Bush, Democrats exchange views on economic stimulus package

WASHINGTON -- President Bush appealed Saturday for Congress to pass his stimulus package and help Americans hurting from an economic downtown that has grown worse since the terrorist attacks.

In his weekly radio address, Bush sparred with congressional Democrats over whether his proposal would truly help the growing number of people put out of work because of the attacks and the onset of a recession.

He said it does, by extending jobless benefits by 13 weeks in the states most affected by terrorism as well as offering Medicaid coverage for uninsured workers and emergency grants for job training.

"We must bring quick help to those who need it most, and we must restore our economy's growth," Bush said. "It's the holiday season. It's a time to reach out to Americans who are hurting, to help them put food on the table and to keep a roof over their heads."

Democrats responded by saying the president's plan does not do enough, and they attacked the House-passed package that offers billions in tax breaks to corporations.

"Unemployed workers need that money ... and they will use that money immediately, spending it and in turn helping stimulate the economy," said Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada in the Democrats' radio address.

"These are difficult and unusual times, but we must not run up the national debt with risky, unfair tax measures that won't help the economy recover."

Bush said he wants to lower taxes on employers so they can expand and hire. He noted that he also asked Congress to speed along the income tax reductions passed in spring "so that people can keep more of their own money to spend or pay their debts."

The latest discouraging economic sign came Friday: A 1.1 percent drop in the Gross Domestic Product that showed the economy was much weaker between July and September than estimated.