WASHINGTON – President Bush wrapped up his three-state tax-cut tour Tuesday, stumping for his economic package and repeating that economic security is key to homeland security.
"I'm optimistic we can overcome anything in our path," Bush told a crowd of 7,500 at the Indiana state fairgrounds (search). "We have a challenge to make sure we have economic security here at home … we also have a challenge to protect our fellow Americans from terrorism."
Bush was referring to Monday night's terrorist attacks on three housing compounds in Saudi Arabia, where many Westerners live.
According to the State Department (search), at least 29 were killed in the attacks, including seven Americans, and many others have been injured.
FBI officials said they suspect Al Qaeda (search) is behind the attacks.
Bush's appearance Tuesday at the fairgrounds -- the site of many historic events, including a Beatles concert -- marked one of the larger crowds Bush has addressed as president. People were lined up for the equivalent of about 20 blocks Tuesday morning waiting to get a spot in the audience.
The president is using the popularity he won in the Iraq war to try to persuade audience members to appeal to members of Congress to approve his tax-cut package.
"For the sake of economic vitality, Congress has got to act and act boldly on this plan to get more of your own money back to you," he said.
The Senate Finance Committee has endorsed a 10-year, $350 billion package, the House a $550 billion package. Both fall short of the $726 billion the president originally wanted; however, he has since said he would accept the House package.
Bush said that recent unemployment numbers "should be a clear signal to reluctant members of the United States Congress that we need an aggressive economic growth plan so that people can find work."
"I propose an aggressive plan because I want more people working. We don't need tepid steps in Washington, D.C.," he said.
Bush said that under his plan, economists estimate that 1 million jobs will be created by 2004.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. (search), has said he may support larger tax cuts, especially if Medicare aid is given to cash-strapped states.
"The pressure isn't coming from the White House," Nelson said. "It's coming from doing what's right."
Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., also hasn't set his decision in stone.
"I think he has an open mind to going over $350 billion," said Bayh spokesman Mark Kornblau. "But he would prefer to see any increase above $350 billion offset by spending cuts so as not to grow the deficit even further and not raid the Social Security trust fund."
Responding to criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that the tax cuts impose too high a price in the form of a ballooning federal deficit, Bush said he sees only two solutions for the growing deficit -- give tax breaks and cut spending.
"You can raise the taxes in order to make up the deficit, which doesn't make any sense to me. It'll hurt the economy. If giving people more of their money means more jobs, taking away their money means less jobs. Or, you can do our plan, which is hold the line on spending in Washington, D.C., which is being realistic with the people's money," he said Monday.
While stumping for his tax-cut plan, Bush has also touted strong corporate responsibility; massive support for small business; eliminating double taxation of stock dividends; elimination of the marriage tax; increase in the child-support credit and acceleration to cuts in the marginal tax rates.
On Monday night, Bush met with about 25 Republicans from the Hoosier state, home to retiring White House budget chief Mitchell Daniels. Daniels, who joined Bush at the fairgrounds, announced his resignation earlier this month and set up a likely run for Indiana governor.
Waiting for the president to arrive, one local college instructor and lifelong Democrat said she would support the president's cuts if they helped everyone, not just the wealthy.
"If they work, I'm for them -- if they work at all levels, not just for wealthy people," said Rebecca Shacklett. "I'm for what works in life, not for what's Democrat or Republican."
After his speech in Indianapolis, Bush headed to Pierce City, Mo., one of the locations hardest hit by severe tornadoes over the last week. About 100 homes were damaged or destroyed in the southwest Missouri town of 1,400. One church lost its steeple and another saw its cross bent over the top of it.
Bush has declared a disaster area in Missouri and three other states. He got a helicopter tour and a briefing on the ground followed by a walking tour of the devastation.
Fox News' Wendell Goler, James Rosen and Liza Porteus and the Associated Press contributed to this report.