WASHINGTON – The budget the White House sends to Congress this month will give as much weight to pumping life into the stalled economy as it does to prosecuting the war on terrorism, President Bush said Saturday.
Bush made clear in his weekly radio address he is not backing away from his economic stimulus proposals, under attack by Democrats for helping corporations at the expense of the unemployed.
The president said he also will propose millions more in spending to improve the health of needy women and infants and to strengthen job training efforts.
"I am committed to building a strong economy that spreads its benefits to everyone," Bush said. "This goal reaches beyond politics or party, and I'm confident that Congress will join me in the work ahead."
"My plan is based on the simple truth that people out of work need an unemployment check; but what they need even more is a steady paycheck," the president said.
The Bush economic plan will take center stage when the president delivers his State of the Union address before a joint meeting of Congress on Jan. 29.
"The economy is a concern for all Americans, especially for those out of work," he said.
"My economic plan proposes an additional 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who have lost their jobs and direct assistance to protect their health insurance," he said.
Bush renewed his call on the Senate's Democratic leadership to follow the lead of the House and allow Congress to approve his economic stimulus proposals.
Responding for his party, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., said Democrats "do not think the answer to improving the economy is to provide a welfare bill for big corporations and special interests, as some Republicans in Washington are trying to pass."
"We as Democrats believe that our first priority should be to extend unemployment and health insurance benefits to these laid-off working families," Ross said. "Doing this will increase demand and move money quickly into our economy."
In the radio address, Bush contended he is not neglecting the needs of working Americans. He said he will propose a $364 million increase in the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, program, which counsels mothers on child nutrition and health care.
"This will be enough to serve nearly 8 million women and children each month," he said.
Bush said he will also ask for an additional $73 million for the job Corps to help pay for new residential training centers.
"My budget focuses on the pressing needs of our country and on the basic needs of our citizens," the president said.
Bush plans to take his economic message on the road Monday and Tuesday as he speaks to audiences in Moline, Ill.; Aurora, Mo.; and New Orleans. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said the president will discuss job creation, trade and economic security.