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Republicans Hope to Help Bush Press Hill Agenda


With President Bush's final State of the Union behind him, the attention now shifts to Congress. It's in the House and the Senate that the initiatives the president proposed last night will succeed or fail.

To talk about how President Bush's agenda will play out, we're joined by a member of the House Republican leadership, Congressman Adam Putnam of Florida.

Good to have you with us, congressman.

Representative ADAM PUTNAM (Republican, Florida): Good to be with you. Thank you.

NEARY: Well, right at the top of his speech, the president called on Congress to act quickly on measures to stimulate the economy. He acknowledged the temptation to load up the bill with pet projects. What do you think the chances are the Congress will do what the president wants and pass a clean bill quickly?

Rep. PUTNAM: Well, you know, it's interesting. The president was really speaking in many ways to the Senate on that topic because the White House, through Secretary Paulson, the House Republican leadership and the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, negotiated a proposal that really is on the Senate's doorstep right now. And what the president was saying is don't let the pride of authorship delay an important growth package or a shot in the arm for this economy. And he knows that there's pressure from both the left and the right to load it up. And he was, I think, really pleading with the Senate to take up the bipartisan agreement that has been negotiated in the House.

NEARY: Well, what would happen if the Senate adds to that economic stimulus plan? Is there a point at which the package could lose the support of House Republicans?

Rep. PUTNAM: Well, I think there's pressure, really, from both sides. There's some proposals being floated around in the Senate, that Charlie Rangel was sending a warning shot over to the Senate about because it's a pressure from the right. Obviously, Republicans have concerns about adding too many things from the left, and it could collapse under its own weight. And it would be a real missed opportunity for what has been a real bipartisan agreement here between Republicans and Democrats in the House. A big step in the right direction, frankly, for getting Washington back on track to work again for the American people.

NEARY: Besides the economic stimulus package, is there anything else that Democrats and Republicans can come together on now?

Rep. PUTNAM: Well, the other piece of that is, really, immediate in its term, is the reauthorization of FISA or the Protect America Act, modernizing our intelligence surveillance laws. It passed by bipartisan vote back in the summer when it was extended for only six months. That expires now, February 1st. There is, I think, broad agreement among rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats for allowing it to go forward so that our intelligence services have the eyes and the ears that they need. It is, unfortunately, I think, being delayed by things that are playing out at the leadership level. But it passed the Senate Intelligence Committee yesterday by a vote of 13-2. It's hard to get a Mother's Day resolution through Senate committees on a vote of 13-2.

NEARY: Yeah. You know, in the final year of President Bush's presidency and in a Democratic Congress, are House Republicans really strong enough to push through his agenda? Just briefly.

Rep. PUTNAM: Well, I think when you look at how the first session of this Congress ended last December, you will see that the president is still very much an integral player in this process and House Republicans and Senate Republicans were as well. The omnibus package passed last year at the Republican level. We were able to re-authorize and extend the SCHIP, children's health insurance bill, for 18 months.

NEARY: Congressman Putnam, I'm going to have to stop you right there.

Rep. PUTNAM: Sure.

NEARY: I'm going to have to end right there. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Rep. PUTNAM: You bet.

NEARY: Congressman Adam Putnam is a member of the House Republican leadership.

You are listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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