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Bush Thanks Congress for Approving Iraq Legislation - 2002-10-12

President Bush says a Congressional resolution authorizing him to use force in Iraq shows the nation is united in its determination to disarm Saddam Hussein. Democrats who backed the president on Iraq now hope to shift voter attention to a weak economy with three weeks to go before Congressional elections.

President Bush says bipartisan support for the resolution authorizing his use of force shows that confronting Iraq is an urgent matter of national security.

"Our country and our Congress are now united in purpose," the president said. "America is speaking with one voice. Iraq must disarm and comply with all existing U.N. resolutions, or it will be forced to comply."

Congress gave the president authority to use force in Iraq if he concludes that diplomacy alone is not enough to remove the threat from suspected stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

Mr. Bush says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could help terrorists use those weapons to attack the United States.

The president says he has still not decided whether to use force. He is continuing to call for United Nations action to disarm Iraq but says he is ready to lead his own coalition against Saddam Hussein if the international community fails to act.

More than half the Democrats in the House of Representatives voted against authorizing force. With the Iraq resolution behind them, Democrats are trying to shift the political debate to economic issues ahead of next month's Congressional elections.

In the Democratic response to the president's radio address, Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan said the focus on possible war with Iraq should not diminish the government's response to the weak economy. She called for an extension of unemployment benefits before Congress adjourns for the year.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the hardships of jobless men and women. Those suffering most in this economy: hurting, helpless, heartbroken," senator Carnahan said.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle Friday called on the president to cancel a full campaign schedule ahead of November 5 elections to focus on the economy, and, "show that Mr. Bush is more concerned about American jobs than Republican candidates."

The White House says Mr. Daschle is just playing politics as he did not offer to suspend Democratic campaigning as well.

The president says it is Senate Democrats who are hurting the economy by failing to act on legislation guaranteeing terrorism insurance for developers and property owners.

Mr. Bush says the lack of that coverage has delayed or canceled more than $15-billion in real estate deals and cost more than 300,000 construction jobs since last September's attacks.

"For the good of the economy, for the good of workers who need jobs, senators should again put politics aside and take one last step to reach a final agreement on terrorism insurance," Mr. Bush said.

The president said he saved thousands of jobs by forcing an end to a week long shutdown at west coast ports. He ordered an 80 day "cooling off period" for labor and management to resolve the dispute which was costing the U.S. economy more than $1 billion a day.

"The American people have been working hard to bring our economy back from recession. We simply cannot afford to have hundreds of billions of dollars a year in potential manufacturing and agricultural trade sitting idle," the president said. "The action I took this week will help keep our economy moving and allow labor and management more time to resolve their differences."

In the coming week, the president will campaign for Republican candidates in five states and sign the Congressional resolution authorizing him to use force in Iraq.