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After Bush holiday, a full plate

A packed calendar awaits President Bush after his vacation in Texas: filling a gaping hole in his Cabinet, preparing his inaugural and State of the Union speeches, finalizing a budget, keeping close watch on upcoming elections in Iraq and promoting his second-term agenda.

Fresh from seven days at his ranch, Bush planned to meet today with newly elected members of Congress. Already, battle lines are being drawn on Capitol Hill on the president's proposals to simplify tax laws, partially privatize Social Security and rein in medical liability lawsuits.

On Wednesday, Bush is in Collinsville in Illinois' Madison County, known nationally for large monetary awards to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits. Other trips in the works are intended to build momentum for Bush's plan to let younger workers divert payroll taxes into personal investment accounts.

Bush also must complete his 15-member Cabinet.

Congress this week is to begin confirmation hearings on nine nominees. But the president is searching for a homeland security chief.

Bush also needs to name someone to lead the Environmental Protection Agency because the president chose EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt to run the Health and Human Services Department.

Also vacant is the director of national intelligence, a new post, and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, where John Danforth stepped down.

And Bush is getting ready to deliver two major speeches _ his Jan. 20 inaugural address and his annual State of the Union speech to Congress, which will be late this month or in early February.

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