EAST MOLINE, Ill. – Smarting a rosy abrasion across his left cheek and a bruised lip, President Bush went about his regular business on Monday, pushing expanded trade authority as a means to boost exports and end the 10-month long recession.
He also again vowed to reject any delays in the tax cut schedule enacted last year.
Bush opened the two-day, three-state push with a series of jokes about the fainting spell he suffered Sunday after a pretzel went "down the wrong pipe" while he was watching an NFL football playoff game in his private quarters at the White House.
He told the audience that he learned a valuable lesson from his experience.
"If my mother is listening, Mother, I should have listened to you: Always chew your pretzels before you swallow. When I work the rope lines, people bring their children. I always turn to the child especially the teenagers and say, 'Listen to your mother. It's the best advice I can give you.' I obviously needed to do the same thing last night. But I'm feeling great," Bush told 1,500 workers at a John Deere plant
Bush, tracking the transport routes of agricultural products and equipment, followed one of the combines built at the John Deere factory down the Mississippi River and west to Springfield, Mo., where he spoke with farmers who use the machines at a feed mill. On Tuesday, he will speak at the port of New Orleans, where the grain the farmers grow is shipped abroad. Bush says increased trade is a matter of economic security and improved international relations.
"I'm confident in the American farmer. I know the American farmer is more efficient and can raise more crop than anybody anywhere in the world. I'm confident we need to open up markets not close them down. I'm confident we got to get my friend [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to be buying John Deere products," he said.
Bush wants Congress to give him Trade Promotion Authority, the ability to make NAFTA-like deals that Congress can either approve or reject but can't amend. The authority, also known as Fast Track, expired in 1994 during the Clinton administration after Congress refused to renew it to protest the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In December, the House of Representatives passed by one vote a measure to grant the president authority to conduct trade deals. The Democratic-led Senate is expected to vote on the deal early this year.
"I'm confident we need to open up markets, not close them down," the president said. "What this nation needs is to level the playing field and have trade that'll create jobs all across America."
On agricultural business, Democrats failed to pass a farm program through 2006. Most of the money in that bill would continue to go to grain, cotton and soybean farms but also offer new subsidies for a variety of additional commodities, including milk, honey and lentils. It also would double spending on conservation.
The administration criticized both that bill and one passed by the House in October, and urged Congress to delay finishing work on them until this year, when the current bill expires. It said both measures risk exceeding levels set in an international trade agreement and provide too much money to big farms that least need the assistance.
Bush also pledged to fight any effort to delay his $1.35 trillion tax cut, passed by Congress last year, but under criticism by Democrats who say it is responsible for coming budget deficits.
Monday, Bush pledged to fight any effort to repeal the cuts. "If you have more money in your pocket, you buy more things, which encourages more production," he said. "I've made up my mind — the tax relief plan we passed, which you're now beginning to feel the effects of, is going to be permanent."
In Missouri, he told farmers that he was also pleased with the phasing out of the death tax "so the American farmer can pass his farm from one generation to the next."
During the flight from Washington, Bush made light of his fainting spell by sending a large bag of pretzels to the press cabin with a scribbled warning to "chew slowly." Later, while touring the John Deere plant here, Bush said of a welder's mask, "I need this all the time around the pretzels."
Spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president, fighting a head cold, reported having a runny nose but was otherwise fine.
During the flight, Bush called Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Bashar Assad of Syria to talk about peace efforts in the Middle East and the anti-terrorism campaign.
Bush is focusing his attention on the economy as the war on terrorism continues and attention returns to the domestic front and the collapse of Enron Corp., which left thousands of employees and stockholders penniless.
"The economy is a concern for all Americans, especially for those out of work," the president said in his weekly radio address Saturday. He outlined his plan to extend unemployment and health benefits for Americans who have lost their jobs.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.