Bush seeks bill to keep US government running

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WASHINGTON, Sep 24 (Reuters) Faulting US Democratic leaders for failing to pass annual spending bills on time, President George W Bush urged lawmakers today to approve a temporary spending bill to keep the government running when the new fiscal year begins next Monday.

''If Congress doesn't get its work done in a week, the government is not going to have the funding to continue important services,'' Bush told a group of visiting business leaders. ''I don't believe the American people should be denied those services because Congress can't get its work done.'' Bush, in the last 16 months of his presidency and waging an unpopular war in Iraq, has threatened to veto a series of appropriations bills to keep domestic spending within his limit of 933 billion dollars for fiscal 2008.

Democrats, who won control of Congress in elections last November, have sketched out a spending plan which would exceed that by about 22 billion dollars.

Bush said Democratic leaders in Congress had pledged to ''make the legislative process more transparent and to prove they can be responsible with the people's money.'' ''Now is the time to honor those pledges,'' he said.

But the president acknowledged that Republicans have also failed to pass spending bills on time when they controlled Congress.

While the two parties always spar over tax policies and spending priorities, neither has wanted to force a government shutdown since the Republicans paid a political price for halting all but essential government services in 1995 when Newt Gingrich was speaker of the House of Representatives.

Congressional Democrats said they had made clear to the White House that they had no intention of shutting down the government and, like the White House, wanted a stop-gap spending bill known as a continuing resolution to keep services running while the budget work was completed.

''President Bush's statement a few minutes ago telling the Congress to pass a clean continuing resolution is the equivalent of the rooster claiming credit for the sunrise,'' said Rep David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Obey accused Bush of trying to manufacture controversy.

''This is the time when we ought to be sitting down to work out reasonable compromises with each other instead of issuing phony challenges or posing for political holy pictures,'' he added.

Seeking to gain the upper hand in a budget fight with the Democratic-led Congress, Bush criticised lawmakers for failing to pass annual spending bills with only a week left before the start of the 2008 fiscal year on October 1.

''Congress needs to pass these annual spending bills and, if they need more time, I urge them to pass a clean continuing resolution,'' Bush said.

Reuters GT VP0026

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