CRAWFORD, Texas – President Bush used his ballyhooed economic forum to rebuke Congress for overloading the emergency homeland security spending bill with items he said are unessential to that mission.
Forced by a provision in the bill to spend all or none of the $5.1 billion tacked onto it -- some of which he liked, but most of which he didn't -- Bush said, "We'll spend none of it.
"We're not going to spend $4 billion we don't need in order to unlock $1 billion we do. For the good of our economy, for the good of the people who pay taxes, my administration will spend what is truly needed, and not a dollar more," Bush said at Tuesday's Baylor University event.
Aides said the White House would try to work with Congress to carve out $1 billion in extra spending on which they can agree.
At the four-forum sessions he attended -- on job creation, retirement security, corporate responsibility, and health care -- Bush heard only agreement with his previously stated views and no dissent from a diverse mix of small business owners, workers, educators, and corporate CEOs.
"Mr. President, we do believe that you have the right message," said small-business owner Curtis McGuire.
"I want to thank you for the tax relief and the stimulus package," said another small-business owner, Van Eure.
Larry Johnston, CEO of Albertsons, said he agrees that terrorism insurance, tort reform and worker pension protection are essential.
If dissent were absent, however, new ideas were not.
"Why we can't we have a tax credit for the premiums that we are paying for Medigap insurance?" asked Flora Green of the Seniors Coalition.
Registered nurse Lucinda Harmon suggested taking income limitations off all programs for people with disabilities.
For his part, the president listened intently and occasionally took notes.
He expressed interest in one idea from investment guru Charles Schwab, who proposed immediately allowing investors to deduct up to $20,000 against their income for losses that they suffered in investment.
"It is still, right now, a meager $3,000," Schwab said.
One business owner told the president the good old days of the late 1990s are not coming back anytime soon.
"Everyone wants the stock market to return to 11,000 and the Nasdaq to return to 5,000. And we all want to be happy and get all our money back again. Well, it's just not going to happen, and I think it's about time that we sit back and let the many measures that you have taken take hold," said Sheri Orlowitz, CEO of Shan Industries.
The focus of the summit centered on outrage over recent corporate accounting scandals and executives who behave badly.
The president agreed, again and again, suggesting the best way to teach corporate executives "a lesson is to put some of them in handcuffs."
But while agreeing that many CEOs are overcompensated, Bush drew a line on how far the government should go to address that situation.
"I don't think it's right for a government to regulate pay," Bush said. "It is a role for the federal government, however, to bring those to justice who break clear laws, and we will."
Vice President Cheney sat in on the four panels the president did not attend -- on trade, technology, education, and regulation.
Spending only 15 to 20 minutes at each session, the president often seemed regretful he wasn't staying longer.
"Yes, well, that's the life of the president -- always has to go," Bush said.
Wednesday, the president is on the go again to Milwaukee, Wis., and Des Moines, Iowa, where he will continue to emphasize the steps his administration has already taken to strengthen the economy and boost investor confidence, including making CEOs personally vouch for the accuracy of their companies' financial statements, a law that takes effect Wednesday.
Fox News' James Rosen contributed to this story.