Bush predicts U.S. economy will rebound

President George W. Bush today predicted a rebound in the ailing U.S. economy and urged Wall Street to clean up its act at an economic forum designed to show him engaged on a volatile issue looming large in November mid-term elections. Bush, criticized by Democrats for staging a forum that excluded their leaders, heard mostly endorsements of his policies from the handpicked audience of 250 executives, union members, small investors, top officials, students and scholars at Waco's Baylor University. Vice President Dick Cheney and many Cabinet members presided over some of the sessions."Even though times are kind of tough right now, we're America. I am incredibly optimistic about the future of this country, because I understand the strength of the country. The strength of our country is its people," Bush said.With economic growth in the April-June period at a lackluster 1.1 percent, budget deficits soaring and control of both houses of Congress up for grabs in mid-term elections, Bush held the forum to hear ideas on how to restore growth and push his own prescriptions for the economy."We're pleased with some progress but we've got more to do," Bush told a session on economic recovery and job creation. He pledged to give any ideas that emerge a good hearing.And in a shot across the bow at Congress, Bush said he would refuse to release $5.1 billion in homeland security money that would go to purposes other than guarding the nation. He defended his action on the grounds of fiscal restraint.Congress had authorized the funds for airport and embassy security, refugee aid for Afghanistan, $200 million for Israel and $50 million in humanitarian relief for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Some $200 million would fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases abroad."Those who wrote the bill designed it so I have to spend all five of the extra billion dollars or spend none of it. ... I understand their position, and today they're going to learn mine. We'll spend none of it," he said in a feisty speech wrapping up the forum.Democrats were dismissive of the forum."By limiting this meeting largely to like-minded participants and special interests, the administration protects its policies from serious scrutiny. The result is likely to be a forum long on rhetoric and short on solutions," said South Carolina Democratic Rep. John Spratt.The sessions had a boardroom-like atmosphere with speakers seated around tables making prepared remarks.Bush urged Congress to approve terrorism insurance to allow $8 billion in construction projects to proceed "to get American hardhats back to work" -- and approve tort reform to cap medical malpractice lawsuit awards.

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