Bush encourages people to volunteer during the holidays

Published: Sunday, December 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 30, 2002 at 9:57 p.m.
CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush asked the public Saturday to make the holidays a "season of service," promoting volunteer work and help for those in need.
He said that during the past year, "Millions of Americans have found renewed appreciation for our liberty and for the men and women who serve in its defense."
Mindful of that message, some lawmakers took issue with Bush's decision late Friday to cut scheduled pay raises for nonmilitary government workers, including the 170,000 who will be transferred to the new Homeland Security Department.
The president, at his Texas ranch for the long Thanksgiving weekend, said the holiday tradition of counting one's blessings should call to mind others who struggle with hunger, homelessness, sickness, addiction or despair.
"These are not strangers. They are fellow Americans needing comfort, love and compassion. I ask all Americans to consider how you can give someone in need a reason to be thankful in this holiday season and throughout the year," he said in his weekly radio broadcast. The speech was taped during the week, clearing Bush's Saturday schedule for other activities: a 3-mile run, his daily intelligence briefings and last-minute preparations for the big 21st birthday party he and the first lady, Laura Bush, were giving twin daughters Barbara and Jenna in the privacy of their 1,600-acre property.
Bush also recorded a telephone message Saturday that will be used to prod Louisiana voters to the polls for Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell in her Dec. 7 runoff against the state's incumbent Democratic senator, Mary Landrieu.
Bush will campaign with Terrell on Tuesday in Shreveport and New Orleans.
While he used his radio speech to promote volunteering and public service, lawmakers vowed to fight the president's decision, announced late Friday, to limit pay increases for the civilian federal work force.
Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., said they will push after Congress returns in January for the 4.1 percent across-the-board raise included in spending bills - one approved by the House, the other by a Senate committee - that stalled this past year. The 4.1 percent increase would put civil servants on a par with what the military is to receive.
"The same week the president claimed victory on the creation of the Homeland Security Department, he is sending the wrong message to the employees who will work there," Hoyer said.
"Federal employees from the CIA to the CDC to the Defense Department are on the front lines of efforts to protect our communities from terrorists. Anything less than the 4.1-percent pay adjustment sends the regrettable message that the services they provide to America every day are not valued," the congressman said.
The suburban Washington districts that Hoyer and Wolf represent are home to tens of thousands of government workers.
In a letter quietly dispatched to congressional leaders Friday, Bush said he was using his authority to change workers' pay structure in times of "national emergency or serious economic conditions" to limit raises to 3.1 percent. He also said he was refusing to implement the so-called locality pay increases, local differentials provided in a 1990 law designed to close pay gaps between federal and private-sector pay.
On Saturday, Bush focused on volunteer service.
He pointed radio listeners toward his USA Freedom Corps, an umbrella organization set up to coordinate federal volunteer projects. "Take the time to find out how you can help your fellow Americans and make this holiday season a season of service," he said.
The president acknowledged that unfinished business - the war on terror, the prospect of war with Iraq, the sputtering economy - could leave people feeling as jittery as they are thankful this year.
"The blessings we have received take on special meaning in this time of challenge for our country," he said.

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