Bush seeks hiring preferences for spouses of veterans

President Bush announced Monday that he would ask Congress to pass legislation creating hiring preferences at federal agencies for spouses of military service members.

In his 2008 State of the Union address, Bush also put pressure on Congress to further limit earmarks in spending bills. He said he would veto any spending measure that did not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half.

Bush also said he would issue an executive order Tuesday directing agencies to ignore earmarks that are not explicitly approved by Congress. That, the White House said, was designed to end the congressional practice of including earmarks in report language on bills, rather than in the actual text of legislation.

"The people's trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks," Bush said.

The hiring preference proposal would extend preferences that already are in place for veterans to their spouses. Such a measure could prove challenging for agencies to implement. Last September, a House subcommittee held a hearing to examine whether the complexity of existing veterans preference laws was hindering federal agencies' compliance with the laws.

In his speech, Bush also said he would seek legislation allowing service members to transfer unused education benefits under the Montgomery GI bill to their spouses or their children.

"Our military families … endure sleepless nights and the daily struggle of providing for children while a loved one is serving far from home," Bush said. "We have a responsibility to provide for them." Bush also praised the efforts of federal employees in homeland security agencies. "Dedicated men and women in our government toil day and night to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plans," he told the assembled members of Congress. "These good citizens are saving American lives, and everyone in this chamber owes them our thanks."

In the address, Bush also renewed his pledge to trim federal spending, saying his proposed fiscal 2009 budget, due out next week, would eliminate 151 "wasteful or bloated programs" involving total spending of more than $18 billion.

"In all we do," Bush said in the speech, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives and their futures."

"The secret of our strength, the miracle of America," Bush said, "is that our greatness lies not in our government, but in the spirit and determination of our people."

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