"Democrats are failing in their responsibility to make tough decisions and spend the people's money wisely," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "This moment is a test."
The White House has said the failure of a broad immigration overhaul was proof that Democratic-controlled Capitol Hill cannot take on major issues. "We saw this with immigration, and we're seeing it with some other issues where Congress is having an inability to take on major challenges," said spokesman Tony Fratto.
The main reason the immigration measure died, however, was staunch opposition from Bush's own base — conservatives. The president could not turn around members of his own party despite weeks of intense effort.
The immigration bill was the top item on Bush's domestic agenda. With its demise, Bush was left to focus on the annual appropriations process and reining in federal spending.
Twelve annual spending bills dole out approximately one-third of the federal budget. They must be passed each year by Congress, before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year, but lawmakers began considering this year's batch just in mid-June. The House has passed half and the full Senate has not yet taken up any.
"Democrats have a chance to prove they are for open and transparent government by working to complete each spending bill independently and on time," Bush said. "I urge Democrats in Congress to step forward now and pass these bills one at a time. "
Democratic leaders say they are behind because an emergency spending measure funding the war in Iraq came first. They also had to pass an omnibus measure cleaning up last year's appropriations mess. Then, the Republicans who then controlled Congress failed to pass into law a single spending bill for domestic agencies save the Homeland Security Department — a situation that brought little complaint from Bush.
With the Senate and House now in Democratic hands, this year's bills are producing skirmishes with the White House that also are causing delays. Almost every domestic bill already has attracted a veto threat because it exceeds Bush's proposed budget in certain areas.
All told, Democrats plan spending increases for annual agency budgets of about $23 billion above the White House budget request. Bush put it in terms of a five-year outlook, and said their budget plan would be $205 billion bigger than his over that period, and would include "the largest tax increase in history" by allowing some of his tax cuts to expire as planned.
The president said Democrats are embracing "the failed tax-and-spend policies of the past," and vowed to stand firm for fiscal restraint. Republican lawmakers have pledged to support him and sustain any vetoes.
"No nation has ever taxed and spent its way to prosperity," Bush said. "And I have made it clear that I will veto any attempt to take America down this road."
The president also applauded a new jobs report, which showed employers adding 132,000 jobs, paychecks growing solidly and the unemployment rate staying at a low 4.5 percent in June.
Bush said the evidence that the once listless economy is regaining energy is a result of his insistence on lowering taxes and spending.
"Democratic leaders in Congress want to take our country down a different track," he said.