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Bush's wish list will fight the clock in short year

Don't expect much action from this Congress on the domestic agenda that President Bush outlined in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night. Election-year politics is putting pressure on the congressional schedule, and lawmakers won't get much done.

Members of Congress are trying to douse expectations. With only about 100 days scheduled for legislating in this election year, they say they are battling the clock, but they're also bowing before partisan obstacles.

Bush's long wish list isn't grounded in legislative reality, said Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

While Republican leaders have enough votes and discipline to push almost anything they want through the House of Representatives, they have only 51 votes in the 100-member Senate, where parliamentary rules often require 60-vote majorities to prevail. So they're concentrating on increasing the number of Republican senators by winning elections in November, more than on pushing controversial legislation this year.

High on the administration's domestic agenda is making permanent all the tax cuts that are set to expire between 2005 and 2010. Bush also wants to partially privatize Social Security by permitting young workers to invest their Social Security contributions in private accounts. Neither is likely to become law this year.

The president wants to allow illegal workers to apply for temporary work visas and get permits to live in the United States. He wants to enable small businesses to join health care associations and pool their buying power to make health insurance more affordable. Both initiatives face uphill climbs.

Bush also is urging Congress to pass energy legislation that has been stalled since last fall and to renew controversial antiterrorism legislation that has foes left and right. Odds are long against both.

Lawmakers have their own wish lists in any election year, including passing a massive multiyear transportation bill that pays for highway construction, public transit and other projects around the country.