President Bush signed a temporary spending bill Friday to keep the government running for a week and prodded Congress to complete work on a longer-range spending package.
"It would be disappointing if members of Congress did not finish their work by the holidays," the president said in an appearance in the Rose Garden. "If they don't, they should not carry the unfinished business of 2007 into the new year.
"Instead, they should pass a one-year continuing resolution that does not include wasteful spending or higher taxes," Bush said. "And they must ensure that our troops on the front lines have the funds and resources they need to prevail."
After months of battling, Democrats announced Wednesday they would all but surrender to Bush's demand that lawmakers appropriate no more than $933 billion for annual operating expenses for Cabinet departments, whose budgets are set each year by Congress.
Democrats hoped to make an exception for a $3.7 billion increase for veterans' health care, calculating that Bush and his GOP allies on Capitol Hill would relent in the case of that politically sacrosanct program.
The temporary measure signed by Bush keeps the federal government open for another week while negotiators try to fashion an omnibus spending bill, pass it in both the House and Senate and then adjourn for the year.
Also in the Rose Garden, the president discussed a letter he had sent to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il about Pyongyang's nuclear ambititions.
Written earlier this month, it's viewed as a personal gesture to North Korea from Bush, who once branded the communist regime as part of an "axis of evil." During the past couple days, North Korea verbally responded through diplomatic channels.
"I got his attention with a letter and he could get my attention by fully disclosing his program including any plutonium he may have processed ... as well he could get our attention by fully disclosing his proliferation activities," said Bush.
A senior U.S. official with knowledge of the contents of North Korea's message said it was delivered through the New York diplomatic channel on Thursday and contained what appeared to be a pledge from Pyongyang to follow through on its denuclearization deal as long as the United States held to its end of the bargain.
"We'll live up to our side, we hope you'll live up to yours," the official paraphrased Kim's message as saying. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the private diplomatic exchange.
Turning away from politics, the president also answered a question about the Mitchell Report on steroid use in baseball.
"My hope is that this report is a part of putting the steroid era of baseball behind us," Bush said.
Bush, who once owned the Texas Rangers, said, "I've been troubled by the steroid allegations."
He said now that the Mitchell Report is out, "we can jump to this conclusion: that steroids have sullied the game."
Seven M-V-P's and 31 all-stars -- one for every position -- were among 85 players implicated in the report by former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell.