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Bush pushes welfare reform with 'strict goals'

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- Putting new emphasis on his domestic agenda, President Bush called on lawmakers Friday to work with him on a new welfare reform bill with "time limits and high goals and high expectations."

Speaking at Saint Stephen's Community House -- a local service agency that is part of the state's welfare-to-work program -- Bush said Democrats and Republicans must put aside their partisan differences to reauthorize the welfare reform bill, first passed by Congress in 1996.

Most Democrats and Republicans agree the bill has been a great success in moving millions of people off welfare and into jobs. But the two parties differ new on some details of the reauthorization; for example there is disagreement over how long a person should be able to stay on welfare before finding work.

In general, the White House supports tougher work requirements that Democratic leaders. Bush called for "strict goals."

"We're saying from the time the bill is reauthorized till five years later the goal is that 70 percent of those remaining on welfare must find a job," Bush said. "Oh I've heard them complain about that's too high a goal. It's not too high a goal if it helps a person. If it brings dignity into someone's life, it's not too high a goal."

Bush said welfare reform must also include provisions allowing for education and job training.

The "cornerstone" of any bill, Bush said, must be work.

"Work helps people achieve the dignity in their lives," Bush said. "If you believe that every person has got value like I believe, then we ought to help that person find work."

Bush's focus on welfare reform is the latest effort by the White House to showcase its domestic agenda, which could take on significance as the midterm elections approach.

Earlier this week, the president focused on his goals for education and last week he reiterated his views on "compassionate conservatism."




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