- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

NEW ORLEANS President Bush yesterday lashed the Senate for stalling bills to encourage trade and increase energy production, saying Democrats should care less about politics and more about America.

Speaking to hundreds of longshoremen and workers at the world's largest port, Mr. Bush said granting the president "fast track" trade authority is crucial to the economic recovery of the nation.

"This isn't a Republican issue; this isn't a Democrat issue. Trade is a jobs issue. And the United States Senate needs to hear the voices of the working people and get me a bill I can sign," he said to applause.

As for the energy bill, which has been passed by the House but is stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Mr. Bush said the issue is a matter of national security.

"You know what else the United States Senate needs to do? They need to pass an energy bill. It's in our national interest to have a national energy plan."

The president said the United States relies on other nations to supply more than half its oil. "Sometimes they like us, sometimes they don't. And it's those times when they don't like us that makes me nervous as the president of the country," he said, prompting laughter.

But a stern-faced Mr. Bush did not join in the laughter.

"This bill is bottled up in the United States Senate. It's about time they focused on creating jobs in America and get me a trade bill and an energy bill for the good of the American people."

While touted by the White House as a trip to follow farm production down the Mississippi River to the port here, where it empties into the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Bush took every opportunity on his two-day trip to rip Democrats for slowing the implementation of his economic-recovery plan.

In a pre-emptive strike, Mr. Bush has also warned party leaders not to tamper with his 10-year, $1.3 trillion tax cut. Yesterday was no exception.

"You know, there are some in Washington, however, who seem to be indicating that in order to come out of a recession, you should raise taxes." The audience shouted "No," setting up the president's punch line.

"I don't know what economic textbook they've been reading, but it's not the one that most Americans have read. They understand tax relief is the best way to encourage an economic recovery in America."

Although Mr. Bush has been hard on Democrats, at each of his stops he delivered speeches in Moline, Ill., and Aurora, Mo., on Monday he has touted the bipartisan education bill passed by Congress with the help of prominent Democrats, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

"We showed what can happen in Washington when you put your political parties aside and focus on what's best for the United States of America," he said, drawing the loudest applause of the day.

The Senate is expected to vote on granting Mr. Bush authority to negotiate "fast track" trade agreements, which would allow the president more leeway in setting up trade pacts. Presidents have sought the authority for years. The House last year passed the bill by one vote, 215-214.

"I'm worried about jobs. And I believe if you trade more, there are more jobs available for hard-working Americans," Mr. Bush said. "Therefore, we ought to have free and fair trade around the world."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said he expected the Senate to pass the trade bill soon. "Unless there's political mischief, the votes appear to be there," he said aboard Air Force One.

Mr. Bush also used the New Orleans trip to rally support for a protracted war on terrorism.

"Some in our coalition may get tired of this effort, or some in our country may tire, but I can assure you, I'm not, because I view this as a defining moment in history," he said.

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