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Bush Launches Campaign for Economic Stimulus Plan - 2002-01-04

President Bush kicks off the second year of his administration Saturday, championing his economic stimulus plan in town hall meetings in two western states. Mr. Bush, a former governor of Texas, was the focus of a ceremonial event at the Texas state capitol building.

President Bush returned to his political roots, revisiting the state capitol in Austin, where supporters gathered Friday for the unveiling of his official portrait as Texas governor. Mr. Bush served six years in Austin before winning the presidency. His portrait joins those of 45 other former governors in the rotunda of the state capitol.

President Bush used the occasion to reflect on his time in Austin, where he says he learned a spirit of political cooperation that he hopes to continue with Democrats in Congress who are holding-up his economic stimulus package. "Sometimes Washington needs to figure out if politics isn't what's most important, the people are what's most important," he said. "And so I'm going to take that 'can-do' Texas spirit to Washington for however long I'm there, and remind people that results are what matters, not rhetoric; remind people that if you are willing to share credit, if you are willing to tell the other person that you are going to succeed as well, amazing things can happen."

The president's economic stimulus plan passed the Republican-controlled House last year, but failed to get out of the Democratic-controlled Senate. Mr. Bush is now repackaging that stimulus as an "economic security plan" that he says the Senate must pass to help an economy in recession, made worse by the terrorist attacks of September 11.

Mr. Bush amended parts of that plan last month in an effort to get it through the Senate. The revised plan extends unemployment benefits nationwide instead of just in those areas most affected by the terrorist attacks. It accelerates tax cuts for lower-income families and includes more money for health insurance for laid-off workers.

Democrats still criticized the plan, saying it unfairly favors big corporations over unemployed workers. The president's amended plan scales back rather than repeals some corporate taxes, but the changes were not enough to satisfy Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, who says Democrats oppose any further tax cuts at a time when he says the nation needs to fight "both a war and a recession."

Mr. Bush kicks off his campaign for the "economic security plan" Saturday, in question-and-answer sessions with members of the public in the western states of California and Oregon. His spokesman says the president will launch the second year of his administration by focusing on what he called, "the two E's - the economy and education."

President Bush returns from his Texas vacation and is back at work at the White House Monday, where he will meet with his economic advisors. Later in the week, he is expected to sign a series of education reforms that Congress passed last month.