To call President Bush’s second-term agenda ambitious would be an understatement.
The congressional leadership, dominated by loyal Republicans, has every intention of giving him what he wants.
“I see this as the best opportunity in the eight years of the Bush presidency to really do domestic policy changes,” says Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo.
But barely out of the starting blocks, Bush already faces significant resistance from both parties.
The president wants to allow workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes in the stock market, but one key Republican recently described that plan as “a dead horse.” And Democratic leaders are already digging in their heels.
“It's not a crisis now, so why spend $2 trillion, cut benefits?” asks Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “We're throwing grandma out with the bath water with this.”
Immigration reform threatens to split the Republican Party. The president wants a guest worker program, issuing temporary visas for millions of illegal immigrants. That’s adamantly opposed by many conservative Republicans who say it would reward illegal behavior.
“I think it's imperative that we put our heads together and come up with a system that reinforces the importance of respect for the law,” says Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.
But the most explosive issue could be federal judges. Democrats have used Senate rules to tie up debate, blocking some Bush nominees they deem too conservative. Now Republicans are threatening to change the rules — a step the Democrats call the “nuclear option.” Why?
“They know if this happens it will blow up the Senate,” says Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “It will stop the Senate from being able to get [the] things done the president says he wants done.”
Hanging over all of the president's plans is the war in Iraq. Members of both parties say if the elections later this month do not lead to greater stability there, Iraq could become a significant distraction from the president's domestic agenda.