WASHINGTON – President Bush thanked the Senate Friday for passing legislation that would preserve his proposal to cut taxes on stock dividends and said it should help the economy.
"I'm optimistic about our economy and its future," Bush said. "I'm even more optimistic now that the Senate has acted."
Bush spoke with reporters as he prepared to board his helicopter to spend the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. (search)
Even though the Senate version would only temporarily erase taxes on dividends, Bush said it was a good start.
The president also praised Congress for voting to greatly increase U.S. spending against global AIDS (search). And he said the United States would work with Saudi Arabia to track down those responsible for this week's terror bombings.
Bush called Monday's Al Qaeda-linked suicide bombings in Riyadh (search) "certainly a wake-up call to many that the war on terror continues."
Despite criticism from some U.S. officials that the Saudis had not done enough to prevent the attacks, Bush said, "Saudi Arabia is our friend ... and we're working closely with them to track down the killers of American citizens and British citizens and citizens from Saudi Arabia as well as other countries."
"We've still got a big task to protect the American people and others who love freedom from the designs and the will of those purveyors of hate," Bush added. "We'll find them, we're going to bring them to justice."
"No one should be complacent in the 21st century, the early stages of the 21st century, so long as Al Qaeda moves," he said. "I've told the country that we've brought to justice about half of the Al Qaeda network — operatives, key operatives. And so the other half still lives. And we'll find them, one at a time."
Bush was asked about his filing of papers earlier in the day with the Federal Election Commission (search) to formally activate his re-election campaign.
"The American people will decide whether or not I deserve a second term," he said. "In the meantime, I am focusing my attention today on helping people find work, and that's where I'm going to be for a while."
Bush expressed clear satisfaction with his tax-cut victory in the closely divided, GOP-controlled Senate late Thursday night.
By a 51-49 vote, the Senate approved a bill cutting individual income taxes and some business levies by $350 billion through 2013.
On a 51-50 roll call, with Vice President Dick Cheney casting a tie-breaking vote, the Senate voted late Thursday for a temporary repeal of dividend taxes — the centerpiece of Bush's tax package. Then the Senate by a 51-49 vote approved the overall economic package cutting individual income taxes and some business levies by $350 billion through 2013.
"We had a good day yesterday in the United States Senate. The Senate passed a bill that will make it more likely people looking for work will find a job. I'm pleased with the progress," Bush said.
"I look forward to working with the House and Senate leadership to reconcile any differences they have and get a bill to my desk as soon as possible."
Rep. Christopher Cox, R-Calif., a member of the House GOP leadership, called the Senate bill's three-year suspension of the dividend tax "a very happy and surprisingly good step, because the president's vision is clearly reflected in the Senate's plan."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., had said Thursday that a temporary elimination "does not solve the problem" because the dividend tax would be revived in full in 2007.
Bush also praised the Senate for approving early Friday the spending of $15 billion over five years to combat the spread of AIDS and to help the 42 million people suffering from it. The House has passed a nearly identical bill and is expected to speed the measure to the president's desk next week.
Bush said the initiative "will help save the world."
"It looks like that bill can get done pretty quickly and I'll be able to sign it and take it to Europe with me as a symbol of the great depth of compassion that our country holds for those suffer," he said. During the first week in June Bush will be attending the Group of Eight economic summit in Evian, France.