Bush Urges House Republicans to OK Stimulus Plan

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President Bush met Friday with House Republicans on a GOP retreat at the Greenbrier in West Virginia. The president urged the congressmen to pass the economic stimulus agreement he hammered out with House leaders — and to resist changes from the left and the right.


President Bush today urged Republican members of Congress to act immediately on the new economic stimulus package. House leaders and the administration worked out the rare compromise earlier this week. Mr. Bush spoke to lawmakers at their annual retreat at the historic Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: Secluded in the mountains of West Virginia, the stately Greenbrier resort was occupied by both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War. It turned into an Army hospital during World War II. And during the Cold War, the U.S. government set up an underground bunker from which to operate in the event of a nuclear attack.

Today, Republican Congress members worked above ground in the hotel's grand lobbies and elegant ballrooms. President Bush came to give them a pep talk in advance of Monday's State of the Union Address. He highlighted two major pieces of legislation.

GEORGE W: Two issues I'm going to talk about in the State of the Union require our immediate attention, and that's an economic growth package that will keep this economy of ours healthy; and legislation making sure our professionals, our intelligence professionals have the tools they need to protect the United States of America.


ELLIOTT: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance bill is now before the Senate. Up first in the House is the economic stimulus package negotiated this week by House leaders and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. President Bush's main message: Congress needs to move fast on the collection of tax rebates, business incentives and mortgage lending reforms.

BUSH: It's a sound package. It makes a lot of sense. It's needed. And you need to pass it as quickly as possible to get money in the hands of the people who are going to help this economy stay strong.


ELLIOTT: Mr. Bush expressed confidence in the long-term strength of the economy, but said there are uncertainties, and the stimulus would reduce the risk of an economic downturn this year. He acknowledged both sides wanted more from the legislation but said it would be a mistake to delay or derail the bill by tying to add those provisions now.

BUSH: And I want you - I'll make sure you understand in the State of the Union that this package certainly doesn't mean we ought to do something else on taxes. And the best thing we can do to deal with uncertainty in the economy is make the tax cuts we pass permanent.


ELLIOTT: After the speech, House Republican leader John Boehner said he and Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are committed to moving the stimulus package at the earliest possible time. Some House Republicans are concerned it will add to the federal budget deficit. Florida Congressman Jeff Miller is among them.

JEFF MILLER: In my opinion, a lot of it is very similar to what may have gotten some people in the financial difficulties where you try to borrow your way to prosperity. I'm one of those fiscal hawks in Congress that doesn't feel like we need to continue to borrow, borrow, borrow.

ELLIOTT: But Republican leaders say without a fix, federal tax revenues would decline. Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam.

ADAM PUTNAM: To the extent that you can put a short-term infusion of policies into the economy right now, I think it staves off a recession or prevents it from being worse which has a much bigger impact on revenues than the cost of that short-term stimulus. But it doesn't add nearly as much to the deficit and it's doing nothing in allowing the economy to spiral out of control.

ELLIOTT: Republican leaders believe the measure will be approved by the House, but they acknowledge things could slow down in the Senate. Some senators have said they want to see more in the bill such as extending unemployment benefits and more investment in public infrastructure.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

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