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Bush urges americans want tax cuts { May 12 2003 }

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Bush Urges Americans to Call for Tax Cuts

The Associated Press
Monday, May 12, 2003; 12:48 PM

BERNALILLO, N.M. - Convinced that persistent persuasion is the way to sway the Senate, President Bush renewed his call for hefty tax cuts Monday, exhorting citizens to tell their lawmakers to support his plan.

"The unemployment rate hit 6 percent," Bush said. "That should serve as a warning signal for the reluctant members of the United States Congress that we need to hear the voices of those who are looking for work."

Bush's stop at a factory in primarily blue-collar Bernalillo, just outside Albuquerque, began a two-day swing through three states to promote his tax-cut proposal.

The president, who appeared with Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. and Colin McMillan, a New Mexico oilman that Bush nominated to be secretary of the Navy, also said the United States had not forgotten its work in Afghanistan and would stay in Iraq until the people have needed food, security and self-government. Several protesters were ushered out of the speech; One chanted "No blood for oil."

Later in the day, Bush was traveling to Omaha, Neb., to speak to workers at a plastics plant. The president is to talk about taxes again Tuesday in Indianapolis before traveling to Missouri to see the destruction left by tornadoes that have ripped through the Midwest.

In Bernalillo, about 15 miles north of Albuquerque, Bush held a round-table discussion with about 10 local businessmen and spoke to about 2,000 people at a family-owned manufacturing company, MCT Industries, which makes heavy equipment and other products for defense and commercial industries.

"My proposal is based upon this principal: If your economy is too slow, you need to increase demand for goods and services," Bush said. "And the best way to create demand for goods and services is to let the people keep more of their money."

Bush's trip is timed to pressure moderate Republicans and Democrats to back a larger tax-relief package in the Senate, which was beginning debate Monday on a bill that calls for $350 billion in cuts through 2013.

The Senate version is less than half of what Bush originally sought. The president now says he at least wants the version passed in the House that would cut taxes by $550 billion.

Democrats and many economists say large tax cuts would fuel the growth of federal deficits - on track to near $300 billion this year, a record in raw dollars although not as a percentage of the overall economy.

Bush is trying to parlay popularity from military successes in Iraq into momentum for large tax cuts he believes will stimulate the economy - and heighten his chances for re-election in a state that Al Gore won by just 366 votes in 2000.

By visiting New Mexico, the president also can work to win support of Hispanics, who make up 42 percent of New Mexico's population, says Bill Sisneros, chairman of the state Democratic party.

"It's a target swing state," but a "Gore state," Sisneros said. "His visit shows just how important New Mexico is."

If Bush's visit to New Mexico was an effort to persuade Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., to vote for larger tax cuts, he's wasting his time, says Bingaman spokeswoman Jude McCartin. Bingaman, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, voted last week against the tax package the full Senate is debating this week.

Bush's second stop of the day, the Airlite Plastics Co., a family owned business in Omaha, is more like the detour the president made to Arkansas earlier this month to put pressure on Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln, also a Finance Committee member.

Her vote was key in the committee's passage of the Senate tax bill, which was approved by a near party-line 12-9 vote with Lincoln joining the committee's 11 Republicans.

The White House now is going after Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., whose vote on any amendment to enlarge tax cuts could help the White House get closer to the $550 billion Bush says will do enough to stimulate the economy.

Nelson has been cooperating with the White House to pass a significant tax cut, Nelson's spokesman, David DiMartino, said Sunday.

The president's message in Omaha will be on his plan to create jobs. Employees at the Airlite plant had been told they'd need to make up the time if they took off for Bush's visit.

But Claire Buchan, a White House spokeswoman, said that Airlite subsequently issued a statement it would pay all its employees whether they worked, attended Bush's speech or took the day off.

2003 The Associated Press

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