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Bush to fly to O'Hare to encourge travel

WASHINGTON—President Bush is flying to O’Hare Airport on Thursday to meet with airline workers and encourage Americans to travel again. "Part of the trip to Chicago on Thursday is designed to send a signal to America about the importance of resuming normal activity," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday.
Bush to fly to O'Hare to encourge travel

September 25, 2001

BY LYNN SWEET SUN-TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU


WASHINGTON—President Bush is flying to O’Hare Airport on Thursday to meet with airline workers and encourage Americans to travel again.

‘‘Part of the trip to Chicago on Thursday is designed to send a signal to America about the importance of resuming normal activity,’’ White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday.

In a display of bipartisanship, the four top congressional leaders have been invited to accompany Bush to O’Hare.

Chicago was selected for the day trip for several reasons, according to the White House. The area is a transportation center and O’Hare is a hub for the two major airlines whose planes were hijacked in the terrorist attacks, American and United, based in Elk Grove Township. Chicago is also the new headquarters for Boeing, one of the country’s largest aviation companies.

All three companies announced massive layoffs in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. The airline industry was already facing a flood of red ink before the hijackings caused people to cancel flights.

At O’Hare, Bush will ‘‘meet with airline workers to praise the airline industry for the efforts it’s now making as it gets America moving again,’’ Fleischer said. ‘‘And to also express his concerns about the many people who’ve lost their jobs in the airline industry.’’

Following his meeting with airline workers, the president will lunch with Mayor Daley, Fleischer said.

The president signed a $15 billion bailout bill for the airlines, but has not agreed to Democratic proposals dealing with extending unemployment and health benefits to laid-off workers.

‘‘There is no consensus yet,’’ Bush said this morning.

Terrorists hijacked four California-bound planes—two American and two United jetliners—to use in attacks that destroyed the twin towers of the World Trade Center and a portion of the Pentagon. One of the United planes slammed into a field in Pennsylvania.

This morning, Bush had breakfast with congressional leaders and invited House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.), Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) on the O’Hare trip.

Gephardt said Tuesday morning that Congress has to do something to help ‘‘some 100,000 American workers [who] are about to lose their jobs, and we have a responsibility to help them.’’

Announcing Democratic task forces—a sign that some partisanship may be developing two weeks after the attacks—Gephardt said ‘‘we’re going to study the short-term challenges facing the economy, from jobs and tax policy to rebuilding and recovery. And we’re going to keep in mind America’s long-term fiscal health, which is still crucial to America’s long-term economic health.”

The White House, which has been cautious about announcing Bush’s movements in advance since the attacks, nonetheless disclosed the Chicago trip because ‘‘it remains terribly important for the American people to know what the president is doing and why he’s doing it,’’ Fleischer said.

Bush’s trip was announced as Congress devoted much of the day to wrestling with improving aviation security at a series of hearings.

Congress is moving toward having the federal government—not the airlines—be responsible for passenger screenings at airports.

‘‘Before the 11th, there were some who opposed federalizing screeners,’’ said Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.), the ranking Democrat on the House aviation subcommittee. At a Tuesday hearing he said, ‘‘In the past 10 days, it seems as though many more people now agree that it’s a very good idea. ’’
 
 

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