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Bush Urges Passage of Tax Rebate

President Bush greets an employee while touring the Robinson Helicopter Co. in Torrance, Calif., on the first day of a three-day Western trip. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is behind Bush.
President Bush greets an employee while touring the Robinson Helicopter Co. in Torrance, Calif., on the first day of a three-day Western trip. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is behind Bush. (By Brad Graverson -- Associated Press)

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By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 31, 2008

TORRANCE, Calif., Jan. 30 -- President Bush teamed up with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday afternoon to press Congress to move quickly on his economic stimulus package, telling workers here the Senate should accept the $146 billion accord that passed the House this week.

The House has approved a package of tax rebates and business incentives, but the Senate is considering its own plan.

"My attitude is, if you're truly interested in dealing with the slowdown in the economy, the Senate ought to accept the House package, pass it, and get it to my desk as soon as possible," Bush said.

Schwarzenegger joined the president at Robinson Helicopter Co., the world's biggest helicopter manufacturer. The popular Republican governor said the stimulus package is necessary "to get our economy back on track."

Bush acknowledged signs that the U.S. economy is slowing but maintained his bullish long-term perspective, refusing again to cite the possibility of a recession.

"There's some uncertainty in the economy, but in the long run you've got to be confident about your economy," Bush said. "Inflation is down, interest rates are low, productivity is high. Our economy is flexible. It is resilient."

In Washington, the Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate Wednesday for the second time in eight days, seeking to boost an economy that in the past three months grew at the slowest rate since 2002, according to a government report.

Bush arrived here Wednesday morning on the first leg of a three-day Western swing aimed at highlighting his State of the Union themes and raising money for the Republican Party. Despite low approval ratings, Bush remains a GOP draw and was set to help raise more than $3 million Wednesday for the Republican National Committee at events in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Bush renewed his call for Congress to approve trade deals he has negotiated with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Like other elements of his stripped-down final-year agenda, the free-trade agreements face uncertain prospects in Congress, but Bush made the case that the deals would help not only the nation's economy -- giving U.S. manufacturers access to foreign markets through lower tariffs -- but also its security.

He singled out the need to approve the free-trade deal with Colombia as an important indicator of U.S. support for President Alvaro Uribe, a strong ally who Bush noted has been battling drug traffickers and other militants.

"He's taking the fight to this enemy, and he's an ally," Bush said. "And if we reject this opportunity to support a friend with good economic policy, if we turn down this free-trade agreement, it will hurt our relations in South America."

Lawmakers have raised concerns over the Colombia deal, citing in particular the deaths of labor leaders over the years, allegedly at the hands of paramilitary groups.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters this week it is doubtful that any of the trade deals will pass this year, adding that Colombia "has had a very bad record" on worker rights.

But Rep. Jane Harman (D), who traveled with Bush on Air Force One, said she is studying the legislation and has not made up her mind. The charges about unionists being killed are "very serious," she said. "Colombia disputes this. We need a review of the facts."

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