- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 13, 2002

President Bush and Democrats yesterday called for an end to partisan bickering over the budget, which both parties said should focus on homeland security, military preparedness and domestic economic issues.
The president and Democrats agreed the budget for fiscal 2003 which will be sent to Congress later this month should concentrate on reviving an ailing economy, creating new jobs, and funding the war on terrorism.
"Our highest priorities are clear to all," Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. "We must give our military every tool and weapon it needs to prevail in the war against terror. We must strengthen our country's defenses against further attack, with a comprehensive program of homeland security. And we must get our country's economy growing and creating jobs once again."
In the Democratic radio response, Rep. Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat, said both parties should work together to come up with a budget that is "fair for all Americans."
"Now is not the time to play politics," Mr. Ross said.
Yet, disagreements remain between Mr. Bush and Democrats over how best to jump-start the troubled economy.
In his address, Mr. Bush renewed his call on the Senate's Democratic leadership to allow Congress to approve the Republican-backed economic stimulus package, which the House of Representatives passed last month. "The Senate needs to act on it," Mr. Bush said.
The House passed a package that would offer business investment incentives, accelerate tax cuts, provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for those laid off since March and $600 rebates for lower-income workers who did not qualify for tax refunds earlier this year.
But Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, did not allow the Senate to vote on the measure. Democrats argued that Mr. Bush's proposals favor businesses at the expense of the unemployed.
Instead, Mr. Daschle and other Democrats, who have blamed Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut for the economic downturn, are proposing other measures, several of which do not have some of the tax cuts being offered in the president-endorsed stimulus package.
In his address, Mr. Ross said the Democrats' first priority would be to extend unemployment and health insurance benefits to laid-off working families, and to create a tax break for businesses that hire new workers.
"As Democrats, we do not think the answer to improving our economy is to provide a welfare bill for big corporations and special interests, as some Republicans in Washington are trying to pass in the name of economic stimulus," Mr. Ross said.
Meanwhile, on CNN's "Novak, Hunt & Shields," the president's chief economic adviser, Lawrence Lindsay, defended Mr. Bush's stimulus package, calling it "an insurance policy" for the country's economy.
"This is the opportunity for the economy to revive. Let's not have another year of slow growth," Mr. Lindsey said. "We need a stimulus package. We need more tax cuts."
Mr. Lindsey also said that Social Security reform an issue embraced by Mr. Bush in his campaign for the presidency is not dead because of the slowing economy.
"Do I think it will pass this year? I'm not so certain," Mr. Lindsey said. "[But] I think there's going to be more done this year, and I think the advantages of personal accounts and letting people have more control over their retirement savings is pretty clear."
Mr. Bush used his radio address to outline his spending priorities, which included an additional $437 million to improve health care for poor and single mothers and strengthening job-training programs for unemployed youth. "The economy is a concern for all Americans, especially for those out of work. These Americans need extra help," he said.
Mr. Bush proposed an increase of $364 million for the federal women, infants and children program, which counsels mothers on nutrition and health care for their children. The increase in funding would help the program serve nearly 8 million women and children each month, he said.
In addition, Mr. Bush offered to spend an additional $73 million to expand the Job Corps program, which provides employment training to more than 72,000 young people. The additional money would help pay for new training centers.

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