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Bush, Daschle spar over economic stimulus

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush stepped up pressure on Senate Democrats to pass a long-delayed economic stimulus bill, saying in his Saturday radio address that not doing so could mean the loss of 300,000 jobs. Democrats responded by saying Republican proposals do not provide enough aid for laid-off workers.

Bush's comments criticized the Senate's Democratic leadership, in particular Majority Leader Tom Daschle, for the lack of action on the bill, which he considers critical to help the slumping economy recover from its recession. Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney also criticized Daschle as an "obstructionist" on the measure.

"The Senate has failed to act. And while the Senate has failed to do its work, more and more Americans have been thrown out of work," Bush said Saturday. The president noted he made an economic stimulus proposal more than two months ago, and that the House passed a Republican version of the legislation similar to his plan.

Daschle, of South Dakota, delivered the Democratic radio address Saturday, saying he is "confident" that Democrats and Republicans can bridge their differences on the bill. "Democrats are more than willing to compromise on every detail -- as long as the final plan provides real help to families who need it," he said.

Leaders of the two parties have been at odds over how best to provide economic stimulus, with leaders from each party favoring different mixes of tax cuts and aid to unemployed workers hurt by an already-sluggish economy that suffered even more after the September 11 terrorist attacks. Negotiators were planning to work through the weekend to try to reach a compromise.

Democrats have said the Republican proposals rely too heavily on tax cuts, particularly for big business, while not doing enough to directly aid those hardest hit by the recession by expanding unemployment benefits for laid off workers -- including part-time workers and recent hires. Democrats would also offer health insurance benefits until laid-off workers find new jobs, he said.

"Democrats and Republicans have very different ideas about how to help the economy. We believe that any plan to help the economy must start by helping laid-off workers," Daschle said. "Our Republican friends have a different idea. They think the way to help the economy is to give billions of dollars in new tax cuts for wealthy individuals and profitable corporations in the hope that money will trickle down to working families."

In his radio address, Bush pushed a compromise proposal that he has been shopping around to moderate Democrats in the Senate, hoping to break the logjam and get a measure in place before legislators go home for the holiday recess.

Bush said his compromise will provide an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits and provide some assistance for health insurance, in addition to providing tax refunds for low income families and tax cuts for middle class families by accelerating tax cuts that had been scheduled for 2004. Business tax cuts, he said, will help create more jobs.

"This economic growth package is urgently needed," he said.

Bush said he believes there is sufficient support in the Senate to get the compromise measure passed, but that Daschle first has to put the measure up for a vote.


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