WASHINGTON – President Bush urged legislators to "get moving" on passing an economic stimulus plan while spending smartly on its provisions.
"The temptation is to fund everybody's good idea," he told the National Association of Manufacturers conference.
The Senate is readying a bill for economic stimulus that the chamber will vote on next week. Legislators met with the president Wednesday to repeat their commitment to geting the bill done before a congressional recess.
The problem for the Senate is how to divide the money that would go into an economic stimulus package. Senate Republicans would provide $89 billion in unemployment relief, tax rebates for individuals and a variety of business tax breaks to spur investment. Democrats want more assistance to laid-off workers in the wake of Sept. 11.
The House narrowly passed a $100 billion plan last week that both Senate Republicans and Democrats say is too big.
Bush told Congress that he wants a bill on his desk before the end of November. "My call to Congress is, get to work and get something done."
He said any differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill could be worked out in conference committee between the two chambers.
Bush said that laid-off workers need health care aid and unemployment benefits but the purpose of a stimulus package is to bolster consumer demand and the best way to do that is by "making sure tax relief encourages investment."
He said he supports repealing the alternative minimum tax on business, a windfall expected to produce about $30 billion for businesses.
Support for tax cuts couldn't come at a better time for manufacturers. Gross domestic product is down 0.4 percent in the third quarter, the lowest it has been since 1991, when the United States economy was in a recession.
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill gave an optimistic outlook for future growth following the president's remarks.
"I think if we can get this stimulus bill in place quickly, there is still a plausible argument that the fourth quarter could be mildly positive. But we need to act. We need this stimulus bill out there so that the market can take it into account and begin job creation again," O'Neill told reporters Wednesday.
President Bush said that he also thought accelerating tax cuts that already were passed this spring and allowing for rebates to non-income tax payers who filed tax bills could help the economy. The president's plan provides $14 billion for low-income tax rebates.
Bush also urged businesses, workers and Congress to be confident in America's future.
He asked Congress to grant him trade promotion authority, the ability to make bilateral trade agreements without congressional tinkering.
Bush said trade is good for American workers, good for business and "good for the spread of American values."
Bush said, "This nation should not sit on the sideline when it comes to free trade. We must be confident. People who build walls around America are not confident in America. They are not confident in America's workers. They are not confident in American businesses. I am confident in America's ability to compete. I want to tear walls down."