President Bush says it is time for Senate Democrats to act on his economic stimulus plan to help unemployed workers. Democrats say the plan unfairly favors big business.
While the president and Congress have agreed on almost everything in the war against terrorism, Mr. Bush is having a harder time getting his domestic agenda through the Democratic-controlled Senate.
In his weekly radio address, the president asked American voters to call their legislators and let them know they want action, not just on national security or homeland security, but on the nation's economic security as well.
"I know that the Senate is closely divided among Republicans and Democrats," said Mr. Bush. "But the American people expect the Senate and its leaders to find a way to work together and bridge their differences. Now is not the time for partisan politics. Now is the time for leadership. It's time to act."
The president's stimulus package includes more tax relief, rebates for low income families, and changes in the tax law allowing businesses to deduct more of the cost of new equipment. Democrats oppose speeding-up the president's tax cuts, because, they say, earlier cuts this year contributed to the current shortfall.
Democratic Governor Parris Glendening says his party's plan extends unemployment benefits and health care coverage with tax breaks for small business. "This is a plan that helps families that genuinely need help, families that are hurting, families victimized by circumstances beyond their control, and families whose confidence and spending is needed to reignite our economy," he said. "The Democratic plan does this responsibly, without compromising the nation's long-term fiscal health."
According to Governor Glendening, his own state of Maryland would lose $115 million a year for the next three years under the president's plan. He says the total cost of lost federal support for state budgets would be $15 billion by the end of the first Bush term.
"Not only is the Republican economic plan irresponsible, but it will not even do what it is supposed to do - jump start the economy, create jobs, and boost consumer spending all over the country," said Mr. Glendening. "While the Republican approach is fiscally reckless for the federal budget, it is potentially devastating to state budgets."
President Bush rejects Democratic criticism that his economic plan favors big business, saying the best way to help unemployed workers is with a long-term strategy to help businesses create more jobs.
Mr. Bush says Congress has other important business to finish before it breaks for the holidays. He wants Senate Democrats to pass an energy plan opening-up more drilling in Alaska and making the country less reliant on foreign oil. He is also pushing for a series of education reforms giving local authorities more control over public schools. "We need a new emphasis on reading, higher standards, more flexibility and greater local control," he stressed. "Congress has made great progress toward the most comprehensive education reform in a generation, so no child is left behind. But this important education reform is stuck in a conference committee. And the patients' bill of rights passed by both Houses of Congress also remains unfinished. These are important measures. They have bipartisan support. They should be law. I am ready to sign them."
In a holiday season during which, the president says, we're reminded of the importance of compassion, he wants Congress to pass a bill encouraging charitable giving to support what he calls "the good work done by people of faith, without entangling government and religion."