Tags: Bush | 'Couldn't | Disagree | More' | With | Jeffords

Bush 'Couldn't Disagree More' With Jeffords

Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM

"I respect Senator Jeffords," Bush said as he toured a parish to promote his faith-based initiative. "But respectfully, I couldn't disagree more."

Bush said the Republican White House's approach to pressing issues in the Senate was in step with a majority of Americans, disputing Jeffords' claim that the GOP had become too conservative since Bush took office.

"Our agenda for reforming America's public schools and providing tax relief for every taxpayer represents the hopes and dreams of Main Street America," Bush said. "Our agenda for reforming our military and modernizing our military to defend America and our allies represents the best hope for peace."

Earlier in the day, the liberal Vermonter Jeffords announced his decision to leave the GOP ranks to become an Independent at a news conference in Burlington, Vt. His decision means Democrats are likely to take leadership positions on all Senate committees, controlling the flow of legislation dealing with the president's agenda in the upper chamber of Congress. The new Senate composition (50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one Independent) poses major hurdles to Bush's efforts to seat federal judges and fill other executive appointments that constitutionally require Senate approval.

"In order to best represent my state of Vermont and my own conscience and principles I have stood for my whole life, I will leave the Republican Party and become an Independent," Jeffords said.

In a political condemnation of Bush and his policies, Jeffords said the GOP policy agenda since the November elections had driven his decision. He said he disagreed with Bush and the GOP on judicial nominations, energy and environmental policy, missile defense, tax cuts and spending, abortion and education to a point he could no longer, after 26 years as a Republican, remain in the same party.

"I understand that many people are more conservative than I am, and they form the Republican Party," Jeffords said. "In the past, without the presidency, the various wings of the Republican Party in Congress have had some freedom to argue and influence and ultimately to shape the party's agenda. The election of President Bush changed that dramatically."

Bush was expected to talk on the phone later Thursday with Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., who is set to replace Mississippi Republican Trent Lott as majority leader.

"I intend to make a call to the president this afternoon in the hope that I can reach out and express my hope that we can work closely together on issues for which there is agreement, resolve those differences in those areas for which there is not," Daschle told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Daschle said it was too soon to predict whether the shape of any pending legislation, such as the education spending bill, would change in the wake of Jeffords' move. The Senate is to go into a three-day recess for Memorial Day.

Bush called on lawmakers to stay, though, "until they have finished the job and provided tax relief for the American people."

But Daschle gave no indication that the Senate would heed Bush's appeal.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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I respect Senator Jeffords, Bush said as he toured a parish to promote his faith-based initiative. But respectfully, I couldn't disagree more. Bush said the Republican White House's approach to pressing issues in the Senate was in step with a majority of Americans,...
Thursday, 24 May 2001 12:00 AM
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