President Bush’s chief of staff appealed on Sunday for congressional Democrats to work with the administration and Republicans rather than complain and stall action on Capitol Hill.
Andrew Card, appearing on three talk shows, also reaffirmed the president’s support for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican whose ties to lobbyists have raised ethics questions, and John R. Bolton, the embattled nominee to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
“We’d like to see more cooperation from the Democrats,” Card said. “We have some serious problems in this country that must be addressed. We’d like to see the Democrats be part of the solution rather than just carp about the problem,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”
Asked whether Democrats were being obstructionists, Card said: “On some issues I think they are.” He implored them to do more than simply play what he called partisan politics.
Democrats deny they are holding up progress. Rather, they criticize the president for what they say is his unwillingness to reach compromises with the minority party and his insistence on his own proposals.
Bush’s plan to overhaul Social Security has met with much skepticism in Congress. Senate Democrats have threatened to filibuster some of his judicial nominees, prompting GOP leaders to consider banning that delay tactic.
Also, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have succeeded in postponing until May 12 a vote on Bolton’s nomination by raising allegations that he has engaged in a pattern of professional misbehavior.
Card said congressional Democrats have failed to provide their own plan for fixing Social Security. “It’s time for them to acknowledge the problem and offer to do something about it. Because the status quo is not acceptable,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
‘True bipartisan negotiation’
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., hit back. “You know, I’d like to see the president being willing to really engage in a bipartisan debate. He has said, basically: This is my plan, take it or leave it,” Leahy said.
“My idea is that we sit down and have a true bipartisan negotiation. The president seems unwilling to do that,” said Leahy, who followed Card on the Fox show.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said she was proud of her party’s approach to Social Security.
“They have been willing to take the heat to keep the focus on what the president is proposing. And what the president is proposing is really an assault on the middle class,” she said on ABC’s “This Week.”
She said Democrats are focused on taking steps to make Social Security solvent rather than attaching private accounts to the program, as Bush wants.
Card suggested that the fight over judicial nominations could be solved if Democrats lifted their threat of a filibuster.
“For the vast majority of our nation’s history, judicial nominees have been able to get an up-or-down vote of the floor of the Senate and they have not been pushed aside through frivolous filibusters,” Card said.
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has reached out to Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., to find a reasonable solution. “But we haven’t gotten very far,” Durbin said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
He said that Democrats would not shut down the Senate if the GOP succeeds in banning the filibuster.
As for Bolton, Card dismissed allegations that the nominee pressured intelligence analysts as politically driven innuendo and rumor. “I haven’t seen any indication that the committee’s going to reject him,” Card said.
The White House aide defended DeLay, who has been the subject of ethics inquiries in the House, saying, “We have not seen anything that would suggest that those allegations have any merit.”