WASHINGTON – President Bush blasted Democrats once more on Tuesday for failing to send him any of required annual spending bills needed to fund the federal government, whose fiscal year began Oct. 1.
Saying Congress must finish important work on behalf of the American people, Bush argued that the pace of appropriations bill votes is the worst for a Congress in 20 years.
"Congress is not getting its work done. We're near the end of the year, and there really isn't much to show for it," Bush said from the White House North Portico, where he was flanked by the top congressional Republicans.
"The House of Representatives has wasted valuable time on a constant stream of investigations, and the Senate has wasted valuable time on an endless series of failed votes to pull our troops out of Iraq," Bush said.
At the same time, Bush also lambasted Democrats' efforts to add taxes into a number of bills -- including this year's farm and energy bills, and the State Children's Health Insurance Program that he has vetoed once and pledged to veto again. .
Democrats "haven't seen a bill they could not solve without shoving a tax hike into it. In other words, they believe in raising taxes, and we don't," Bush said.
House and Senate Democrats returned fire, saying Bush is only now casting a bad light on a year that has led to several legislative achievements -- that Bush has signed -- including implementing the Sept. 11 Commission recommendations, raising the minimum wage, passing a collge tuition-assistance bill as well as ethics pacakage.
"Poor President. Poor President. You would think that he would take pride in the bipartisan bills we have passed. He signed these bills. Maybe he forgot," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, speaking with reporter Tuesday.
"The Iraq war has been a waste of money. I know he doesn't want oversight. He had a rubber-stamp Congress. We're tracking down, Mr. President, your waste of money on Halliburton, no-bid contracts. We call that criminal," she added.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed the sentiments.
"Contrary to the President's remarks, fighting for Americas real priorities is not wasting time. That President Bush thinks differently demonstrates just how out of touch he is with reality," Reid said.
"If this Administration were playing it straight with the American people, we would have nothing to investigate. And if Congressional Republicans would stand up to the President and demand a change of course in Iraq, we could spend less time working to fix this failed war policy and more time focusing on other threats we face around the world," Reid said.
Asked later in the day about the war supplemental bill that Congress is considering, and whether not wanting to add money to repair a failing Iraq bridge showed that Democrats were willing to cut war funding, Reid shot back.
"It's a sign that the president does not have a blank check on the $200 billion of the red ink he wants to spend on a war that's going to wind up costing this country about $2.5 trillion," he said.
Bush said the effort to try to cram in added measures comes at the expense of delaying money for troops in Iraq, who aren't getting equipment they need to protect them, as well as funding for wounded veterans. He specifically said he did not want an omnibus bill that would compile defense, veterans and health bills together — a move he said would lead to a "bloated" bill.
Bush said if reports are true that Democrats are attempting such a move, "I will veto such a three-bill pileup."
Congressional Democrats are debating whether to approve $50 billion to $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, less than half of Bush's $196 billion request but enough to keep the wars afloat for several more months.
Such a move would satisfy party members who want to spare the Pentagon from a painful budget dance and support the troops as Congress considers its next major step on Iraq. But it would also irritate scores of other Democrats, who want to pay only to bring troops home and who say their leadership is not doing enough to end the war.
"I cannot vote for another dollar that will be used to continue the president's occupation of Iraq," said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., a member of the House's "Out of Iraq" caucus and one of its most liberal members.
Bush met for about one hour with members of the Republican caucus at the White House Tuesday. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel said the president's rally is a reminder that congressional Republicans remain ready and willing to rubberstamp the Bush agenda.
The president's White House meeting did not include Senate Republicans, which may have been why Bush did not mention other priorities he was expected to discuss, including confirmation of his pick for attorney general and a the renewal of an August terrorist surveillance bill.
Bush's nominee for the top Justice Department spot, Judge Michael Mukasey, has run into trouble in recent days over what some perceived as wavering over the torture issue. In recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he did not immediately rule out waterboarding as a form of torture, which Sens. Chris Dodd and Barack Obama, both 2008 Democratic presidential candidates, say disqualifies Mukasey as attorney general.
The president also was expected to push hard for his version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress passed a bill updating the 30-year-old law in August, but the new law is set to sunset in February, and Democrats want tighter rules on obtaining warrants for surveillance.
The debate over the bill's renewal fell apart in the House this month, although two Senate committees — Intelligence and Judiciary — are working on versions of the bill. The president has called for immunity from liability for telecommunications firms that assisted in government terrorist surveillance. There dozens of civil cases pending right now; immunity would make the cases go away.
FOX News' Bret Baier and Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.