NEW YORK, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- House leaders met representatives of the U.S. business and labor communities in a brainstorming session at the New York Stock Exchange Monday to examine how best to boost the sagging American economy in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Amid tight security, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, Bill; Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and Charles Rangel, ranking Democrat on the committee, met the industry leaders at the NYSE, just blocks from Ground Zero, during an uneventful morning on Wall Street following news of Sunday's U.S. strikes in Afghanistan.
"(We must) put a package together that may help," Thomas told reporters following the meeting. "But doing it in a way that creates the psychology of a tomorrow that is better than today (is essential)."
"The key to that is moving quickly," said Thomas, whose congressional committee will forge many of the details of an economic stimulus package. "It needs to be done in October."
The Bush administration has asked Congress for a $75 billion stimulus package and last week urged Congress to approve $60 billion in additional tax cuts for Americans.
Gephardt stressed the need for speed in addressing the nation's economic woes, adding that consumers must be assured that activities such as flying and shopping at malls are secure.
"There is a desire to affect consumer confidence, especially in the area of safety," he said.
In the days after terrorists struck, Congress approved a $40 billion emergency appropriation for the fight against terrorism and two weeks later passed a $15 billion airline bailout measure. Hastert declined to list specific details of what a stimulus package could entail, but stressed that a "broad spectrum of suggestions and concerns" was addressed during the meeting.
"We have to do something to make people willing to invest in the economy, to create jobs," he said, adding that any legislative action would have to offer a "safety net" to those who lost jobs and business in the attacks.
"We have to do this on a bipartisan basis," the house speaker added.
"The pain has to be shared by all if we are going to win this war," Rangel said. "Labor and management agree that it has to be a partnership."
Rangel said that an economic package must make health insurance available to those who lost jobs after the attacks and are no longer eligible for it.
Bush's proposed aid package would extend by 13 weeks unemployment compensation for people who became unemployed after Sept. 11 and in states where the total unemployment rate increases by 30 percent over pre-attack levels.
The program would also provide $3 billion in health coverage assistance and income supplements. Gephardt raised the possibility that the United States may allow businesses to insure themselves against terrorist attacks, as is the practice in other terrorism-stricken countries.
"This is something that our banking and finance committee will have to look at," he said.
NYSE Chairman and CEO Dick Grasso sounded a hopeful note about America's financial future, saying the markets will bounce back as a result of the unity engendered by the attacks and the basic soundness of the U.S. economy.
"Markets ... go down temporarily based on emotions," he said. "They go up based on fundamental principles."