By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer
President Bush, hoping to inoculate his party and his presidential legacy from election-year anger over the economy, heaped criticism on the Democratic-led Congress on Tuesday for "letting the American people down."
He said he'd consider a summer suspension of federal gasoline taxes. But he offered no new ideas for a range of economic worries now facing the country, from record gas prices and soaring food costs to rising inflation, layoffs and home foreclosures, and a credit crunch that even has sparked fears of a college student loan squeeze.
He rejected a new economic stimulus package, saying the tax rebate checks that began going out this week from a $168 billion economic aid plan adopted in February must first be given time to work. He also rejected bipartisan suggestions that the government stop filling the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve while oil costs so much, saying it involves such a tiny amount of supply that doing so wouldn't push prices down.
Instead, the president tried to shift the focus to Congress, saying he long ago sent lawmakers proposals to deal with many of the nation's economic problems, only to see them sit or be replaced with approaches that he deems unacceptable.
"Many Americans are understandably anxious about issues affecting their pocketbook," Bush said in a White House news conference, held outdoors in an unseasonably cold and windy Rose Garden. "They're looking to their elected leaders in Congress for action. Unfortunately, on many of these issues, all they're getting is delay."
Capitol Hill's Democratic leaders said Bush was to blame for proposing policies that would worsen the problem, not help, and that it was their duty to reject them.
"His call this morning for Congress to act is disingenuous at best," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said of Bush. "Whether on energy policy, the housing crisis or our many other economic woes, this administration and its Republican allies in Congress offer nothing but the same failed ideas that got us into this mess in the first place."