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Bush Blames Congress for Economic Problems

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, a hard lesson for hard times, school budgets in trouble in California.

CHADWICK: First to the White House, where President Bush spoke with reporters this morning about the economy and other matters. We'll hear some of what he said, including a response to this - are we in a recession?

President GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, the average person doesn't really care what we call it. The average person wants to know whether or not we know that they're paying higher gasoline prices, and that they're worried about staying in their homes. And I do understand that. That's why we've been aggressively helping people refinance their homes. That's why I continue to call upon Congress to pass legislation that will enable people to - you know, stay in their homes. These are tough times. People - economists can argue over the terminology. And these are difficult times. And the American people know it, and they want to know whether or not Congress knows it.

BRAND: Everyone cites gas prices as a big factor for the tough times. A reporter asked what Mr. Bush thinks of calls from two presidential candidates, Senators McCain and Clinton, to suspend the federal gasoline tax through the summer driving months.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: What I'm not going to do is jump right in the middle of a presidential campaign. We'll let the candidates argue out their ideas. I just told you I'll consider the ideas. If it's a good idea, we embrace it. If not, we're analyzing the different ideas coming forward.

BRAND: Mr. Bush said there are other options that Congress is ignoring. He said there should be more action on nuclear power and on building new refineries.

CHADWICK: And he returned again and again to his proposal to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR. Environmentalists strongly oppose the idea.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: People think we can't - there's not, not any more reserves to be found. Well, there are reserves to be found in ANWR. That's a given. You know, I just told you that there's about 27 million gallons of diesel and gasoline that could be - from domestically produced crude oil that's not being utilized. And not only that, we can explore in environmentally friendly ways. New technologies enables for - to be able to drill like we've never been able to do so before. Slant-hole technologies and the capacity to use a drill site, a single drill site, to be able to explore a field in a way that doesn't damage the environment. And, yet, this is a litmus-test issue for many in Congress. Somehow if you mention ANWR it means you don't care about the environment. Well, I'm hoping now people, when they say ANWR means you don't care about the gasoline prices that people are paying.

CHADWICK: President Bush at a White House news conference, mainly devoted to the economy. With a lot more news coming on that subject in the days ahead, the Federal Reserve meets today and tomorrow. It's expected to cut interest rates again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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