Crawford-Bound Bush Slams Congressional Vacation

ABC News' Jennifer Parker Reports: With both the House and Senate in recess, President George W. Bush slammed the Democratic-led body Tuesday, saying Congress should get back to work.

"They need to come back, pass a bill," said Bush during a press conference about Congress' efforts to attach conditions for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to a war spending bill.

The President said Congress' traditional spring recess over Passover and Easter holidays has delayed the passage of emergency Iraq war funding.

"The Democrats in Congress … have left Washington for spring recess without finishing the work," said Bush. "They need to come off their vacation, get a bill to my desk, and if it's got strings and mandates and withdrawals and pork, I'll veto it and then we can get down to business of getting this thing done," he said.

The Senate will be out of session this week and the House will be gone from Washington for two weeks -- both this week and next. 

Widely criticized as the 'do-nothing' Congress, last year's session met for fewer days than any Congress since 1948. 

In fact, according to research by ABC News' John Cochran, under both Democratic and Republican leadership, the work schedule has gradually decreased: In the '60s and '70s, Congress met on average 162 days a year; in the '80s and '90s, 139 days.

Following the Democratic takeover of the House in the 2006 midterm elections, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pledged a five-day work week for the House; that pledge, thus far, has not been kept.

"In a time of war, it's irresponsible for the ... Democratic leadership in Congress to delay for months on end while our troops in combat are waiting for the funds," continued the President, adding that the delay could result in the Army being "forced to consider cutting back on equipment, equipment repair and quality of life initiatives for our Guard and Reserve forces."

But getting into a spat over vacation time is risky business and Democrats insist Bush's criticism is misleading.

"We acted quicker than the Republican Congress has ever acted on a supplemental request on Iraq," said Drew Hammill, spokesperson for Speaker Pelosi, arguing that the Democratic leadership is continuing to work on the supplemental through the Easter recess.

Hammill also said it was ironic that Bush criticized the congressional Easter break only days before taking an Easter vacation of his own.

President Bush plans to spend Thursday through Sunday at his ranch for an extended Easter weekend.

This will be Bush's 63rd trip to his ranch since taking office. He has spent 405 days, either entirely or partially, at his ranch in Crawford, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio White House correspondent known for keeping meticulous records of the president's vacation days.

In 2005, Bush was roundly criticized for taking a lengthy vacation of nearly five weeks away from the White House -- one of the longest presidential retreats in at least 36 years -- when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and left New Orleans engulfed in floodwater.

In a 2006 Washington Post article, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush's response to Katrina was one of the most damaging events of his presidency.

"It caught a tired White House staff off guard," Fleischer was quoted as saying.

Perhaps smarting from the criticism, last summer Bush spent just ten days at his Prairie Chapel ranch in Texas, where he was dogged by anti-war protests led by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.

President Bush has also been criticized for not being attentive when he was on vacation at his ranch shortly before the 9/11 attacks. 

On August 6, 2001, Bush was vacationing at his ranch when he was given the "president's daily brief" containing a two-page section entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US."

The President's sharp criticism of Congress didn't extend to members of the White House press corps.

"Hope you have a nice holiday," he said to reporters at the end of his press conference.

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