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Bush speech gets mixed reaction from Georgia lawmakers

The Associated Press - WASHINGTON

Georgia's newly empowered Democrats in Congress said President Bush came up short on health care, energy and Iraq in his State of the Union Address Tuesday while Republicans argued that the president outlined an important agenda for his final two years in office.

"President Bush demonstrated to Congress and the nation that he is still in control and relevant," said Rep. Jack Kingston, a Savannah Republican.

While President Bush focused much of his speech on domestic issues such as federal spending, health care and energy independence, Kingston acknowledged that the war in Iraq was the "500-pound gorilla in the room."

"It is so important to give this a chance, to give victory a chance," Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta said of Bush's plan to send more troops and money in an effort to stabilize Iraq. "The president I think is making a very reasonable request of the Congress."

Freshman Democrat Hank Johnson countered that the public has had enough of the struggle in Iraq.

"This war has proven to be one of the gravest missteps in the recent history of our country," said Johnson of Lithonia. "It is time for President Bush to face the music and respond to the urgent demands of a frustrated country."

In his speech, Bush set a goal of cutting gasoline consumption by 20 percent over 10 years and proposed a new tax structure for the nation's health care system, with new tax deductions to encourage more people to get insurance.

Rep. Jim Marshall, a Macon Democrat, said the health care plan would have only a small impact and that Congress should use it as a starting point for addressing the problem. Some 1.7 million non-elderly people in Georgia, or 21 percent of that population, are uninsured, according to Georgia State University researcher Glenn M. Landers.

"There just aren't that many uninsured Americans who are in a position to obtain insurance if they're only going to get a tax deduction to help them," Marshall said.

Republican Rep. Charlie Norwood of Augusta, who is battling cancer at a northern Virginia hospital and has not been working in recent weeks, did not attend the speech. In beginning his address, President Bush wished Norwood a speedy recovery along with Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who suffered a brain hemorrhage last month.

In a written statement released after the speech, Norwood praised much of the president's speech. But echoing criticism from other Georgia Republicans, he criticized Bush's "pathway to citizenship" immigration proposal as "an unacceptable amnesty plan."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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