WASHINGTON – On his way out of the country, President Bush stopped long enough Monday to tell Congress what to do what while he was gone: Pass legislation he wants on matters of trade, housing and terrorist surveillance.
In a quick statement from the driveway along the South Lawn, Bush tried to frame a legislative agenda for lawmakers once again. Bush and first lady Laura Bush then flew by helicopter to Andrews Air Force Base, where they departed for Ukraine.
The president is also visiting Romania, Croatia and Russia in a trip built around the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania.
Addressing reporters, Bush said Congress should pass a free-trade deal with Colombia, a law to modernize the Federal Housing Administration, and an update to a law allowing eavesdropping on suspect terrorists.
"These are all vital priorities," Bush said. "I ask members of both parties to get these important pieces of legislation to my desk as soon as possible."
The intelligence law Bush wants would make it easier for the government to spy on foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States.
He will accept only a version that gives legal protection to telecommunications companies that helped the government wiretap U.S. computer and phone lines after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks without clearance from a secret court. Some lawmakers object to give the companies that level of legal immunity.
"Our intelligence professionals are waiting on Congress to give them the tools they need to monitor terrorist communications," Bush said.
Bush said the housing law he wants would allow more struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages. He said the trade pact with Colombia is an important way of helping a South American ally and businesses in the United States.
On his trip, Bush is promoting NATO expansion and trying to shore up ties with allies.