President Bush said it is time Senate Democrats pass the stimulus package he sent to Congress October 5. Since then, he said, 415,000 Americans have lost their jobs in a recession made worse by terrorist attacks. "You know, after September the 11, my administration and the Congress made a conscious decision to show the terrorists we could work together," he said. "We had an obligation to show that democracy works. We've done that. And now, we need to do it again, by helping dislocated workers and spurring economic growth."
The president's plan extends unemployment benefits in states hardest hit by terrorism, and offers emergency grants to help displaced workers get job training, find new work, and continue their health insurance. "In the long run, the right answer to unemployment is to create more jobs," he said. "I have proposed a package of job-creating measures. I've asked Congress for tax relief for low-and moderate-income people to put more money into the hands of consumers, and to put people to work making things that consumers want. I have proposed we lower taxes on employers who buy new equipment to expand their business, and hire more people."
In his weekly radio address, President Bush said there should be changes to the tax code, so businesses do not pay more tax at a time when their profits are declining.
In the Democratic response, Senator Harry Reid said the president's plan gives too much help to big business, without ensuring that unemployment benefits lead to new jobs for displaced workers. "Unemployment benefits without a job at the end is a bridge to nowhere," he said. "Unfortunately, some in Congress have not gotten that message. The plan passed by House Republicans would give billions of dollars to multi-national corporations, almost $2.5 billion to IBM, General Electric, and Enron alone, but do virtually nothing to help laid-off [fired] workers."
Democratic Senator Reid said hard-line Republicans in the House are playing politics with the economic recovery package. "These are difficult and unusual times, but we must not run-up the national debt with risky, unfair tax measures that won't help the economy recover," he said. "To make matters worse, the Senate Republican leadership is now taking its marching orders from the radical House Republicans."
If Democrats and Republicans fail to agree on a stimulus package this week, it is unlikely the measure will pass before the end of the year.