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Hard-hats hear hard talk from Bush

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Wrapping up a two-day tour on economic issues Tuesday, President Bush stepped up pressure on Democrats in the Senate to approve legislation that is pending on trade, energy and a stalled economic stimulus package.

In recent weeks, the president has sparred with the Democrat-controlled chamber on economic issues. He continued the tussle in a speech to workers at the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana.

"It's about time they focused on creating jobs in America and get me a trade bill and an energy bill for the good of the American people," Bush said of the Senate.

"An energy plan will help create jobs, a trade bill will create jobs," he continued. "And we need a stimulus plan that says, 'Let's be smart. Let's encourage entrepreneurs and people who buy equipment and let's accelerate the tax relief so that this economy will grow so that people who want to work can find work.' "

Bush's comments to the hard-hat clad workers came on the last leg of a tour in which he also visited workers Monday at a John Deere heavy-equipment plant in Illinois and farmers at a Missouri feed mill.

The stops, he said, were meant to highlight how the U.S. economy is linked. The industrial equipment produced in Illinois and the products grown by Missouri farmers, he noted, pass through the Louisiana port for export overseas.

"This isn't a Republican issue. This isn't a Democrat issue," he said. "Trade is a jobs issue, and the United States Senate needs to hear the voices of the working people and get me a bill I can sign."

The trade bill, known as "fast track" or "trade promotion authority," passed by a single vote in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives last month, but only after Bush and other top Republicans engaged in an intense, last-minute push for votes.

The legislation would give the president the authority to make trade pacts without having to involve lawmakers in his agreements. Congress would retain the power to approve or reject the deals, but not to amend them. Many Democrats said the proposal would give the administration too much power.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle has said he supports the legislation and has said he would bring it up for a vote sometime early this year, after Congress returns from its winter recess later this month.

Some Republicans are concerned that Democrats could hold off on putting the bill up for a vote in order to use it as leverage on other pressing matters, such as economic stimulus -- the source of increased partisan friction in Washington in recent months.




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