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Bush Meets Democrats to Discuss Economic Stimulus Package


President Bush says he is optimistic about reaching agreement with opposition legislators on an economic stimulus package. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, the U.S. central bank has cut the key interest rate in an effort to boost the troubled U.S. economy and stop a global sell-off of stocks.

President Bush met with leaders from both political parties in Congress to brief them on his trip to the Middle East last week. But it was concern about the U.S. economy that dominated Mr. Bush's session with lawmakers.

"I believe we can find common ground to get something done that is big enough and effective enough so that an economy that is inherently strong gets a boost to make sure that this uncertainty does not translate into more economic woes for our workers and small business people," said Mr. Bush.

President Bush says he has reasonable expectations about how quickly an economic stimulus plan can get through Congress, but he is optimistic that it will.

Mr. Bush says broad-based tax relief must be big enough to make a difference. So he is proposing an amount equal to about one percent of the value of all U.S. goods and services. That is between $140 billion and $150 billion.

Before their meeting at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who was named by President Bush as his lead negotiator on the stimulus plan.

Speaker Pelosi told reporters that congressional Democrats are ready to work with their Republican colleagues and the president.

"It's important that we have a stimulus package that is timely, that is temporary, and that is targeted," she said. "To that end, we are going to work in a bipartisan way in Congress and with the president to do just that."

President Bush wants tax incentives for businesses to make investments this year as well as direct and rapid income tax relief for individuals.

Democrats agree on the need to help individual taxpayers, but they also want to boost unemployment benefits and food aid in the stimulus package. That social spending may face opposition from a president who says the deal should not include spending projects with little immediate impact on the economy.

President Bush remains determined to make his record tax cuts permanent, but removed what would have been a big obstacle to any deal by agreeing not to include that demand in this request for temporary economic stimulus.

Stock markets around the world have declined recently as investors worry that a slowing U.S. economy could hurt businesses in the many nations that trade with the United States. Federal Reserve officials say they cut rates to 3.5 percent to ease tight credit.

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