President Offers Labor Relief

Fleshing out the $60 billion to $75 billion economic stimulus plan proposed Wednesday, President Bush said he is pushing a $3 billion emergency aid package to help workers who lost their jobs after terrorist attacks Sept. 11.

"I believe the best way to help people who need health care needs or job training needs or income support is to fund the national emergency grant system by an additional $3 billion," the president said Thursday. "This will be federal money that will go to states so they can distribute monies directly to people whose lives have been affected."

The president told workers at the Labor Department he also wants to extend unemployment benefits an additional 13 weeks in states where joblessness has spiked in the terror aftermath. Weekly unemployment filings this week were 528,000, the highest rate since 1992.

The expansion of benefits will last for 18 months, Bush said.

The president also suggested a child health care program that would use $11 billion in unclaimed funds sitting in the government kitty.

"Now is not the time to be timid. Now is the time to act," he said.

The aid to workers is part of the larger stimulus package proposed by the president Wednesday while meeting with business leaders in New York.

The plan so far has few details, but Bush said it would affect all sides of the economic equation: business and individuals, from tax incentives to increased federal spending.

"We believe there ought to be more to make sure that the consumer has got money to spend, money to spend in the short term," Bush said. "Secondly, there needs to be business relief as well, to encourage investment."  

Senate members varied their estimates of how much money will be needed to pull the economy out of recession. Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said the package should equal about $60 billion, 1 percent of the GDP, which is about $100 billion minus $40 billion in stimulus measures since August.

Ranking member Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., had a slightly different take, suggesting an $80 billion package. When asked to square the different numbers, Conrad explained $60 billion was just "a floor."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., repeated Thursday that he favors a stimulus package priced at around $50 billion, but said he welcomed the president's initiatives to help employees, particularly since a compensation package for laid off workers proposed by Democrats stalled Senate passage of an aviation security bill Wednesday.

Senate leaders were trying to get that bill back on track Thursday without additional amendments.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., met with congressional leaders and administration officials at the White House Thursday to discuss possible stimulus options. He said there is growing agreement that something must be done soon to help the economy.

Lott said he wouldn't rule out running a deficit to pay for the stimulus package. But he cautions against letting "loose the dogs of deficit spending forever."

Striking the Fiscal Balance

Daschle said when he asked his economic analysts whether tax incentives or more federal spending would be better to get the economy moving, they said both alternatives are equally helpful.

"So our hope is that we can find the proper balance between spending and tax cuts and that within tax cuts, that we find the proper balance between investment incentives or commitments to expenditures," he said.

Some legislators have said they favor another round of tax rebates in the economic stimulus package. Others have said they would like relief for the roughly 30 million Americans whose tax burden was so low they did not qualify for rebate checks mailed out earlier in the year.

Fox News' Julie Asher and the Associated Press contributed to this report.