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Bush will press for action on surveillance bill

  Politics  -   POSTED: 2008/02/28 17:00

President Bush said Thursday that the country is not headed into a recession and, despite expressing concern about slowing economic growth, rejected for now any additional stimulus efforts. "We've acted robustly," he said. "We'll see the effects of this pro-growth package," Bush told reporters at a White House news conference. "I know there's a lot of, here in Washington people are trying to — stimulus package two — and all that stuff. Why don't we let stimulus package one, which seemed like a good idea at the time, have a chance to kick in?"

Bush's view of the economy was decidedly rosier than that of many economists, who say the country is nearing recession territory or may already be there.

The centerpiece of government efforts to brace the wobbly economy is a package Congress passed and Bush signed last month. It will rush rebates ranging from $300 to $1,200 to millions of people and give tax incentives to businesses.

On one issue particularly worrisome to American consumers, there are indications that paying $4 for a gallon of gasoline is not out of the question once the summer driving season arrives. Asked about that, Bush said "That's interesting. I hadn't heard that. ... I know it's high now."

Bush also used his news conference to press Congress to give telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government eavesdrop after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He continued a near-daily effort to prod lawmakers into passing his version of a law to make it easier for the government to conduct domestic eavesdropping on suspected terrorists' phone calls and e-mails. He says the country is in more danger now that a temporary surveillance law has expired.

The president and Congress are in a showdown over Bush's demand on the immunity issue.

Bush said the companies helped the government after being told "that their assistance was legal and vital to national security." "Allowing these lawsuits to proceed would be unfair," he said.

More important, Bush added, "the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance and it would give al Qaida and others a roadmap as to how to avoid the surveillance."

The Senate passed its version of the surveillance bill earlier this month, and it provides retroactive legal protection for telecommunications companies that wiretapped U.S. phone and computer lines at the government's request and without court permission. The House version, approved in October, does not include telecom immunity.


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