"Congress has got to be wise about how they spend the people's money," Bush said at Frager's Hardware on Capitol Hill. "They've got to make sure the supplemental comes to me at a rate that I'll accept."
The president says he'll veto any bill exceeding his $92.2 billion spending request for the war in Iraq and hurricane relief plus an additional $2.3 billion to prepare for a possible bird flu pandemic. The Senate on Thursday passed a $109 billion supplemental spending bill, but it includes add-ons, making it some $14 billion more expensive than Bush has said he is willing to accept.
Bush visited the store, established in 1920, as part of his effort to convince Americans that the economy is robust and to highlight 138,000 jobs added to business payrolls across America in April.
He celebrated an unemployment rate that remained at 4.7 percent. Yet the April report showed that the level of new hiring slowed significantly, leading economists to believe that the economy is headed for a much smaller pace of growth than in the first quarter.
"Small businesses provide most of the job growth in our country," Bush said, standing amid spring flowers and plants in the store's garden center. "If the small business sector is doing well, so is the American economy."
Bush's quick trip to the hardware store also was aimed at countering his sagging poll numbers. Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency, according to a new AP-Ispos poll.
Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president. Conservative voters blame the White House and Congress for runaway government spending, illegal immigration and other issues. Those concerns come on top of public worries about Iraq, the economy and gasoline prices.
At the store, Bush emphasized that Congress must keep taxes low to ensure economic growth.
Senate and House negotiators have run into roadblocks over a $70 billion tax package that would extend tax breaks for investors and protect 15 million middle-income families from a tax designed for the wealthy.
"Raising taxes would hurt small businesses," Bush said. "Raising taxes would hurt consumers. Raising taxes would particularly affect working people now that the price of gasoline has gone up."
During his visit to the store, which had barbecue grills for sale in its storefront windows, employees gave him a rosemary plant to take home, and Bush bought a couple of toys for his dog, Barney.
"This is a good place to shop, by the way," he said. "I just spent some of my hard-earned money for Barney. I bought him a couple of toys to chew on. But don't let him know 'til I get over there, because it's a surprise."