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Bush urges Americans to travel, Congress to work

ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) -- President Bush used an hour-long town hall meeting here Tuesday to press Congress to pass his stalled economic stimulus package, including corporate tax cuts he said would combat unemployment.

"Let's stimulate job growth. The best thing for you to be able to find a job is for there to be more jobs available," Bush said.

Bush also said he believes the economy is poised for a rebound, with low interest rates, lower energy prices and previously approved tax cuts kicking in during coming years.

"We've got the framework for growth. And by the way, the same entrepreneurial spirit that existed in America prior to September 11 still exists today. They can't take that away from us," he said to thunderous applause.

"I urge the United States Congress to stop talking and get an economic security bill to my desk," Bush said.

"We have a role to play. The House has acted and for that I am grateful. The Senate needs to get a bill, get it reconciled and get it to my desk.

"The truth of the matter is economic security depends upon our ability to get our economy cranked up again so new jobs are created."

Standing beneath a banner that read, "Fighting for America's Workers," Bush outlined what he wants to see in the stimulus package:

-- Extending unemployment insurance for workers who lost their jobs in the fallout from the September 11 terrorist attacks.

-- Moving up the effective date of individual income tax cuts approved earlier this year.

-- Giving rebates to low and moderate income taxpayers who were not eligible for the tax rebates sent out earlier this year.

-- Providing emergency grants to states that they could use to pay for health care of unemployed workers.

"Nothing hurts me more than to know that some of our citizens and some of our families hurt because they've been laid off because of [September 11]," Bush said, noting the attacks created ripple effects that have touched almost every region and business sector.

Florida has been particularly hit hard. Much of the state's tourism-dependent economy has drooped and legions of workers have been laid off.

Responding to questions from the audience, Bush said the new airline security bill and federal financial aid to airlines would help tourism and related industries get back on their feet.

"I hope that the measures we have put in place -- financial measures plus security measures -- will convince the American people to get on airplanes and come down to Florida," Bush said.

The Republican-controlled House has passed an economic stimulus package that includes new corporate tax cuts, including elimination of the alternative minimum tax on corporations.

The legislation has stalled in the Senate, where Democrats have criticized its size and its emphasis on cutting taxes for businesses.

While calling for reform of corporate income taxes, Bush said he does not support one provision in the House bill that allows businesses to seek refunds for payments of the alternative minimum tax back to 1986, when it was imposed during the Reagan administration.

"We ought to reform the corporate income tax system. This current system says that as you lose money, you begin to pay more taxes. That doesn't make any sense if you're worried about job creation," he said.

"I don't think we ought to be looking back for a decade, but I do think we ought to reform the system as we head forward."

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-South Dakota, perhaps anticipating Bush's remarks, insisted Tuesday afternoon that congressional Republicans have showed little willingness to negotiate with Senate Democrats, who would rather extend insurance and health care programs rather than concentrate on tax incentives.

Six members of Congress -- three House members and three senators -- are supposed to begin hammering out a compromise on the legislation soon, based on an agreement Monday by congressional leaders that ended weeks of wrangling.

Earlier in the day, Bush met his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, for a visit to a program called Operation Paycheck that provides job training for displaced workers in fields where jobs are available. The president pledged federal money to states to pay for similar programs.

During the town hall meeting, Bush also called on Congress to approve his energy plan, which calls for developing new domestic sources of oil and using more nuclear energy.

"I believe it is in our national interest to have an energy plan -- to have a strategy to get us less dependent on foreign sources of crude oil," he said.

"Energy prices are low, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't worry about our future, because if the economies of the world come back, we might be in a tight [supply] again, in which case we're going to be wondering where was the energy policy that the president was arguing for back in the year 2001."


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