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Bush tells Senate his tax bill would help economy

WASHINGTON — President Bush urged the Senate on Saturday to ease the pain of a stumbling economy by quickly adopting his plan for $1.6 trillion in tax cuts over a decade.

"We have been hearing too much troubling economic news," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "It is only common sense to give our economy a boost during a slowdown."

He pointed to falling stock market prices, higher energy prices, layoffs and slowing retail sales.

"It is time for the United States Congress to give Americans some good economic news: tax relief for everyone who pays income taxes," he said.

The Republican-controlled House earlier this month passed Bush's proposal, mostly along party lines. GOP leaders in the evenly split Senate have said the president lacks the votes now to pass the cut. Also, some moderate Republicans consider the cut too expensive and overly tilted toward the rich.

"The Senate should act quickly on my plan for two good reasons," Bush said. "First, tax relief is good news for our economy, which needs some good news. Second, my tax reform plan will treat everybody fairly."

A Newsweek poll released Saturday said more than half of Americans want congressional Democrats to push to reduce the size of the Bush tax cut, especially on the wealthy. About one-fourth said Democrats should support the tax as is and 15 percent said they should do all they could to defeat it. A third of those surveyed said tax cuts are more dangerous because of the economic slowdown.

The telephone poll of 1,004 adults was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates on Thursday and Friday. The margin of error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Democrats, in their radio address, insisted that Bush's overall tax approach would unfairly reward the rich while doing little for the poor or middle class.

Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., contended that Bush's response to signs of trouble in the economy is to abandon fiscal restraint.

"One part of his plan is to allow children of billionaires to receive tax-free inheritances," Menendez said. "Another would give an average tax cut of $28,000 to those making over $1.1 million a year."

"In contrast, most families who depend on a paycheck — not an inheritance — to support their families would receive only several hundred dollars per year — or less," Menendez said. "And many lower and middle-income families would receive nothing — not a dime."