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State of the Union

This Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

President Bush gave his yearly State of the Union message Tuesday. He spoke to a joint meeting of Congress. Mister Bush’s State of the Union speech marked his third such message. The Constitution requires the president to report to Congress “from time to time.” It also says the president should suggest measures necessary for the nation.

President Bush reported to the nation about Iraq, tax reductions and other issues. Mister Bush spoke more about his policies than about proposed new legislation. But he suggested a number of actions by Congress. For example, he called for extending the USA Patriot Act.

Congress passed the act after Islamic extremists attacked the United States in two-thousand-one. The act increases the powers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Critics say parts of the act violate Constitutional guarantees of privacy and fair treatment under the law.

The president praised the recent capture of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Mister Bush also strongly defended the invasion of Iraq. He said that Saddam’s program for weapons of mass destruction would still be active if the United States had not acted.

Such weapons have not been found in Iraq. But Mister Bush said enough proof existed of activities related to the weapons to launch an invasion. The president also answered critics who say other nations should be more involved in Iraq. He listed nations that have taken part in the effort.

President Bush praised his tax cuts for Americans. He urged Congress to make the tax reductions permanent. He also praised the Medicare health care law for older citizens. He said the new law will help forty-million old people buy medicines ordered for them by their doctors.

Mister Bush criticized American courts for actions supporting marriage between people of the same sex. He appeared to be supporting a Constitutional amendment to ban such marriages.

Democratic Party leaders in Congress presented their party’s official reaction to Mister Bush’s speech. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said three-million private industry jobs were lost during Mister Bush’s presidency. She also criticized the cost of the war in Iraq, both in dollars and human lives.

Hours after his State of the Union speech, the president left Washington to visit three states important to his re-election.

Mister Bush is the Republican Party candidate for president in November. He is seeking a second four-year term in the White House.

Seven Democrats are competing for their party’s nomination for president. On Monday, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry won the Iowa Caucuses. The caucuses are the first in a series of nominating events in American states. These nominating meetings and primary elections will choose the Democratic Party’s candidate for president.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Steve Ember.