WASHINGTON – Before beginning a long holiday weekend, President Bush on Thursday pushed the House to pass hurricane relief legislation and a six-month extension of the Patriot Act. "It appears to me that the Congress understands we got to keep the Patriot Act in place, that we're still under threat," Bush said.
Without action in the House by day's end, a $29 billion package of aid for Hurricane Katrina and other storms that has been passed by the Senate could perish as well as a six-month extension of the existing USA Patriot Act.
"We're still under threat," Bush said. "There's still an enemy that wants to harm us, and they understand the Patriot Act is an important tool."
Bush spoke on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One to head to the Camp David presidential retreat for a long holiday weekend with his family.
On Monday, the day after Christmas, the president will fly to Texas to spend a week at his ranch in the small town of Crawford. He is to return to Washington on Jan. 1.
Joining the president and his wife, Laura, at the wooded Camp David compound in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains are Bush's parents, the former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara; Mrs. Bush's mother, Jenna Welch; and the first couple's twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna.
On Christmas Eve, the Bushes were to attend a candlelight service at the Camp David chapel alongside the military families stationed there, said Susan Whitson, a spokeswoman for the first lady. Children from those families also were staging an annual Christmas pageant that the president and his family planned to attend, she said.
A traditional dinner, prepared by workers in the Navy mess at Camp David, was planned for Christmas Day.
It has been Bush's custom to spend Christmas at Camp David, since it spares the White House residence staff from having to work the holiday. Waiting to depart for Texas until the day after Christmas also prevents the aides who must travel with the president from being away from their families on the holiday.