Bush, Democrats call for agreement on budget
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a rare moment of agreement over money matters, Democrats and President Bush called on Saturday for an end to partisan bickering over the budget, which both said should concentrate on security and economic issues.
"Our highest priorities are clear to all," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "We must give our military every tool and weapon it needs to prevail in the war against terror. We must strengthen our country's defenses against further attack, with a comprehensive program of homeland security."
And, he added, "we must get our country's economy growing and creating jobs once again."
Freshman Rep. Mike Ross, D-Arkansas, delivered the Democrats' weekly commentary an hour later, noting "a number of priorities that must be addressed the budget."
"We must help those workers who have lost their jobs," he said. "We must provide incentives to grow the economy, and we must make sure that our country is prepared for and protected from future terrorist attacks."
"Now is not the time to play politics," Ross continued. "Now is the time to do what's right by the American people by developing a budget that puts working families first and that truly allows us to rebuild our economy and make America safe once again."
Bush, too, said his budget goals reach "beyond politics and party," saying he was "confident that Congress will join me in the work ahead."
The president said his budget will propose increases in unemployment insurance benefits and in a nutrition and health care program for low-income women and their children. He said his proposal also will include funds to expand the Job Corps, which provides job opportunities for low-income youths.
Yet disagreements remain to be worked out on how best to revive the economy. Ross assailed the Republican plan, saying it raids Social Security and Medicare to pay for "a welfare bill for big corporations and special interests."
Meanwhile, Bush renewed his call for the Democrat-controlled Senate to act on the Republican-backed plan, which passed in the House in December.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle kept the bill off the Senate floor, where Democrats are pushing a different set of proposals that do not include some of the tax cuts proposed in the Republican bill.
Daschle, D-South Dakota, and other Democrats have blamed the current economic downturn on the $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax cut Bush pushed through Congress last spring.
On February 4, Bush will present Congress with his budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year, which starts October 1. Earlier this week, Bush said his budget would be in the red, the cost, he said, of a recession and the war on terrorism.
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