(CNSNews.com) - "We're making good progress in winning the war in Afghanistan, and we've got to make good progress about helping people find work," President Bush said on Monday. He said he stands by his plan to lower taxes, and he said Americans shouldn't automatically reject deficit spending.
In his remarks to reporters, President Bush also plugged his economic stimulus package as the "cornerstone" of his plan to help people help themselves.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) refused to bring up the economic stimulus package for a vote before Congress left town in December, but President Bush continues to press for passage. He insists the votes are there to pass the bill.
The best way to help people find work, Bush said, is to encourage economic growth, and he says tax cuts are the key to spurring growth.
"Tax relief is part of the economic recovery plan," he said.
He also said he will not interrupt the phase-in of tax relief. That would send "the absolute wrong signal to the economy. It would say we weren't real about it, we weren't serious about tax relief."
Last week, Majority Leader Daschle blamed Bush's tax cut as the "root cause" of the country's recession. Those tax cuts made the recession even worse, Daschle said, and they have contributed to impending budget deficits.
Democrats are now howling about vanishing surpluses and impending deficits, but Bush isn't buying their attempts to paint a negative scenario.
"I said to the American people that this nation might have to run deficits in time of war, in times of national emergency, or in times of a recession. And we're still in all three," Bush said Monday.
"We had a national emergency; we're trying to win a war; and we're in a recession. So I have no problem figuring out ways to win the war, figuring out ways to protect the homeland, and those will be the priorities of my budget."
The president said he will spend the money needed to accomplish those goals, even if that means we may not balance the budget for this year. "It makes sense to spend money necessary to win the war. It makes sense to spend money necessary to protect the homeland," he said.
He said raising taxes in the midst of a recession - to minimize budget deficits - would be a disaster. On Saturday, he said that taxes would be raised "over my dead body."
Some Democrats are nervous about their party being painted as the party of tax hikes.
In a statement on Monday, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) "I have not heard one Democrat say he or she wants to raise taxes."
Gephardt complained that "some in the Republican party are insisting that Senator Daschle and Democrats want to raise taxes."
"This is a partisan blame game and it has no place in the debate about the future economic health of this country," Gephardt said.
On Tuesday, President Bush was traveling to Ohio, where he'll sign his education bill - the "No Child Left Behind Act," which Congress approved last month.
He'll also discuss education - and bipartisanship -- in subsequent visits to Durham, N.H., and Boston, Mass. Press reports say Bush will hold up the education bill as an example of what can happen when both parties work together.
"I hope that when Congress comes back they will have listened to their constituents and that Congress will realize that America, like me, is tired of partisan bickering; that we ought to come together, we ought to unify around some sensible policy, and not try to play politics with tax relief or, for that matter, economic stimulus packages," Bush said on Monday.