WASHINGTON – Congress and the White House need to work together to get the U.S. economy back on track, a leading Senate Democrat said Saturday.
"We begin the new year with America's economy in the worst shape and the middle class at its most uncertain since the days immediately following 9/11," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.
"Unfortunately, this administration seems satisfied with the current state of the economy and the fortunes of the middle class. Democrats are not," Schumer said.
Still he added, "We will make every effort to work with this administration to change course and get our economy moving forward in a way that benefits all Americans."
The senior New York senator suggested two areas in which President Bush needs to change his approach to the economy:
--The government could jump-start the economy with stimulus spending "whether it be for short-term items such as extending unemployment insurance or longer-term investments such as in clean energy and infrastructure."
--The administration must focus on the housing crisis and declining home values. "We should take immediate, commonsense measures to prevent unnecessary foreclosures to preserve the economic value of our nation's homes," Schumer said.
The White House has been considering broad-based tax rebates comparable to the $300-$600 checks sent to taxpayers in 2001, as well as bigger tax breaks for businesses that invest in new equipment. But Republicans are wary of new spending initiatives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote Bush on Friday signaling their desire to try to move a stimulus package.
"We want to work with you and the Republican leadership of the Congress to immediately develop a legislative plan based upon these principles so it can be passed and implemented into law without delay," Pelosi and Reid wrote.
Schumer said Saturday that any stimulus package should meet three principles: It should be timely, it should be temporary and it should be targeted at the middle class.