President Bush begins the second year of his administration Saturday with a call on Senate Democrats to pass his economic stimulus package. The president is trying to revive a plan that Democrats blocked last year.
The president is re-packaging his "economic stimulus" plan as an "economic security" measure to help the country recover from a recession made worse by terrorist attacks.
"The events of September the 11 left America sadder and stronger, and they clarified some important goals for our country. We have a war to wage and a recession to fight. Defending our country and strengthening our economy are great priorities for 2002. We must be determined and we must keep our focus," Mr. Bush said.
The president's economic plan passed the Republican-controlled House last year but was blocked by Senate Democrats who say it unfairly favors big corporations over unemployed workers. Mr. Bush agreed to changes in the plan, including extending unemployment benefits nationwide instead of only in the areas hardest hit by the terrorist attacks.
He also agreed to tax credits to protect the health insurance of unemployed workers and proposed tax refunds for lower and moderate income families. But it is the president's support for corporate tax cuts that Democrats oppose most. Mr. Bush said that is the best way to help unemployed workers, by helping employers create more jobs.
"It is important to help workers who've lost their jobs. It is even more important to help workers find new jobs. In tough times, people need an unemployment check; but what they want is a paycheck. Americans want the independence of a job, and the satisfaction of providing for their families themselves. A job is more than a source of income; it is a source of dignity," Mr. Bush explained.
President Bush also wants to move faster to cut personal income tax rates, something Senate Democrats say the federal government can not afford at a time it is fighting both a war abroad and a recession at home. Mr. Bush says Democrats must act quickly to shorten the recession, saying more than three-months of Democratic delay has cost more than 900,000 people to lose their jobs.
"Some in the Senate seem to think we can afford to do nothing, that the economy will get better on its own, sooner or later. I say that if your job is in danger or you have a loved one out of work, you want that recovery sooner, not later," the president said.
The president is campaigning for his economic plan in the western states of California and Oregon Saturday, meeting with unemployed workers and small business owners in hopes of turning his high public approval ratings into public pressure on Senate Democrats.
Mr. Bush returns to his Texas ranch Saturday evening for one more day of vacation before returning to the White House for a meeting with his economic team Monday afternoon.