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Bush Discusses War in Afghanistan with Democrats

President Bush has urged Senate Democrats to pass his economic stimulus package. The president held a breakfast meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the measure he calls crucial to recovery from a recession made worse by terrorist attacks.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the breakfast with Congressional leaders was half about the war in Afghanistan and half about domestic politics. At the top of the President's domestic list is an economic stimulus package that has been stuck in Congress for more than one month.

The President's plan includes more tax cuts, rebates for low-income families and tax breaks for businesses to buy new equipment. It extends unemployment benefits in states hardest hit by terrorism and offers emergency grants to help displaced workers get job training and find new work.

The stimulus package has passed the Republican-controlled House, but is hung-up in the Democratic-controlled Senate over extending health insurance coverage for unemployed workers. Republicans fear the measure would set an expensive precedent for how the government responds to economic recession.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has said Democrats are continuing to work with the Bush Administration to extend benefits for unemployed workers. "I think there is unanimous agreement that one of the components has to be the need to address those who are unemployed and extending the unemployment compensation is something the President raised with us this morning and something that, I think, enjoyed unanimous bipartisan agreement. There are differences of opinion on some of the tax matters, but I think by and large there is a sense that we want to keep it simple and we want to get it done," he said.

Mr. Fleischer said it is a test for the Senate to pass the President's economic stimulus package before its end-of-year recess. Senator Daschle says Democrats oppose speeding up parts of the President's tax cuts, saying the deficits the government is facing are a "direct result" of tax cuts passed earlier this year.