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Bush pitches economic message in Midwest

Trip includes fund raising for GOP candidates

President Bush speaks on the economy at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
President Bush speaks on the economy at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.  

DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- Taking his economic message and fund-raising prowess on the road, President Bush Wednesday challenged Congress to hold the line on spending and vowed to bolster the nation's fiscal health.

"I understand and you know that this economy of ours is challenged," Bush said at the Iowa State Fair. "Anytime somebody wants to work and can't find a job, it says to me, we've got a problem. We've got hard-working Americans here trying to put bread on the table for their families and they can't find a place to work, and we'd better do something about it."

At an earlier stop in Wisconsin, Bush said he came away from an economic forum that he hosted Tuesday confident about the nation's fiscal future but not content with the progress being made.

He told an audience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee that Congress must curb its spending to rein in the federal deficit. The government is dealing with a project deficit of $165 billion.

"Excessive spending will serve as a drag on economic growth," he said, one day after hosting an economic forum in Texas that was derided by Democrats as nothing more than a political relations gimmick.

During a two-day break from his summer vacation at his Texas ranch, Bush also headlined a $500-a-plate luncheon for GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, who is seeking re-election. The event was expected to raise $600,000.

The president will also be the star attraction at an Iowa fund-raiser Wednesday and will deliver a speech Thursday near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

Bush said he vetoed a $5.1 billion supplemental appropriations bill because he didn't think all the items were necessary, and he was prevented from turning down line items in the all-or-nothing plan.

The funds were part of a supplemental spending package for homeland security and defense that the president signed August 2. The way the legislation was written, Bush could decide whether to designate as emergency funding $5.1 billion of the $28.9 billion allocated.

One of the items sought under the emergency funding request, he said, was a new museum to house U.S. bugs and worms.

"I'm serious about protecting the taxpayers' money," he said. "If someone thinks it's that important, they can put it in next year's appropriations bill.

"I am not going to allow Congress (to) pressure me to spend money I don't think is needed. For the good of the economy, we must show fiscal restraint," Bush said.

Bush did urge Congress to get a defense appropriations bill to his desk in September, after its recess.

"It's important to the war on terror that they not play politics on the appropriations bill," he said.

Bush praised Congress for passing the corporate reform act, imposing stiffer penalties on executives charged with fraud.

"It's no longer easy money for these folks," Bush said. "It's hard time."

He urged both houses to act on passing a terrorism insurance bill so $8 billion in commercial construction projects can go forward. Under the plan, the government would help pay the costs of such insurance, which became an issue after September 11.

He also said his administration plans to make the most of its recently expanded authority to negotiate international trade agreements, pointing out the difference strong trade can make to farm states like Wisconsin with crops to share with world markets.




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