President Bush vowed Wednesday to veto bipartisan legislation that would sharply increase funding for a popular health insurance program for poor children.
In a wide-ranging interview with economic reporters, Bush also shrugged off Wall Street volatility, discounted fears that credit is drying up in the U.S. economy, said the housing-sector’s problems still point to a “soft-landing” and opposed any bailout for homeowners or lenders.
Bush met with economic writers shortly after reading a statement in the Treasury Department’s ornate Cash Room, flanked by Vice President Dick Cheney and the administration’s entire economic team.
Bush was seeking to calm both consumers and investors rattled by several weeks of Wall Street volatility.
“The underpinnings of the economy are strong, 3.4 percent growth in the second quarter, strong unemployment numbers, low inflation, real wages are on the rise, there is a strong global economy that means it more likely that somebody will buy our goods, our services,” Bush said. “The basic fundamentals are good.”
Asked if he’d veto legislation that increases funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, called S-Chip, Bush answered while the question was still being asked.
“If S-Chip is used to expand the nationalization of health care, I will veto it,” he said. He said that he’d proposed increasing S-Chip funding in his budget, but by much less than Congress wants.
Bush proposed a $5 billion increase over five years. Last week the House voted 225-204 for a $50 billion increase over five years, and the Senate voted 68-31 for a $35 billion increase over five years. The Senate margin would override a veto, but the House’s wouldn’t. The two versions must be reconciled before Congress sends the measure to Bush for his signature or veto.
Bush also said Wednesday that he is considering a fresh plan to cut tax rates for U.S. corporations to make them more competitive around the world, an initiative that could further inflame a battle with Congress over spending and taxes and help define the remainder of his tenure.
Advisers presented Bush with a series of ideas to restructure corporate taxes, possibly eliminating narrowly targeted breaks to pay for a broader, across-the-board rate cut. Bush said he was “inclined” to send a corporate tax package to Congress, although he expressed uncertainty about its political viability.