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Bush Shifts Focus to US Economic Security

U.S. President George W. Bush is pushing a reluctant Congress to pass his tax cut plan. Now that major combat in Iraq is over, Mr. Bush is devoting more and more of his speeches to matters of economic security.

Mr. Bush is traveling the country, urging Americans to get behind his tax plan, and put pressure on their elected representatives to do the same.

In Little Rock, Arkansas, he pointed to new figures that show an increase in unemployment. He said now, more than ever, bold action is needed to give the economy a boost.

"The unemployment rate is now at six percent. This news ought to serve as a clear signal to the United States Congress that we need a bold economic recovery plan, so people in America who want to work can find a job," Mr. Bush said.

But some members of Congress, including the two senators from Arkansas, say any tax cut must be balanced with the need to keep the federal deficit in check.

Mr. Bush originally asked Congress to approve about $726 billion in tax cuts. The House of Representatives has endorsed $550 billion, a compromise that is acceptable to the White House. But the Senate is currently considering a much lower figure - $350 billion, spread out over 10 years.

In Little Rock, the president told a crowd of 2,000 Republican supporters that, at least everyone agrees that some form of tax relief is needed. He urged the public to contact those who oppose a larger package.

"The debate has started in Washington, D.C. The message I hope you send is, the more tax relief, the more work is going to be available for your fellow citizens," Mr. Bush said.

Arkansas was the last stop on the president's first extended domestic trip since the start of the war in Iraq. It began last Thursday with a speech on board an aircraft carrier off the coast of California, in which the president announced the end of major combat operations. Mr. Bush spent the weekend at his Texas ranch, where he played host to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.