for military families. That includes implementing recommendations of a presidential committee on improving veterans hospitals.
The president is also interested in working on a plan to achieve peace in the Middle East -- a frequent go-to topic for lame ducks. He recently spent eight days in the region working on a security agreement between Palestinians and Israelis that sets up two independent states in the region, and talked to neighbors in the region about the ongoing threat from Iran.
The president is going to encourage Americans to continue supporting individuals and nations around the world who are fighting terrorism and supporting democracy. Another priority Perino listed for the president is the continuing fight against global hunger and AIDS.
Domestically, immigration and Social Security are two huge issues still confronting the American people, but on which Congress has been unable or unwilling to get anything done. Perino said that some measures can be taken in 2008 to improve both those situations, but Congress is unlikely to complete any major agreements. That is not to say the president won't mention in his speech.
FOX News' Julie Kirtz, Shannon Bream and Ian McCaleb contributed to this report.