KANSAS CITY, Missouri – President George W. Bush is relying on his bully pulpit to get an economic deal done, a strategy proving tough with a Senate that fumes at being bullied.
Bush was pushing again Friday to boost the sagging economy with a plan of tax rebates for millions of people and tax breaks for companies. His latest try comes as the fragile partnership that led to an economic recovery deal in the House appears to be unraveling in the Senate.
Bush planned to stop by the headquarters of Hallmark Cards Inc. to give his comments a real-life business context. It was his third such event in two weeks, including visits to a lawnmower plant in Maryland and a helicopter company in California.
The White House and Congress are eager to show they are doing something about the economy. The House quickly adopted a $161 billion economic stimulus plan this week that would send $600-$1,200 rebates to more than 100 million Americans in hopes they would spend the money quickly and give the flagging economy a shot in the arm. Unemployment jumped in December to 5 percent and further weakening could intensify recession fears.
Senate Democrats are pushing to add elements to the House plan that they say will add a bigger boost, including rebates for older Americans and disabled veterans, and heating aid for the poor. The Senate plan also would extend unemployment benefits.
Bush's argument that the Senate should adopt the House package and get money into people's hands fast does not go over well in a chamber that says it has a role to play.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said Thursday that Democrats have spoken on how the package can be improved. He said their bill was on track to be completed by Feb. 15.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, warned that the proposed add-ons were troublesome. "The stimulus train is grinding to a halt here in the U.S. Senate," he said.
All parties have competing pressures — to get legislation done quickly, which is rarely done in Washington, and to manage to compromise when so many ideas are being championed.
The president, capping three days of travel, is not just trying to help everyday people. His agenda also has featured five Republican fundraisers in four states. The events are expected to generate $4.7 million for the party and its candidates.
On Friday, Bush will raise money for Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican who is in a tough re-election race. Graves will also be with Bush when the president tours the Hallmark greeting card company.
Bush draws media coverage everywhere he goes and is using that platform to pressure lawmakers into getting an economic-growth deal done. But he is not getting into hands-on negotiations. That he delegates to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.
The faltering economy has come to dominate the Washington debate. It has done the same in households as families struggle with faulty mortgages, energy bills and credit woes.
The economy is now virtually tied with the Iraq war as people's top worry, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. In October, the war was the top concern by a 2-1 majority.
Before his economic event, Bush was to discuss healthy living by promoting steps people can take to prevent heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States. In a rare turn, first lady Laura Bush will deliver the weekly radio address on the same topic.