WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) was talking tax cuts in Ohio Thursday, putting pressure on the junior Republican senator from that state who opposes the president's $726 billion package.
The president also said the coalition forces will leave the newly-liberated Iraq in the hands of a free people.
"Our mission, besides removing a regime that threatened us ... besides getting rid of weapons of mass destruction, our mission has been to bring in humanitarian aid, put Iraq on a road to self government .... We'll stay as long as it takes to achieve our mission and then all of our forces will leave Iraq and come home," Bush told workers at a Lima tank plant.
Earlier in the day, Bush discussed helping the domestic agenda by stimulating the nation's economy with tax cuts.
"Because of the roll up-your-sleeves attitude by thousands of Americans ... because of the business sense that we can do what it takes to overcome the obstacles in our way ... I am optimistic about the future of the country," Bush told employees at Timken Research Facility, a ball bearing facility in Canton.
But Bush is facing greater opposition to his tax cutting proposals.
Sen. George Voinovich has said he won't be pressured by the president into approving a tax cut above $350 billion. Last time the president pushed a tax cut, in 2001, he headed to Ohio to promote a $1.6 trillion proposal. Voinovich, who had expressed skepticism at the cuts, offered his support for the plan a week later.
This time around, seeing resistance by Voinovich as well as a few other Republicans, Bush is urging constituents to press Congress to pass his package.
"It's important that Washington, however, respond to some of the problems we face. One of the problems we face is that too many of our fellow Americans can't find jobs .... For the sake of our country, for the sake of our workers of America, Congress needs to pass this job growth package soon," he said.
Making sure to speak on an issue from which he draws considerable strength, Bush discussed the fall of Saddam Hussein, saying "the world now knows we keep our word" when it comes to hunting down sponsors of terror and illegitimate regimes.
He told workers at the General Dynamics Lima Tank Plant that the war's success has allowed liberty to prevail.
"Iraq must be democratic — we will help that nation build a government, of, by and for the Iraqi people," Bush said.
The tank plant makes the Abrams M1A2, the workhorse of mobile forces that fought in Iraq. The plant employs about 600 people, down from the 3,800 workers employed there before layoffs hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Combining national security and economy, Bush hopes to get a leg up on the tax cut package (search) he proposed two months ago. Since then, the House approved a budget resolution that foresees $550 billion in cuts. The Senate, however, voted for only $350 billion.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, agreed to the lower number in order to get the support of Voinovich and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who said they both would vote against anything higher than $350 billion.
Since the congressional votes before Easter recess, Bush has scaled back his demands for the entire $726 billion, using the larger number passed by the House.
"The package ought to be at least $550 billion in size over the next 10 years in order to make sure the economy grows," Bush said in Ohio.
Commerce Secretary Don Evans said that the administration will pursue all of the cuts but will pull out some for separate passage. Among the different cuts, the president wants to accelerate the child tax credit, eliminate the marriage penalty tax, speed up cuts to the marginal income tax rates and pass a dividend tax cut for stockholders. The last comprises more than half of the president's plan.
Voinovich has said that he can't support higher cuts unless there are more reductions in spending. Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn said that Bush would have a very difficult time convincing the senator to change his mind.
"It can only be called 'pressure' if the people back home don't support him, or if the president has a snowball's chance in of hell getting him to change his position," Milburn said.
Aides, former associates and fellow lawmakers also predicted that Voinovich will not yield to the president's plan.
"If the strategy is for the president of the United States to come to Ohio and try to shake Voinovich, it's whistling in the wind. It won't work," said Tim Cosgrove, who worked for Voinovich for 15 years when Voinovich was Cleveland mayor and later Ohio governor.
"This is a guy who made a career out of fiscal responsibility," Cosgrove said. "He doesn't shake easily."
Democrats have not been shy to express their pleasure at Voinovich and Snowe's intransigence.
"If you're really interested in creating growth in the economy and jobs, work has to be done to put money in the pockets of people who will spend it," said Sen. John Corzine, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "It's a very narrow slice of America that's going to benefit from Bush's plan."
The Club for Growth, a conservative tax-cut advocacy group, has been airing ads in Ohio and Maine that equate Snowe's and Voinovich's opposition to French opposition to the war in Iraq.
The ads prompted Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to demonstrate a rare show of support for Voinovich and Snowe.
"I don't usually agree with Senators Voinovich and Snowe, but I don't think they are disloyal Americans," McAuliffe said Wednesday. "President Bush and his administration should repudiate these comments by demanding that these attack ads be immediately withdrawn and a public apology be issued to the senators by the Club for Growth."
Ohio has lost nearly 168,000 jobs or more than 3 percent of its work force since Bush took office, House Democrats said, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics Data.
Without ever mentioning Voinovich, Bush acknowledged job growth hasn't occurred as quickly as he hoped, but said that if there is a consensus in Washington that tax relief will help people put money in their pocket, then bigger tax cuts are the better way to go.
More money in people's pockets for them to spend or invest "is good for job growth," the president said.
"The money we're talking about in Washington is not the government's money. It's your money, it's the people's money, and when you have more of it, it drives up demand for goods and services, and that is important given the productivity of today," Bush said.
Thursday's visit was Bush's ninth trip to Ohio, and suggests the president is looking ahead to 2004, in which the president won't be able to rely solely on his successes in national security.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.