Bush talks economy, security in Midwest
'We're going to win that war'
KEYSTONE, South Dakota (CNN) -- Wrapping up a two-day tour of the Midwest, President Bush Thursday challenged the Senate to approve his plans for a Homeland Security Department.
"I don't want our hands tied," Bush said, rejecting the objections of some Senate Democrats who say the administration wants to undermine workers' rights in the proposed new department by ignoring civil service protections.
Speaking against the backdrop of the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Bush criticized the Senate version of the homeland security bill, saying it would limit his ability to run the department, expected to have about 170,000 employees.
"I need flexibility to run this department," Bush declared.
He called the department critical to winning the war on terrorism.
"This generation has got challenges to meet, and we're going to meet those challenges head on," he said. "We got the challenge of fighting and winning a war against terrorists, and we're going to win that war against terrorists."
Bush hit on themes he outlined in earlier speeches in Iowa and Wisconsin: a call for fiscal responsibility, a crackdown on corporate corruption, the need for terrorism insurance, permanent tax cuts, increased minority home ownership, limits on medical liability lawsuits and a U.S. energy policy less dependent on international oil.
As he has before, Bush stressed his belief that while the American economy is challenged, it remains fundamentally strong.
Bush first stopped in Wisconsin and then went to Iowa -- two states he narrowly lost in the 2000 presidential election. Politics played a role in the president's travels: All three Midwestern states host key November elections, and the president is helping raise funds for his fellow Republicans. Over the past two days, aides said the president helped raise about $2 million for GOP candidates.
Wednesday, at the Iowa State Fair, which is home to the early presidential caucuses, two top Democrats -- Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri -- were there, a possible sign of things to come.
The two Democrats never encountered Bush at the fairgrounds, but Lieberman didn't pass up the opportunity to comment on Bush's economic summit Tuesday.
"The president's economic summit in Waco, Texas seemed a lot less like a summit and more like a valley," he said. "This economy's in trouble, and this administration has had no economic growth strategy."
In his fundraising efforts, Bush was the keynote speaker at a $500-a-plate fund-raiser for GOP Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum, helping to raise $600,000 for McCallum's re-election bid. It was Bush's seventh trip to Wisconsin.
And in Iowa, Bush raised $1.3 million for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross.
--CNN White House Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report
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