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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 20:17 GMT 21:17 UK
Bush argues for urgent tax cuts
President Bush waves as he prepares to walk into the White House
Bush: The US economy needs relief
US President George W Bush has called on Congress to stop delaying the approval of his package of tax cuts worth $1.35 trillion over an 11 year period.

"I want the Congress to pass tax relief now. Our nation needs tax relief, our people need tax relief. The economy can use a second wind of tax relief and Congress ought to stop delay and move forward," Mr Bush told reporters.

The president's intervention came after Senate postponed by a day a vote on the package.

After five hours of beating back 16 amendments, Republican leaders blamed opposition Democrats for using procedural tactics to stall final consideration of the bill.

"I think you can see that the people that do not want a tax bill are trying to use every delaying tactic they can to either slow down or stop this bill and it is not going to happen," Senator Charles Grassley, head of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters.

Memorial Day deadline

"We won't go to any other issue until we complete this important work of the people," said majority leader Trent Lott. "I hope it won't be delayed indefinitely."

Republicans want to pass the tax cut, a top Bush priority, and get it to the president this week before Congress takes a week-long break for the 28 May Memorial Day holiday.

"It's time to move," Mr Bush said. "My message should be to those who believe it's in the country's interest to tie up tax relief. My message is it's not in our nation's interest. It's time to get the process moving," he said.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and other top Bush administration officials are due to meet US lawmakers late on Tuesday afternoon to discuss possible import quotas or other action to help the country's struggling steel industry, congressional aides said.

Rising imports and low prices have forced a number of US steel companies into bankruptcy in recent years and thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules allow countries to impose temporary restrictions on imports under certain circumstances.

But that would be unlikely to stop challenges from trading partners, which could include European Union countries along with Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, China, Indonesia, Ukraine, India, South Africa and Australia.

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See also:

27 Mar 01 | Business
Bush calls for lasting tax cuts
06 Apr 01 | Business
Bush pushes budget as tax cut wavers
10 May 01 | Business
Senate clears US tax cut plans
05 Feb 01 | Americas
Bush: Tax cuts for all
02 May 01 | Business
$1,350bn US tax cut deal
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