Stevens, Murkowski say Bush speech emphasized unity

Posted: Wednesday, January 30, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The largely positive response to President George W. Bush's first State of the Union speech Tuesday night was the result of a careful script designed to emphasize unity, Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' said.

''I feel it was intended to bring Congress together again,'' Stevens said after the speech. Stevens said he saw more bipartisan enthusiasm during the speech than he has for years.

On one Alaska issue where discord might have been expected, Bush phrased his ideas in broad terms that drew bipartisan applause.

''This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil,'' Bush said.

Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski said he didn't mind that the president didn't mention the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by name. Bush has done so enough times in recent speeches that everyone knows what he means, Murkowski said.

Bush also received applause for his call for a national missile defense system, parts of which may be built in Alaska. Bush also challenged Congress, though, to restrain spending and to act ''in a fiscally responsible way.''

To accomplish that, Stevens said, cuts in other programs are inevitable.

''There are going to be other things that are going to have to be put on the shelf,'' he said, mentioning public works projects in particular.

Murkowski said Bush ''kind of laid it on Congress'' to make everything fit. Bush did acknowledge, Murkowski said, a budget deficit is inevitable in the short-term.

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, as is his custom, didn't attend the speech or the news conference with the Alaska senators afterward.

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