Congress returns to work today, with Democrats warning of a possible budget standoff. With the surplus now predicted to be smaller than was thought and the economy slowing, money will likely be the big issue on the table. Hearings in both the House and Senate will address the diminishing surplus this week, and both chambers must consider 13 spending measures to finance government operations after the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, among them bills for education and defense. (Story, page 2; editorial, page 10.)

Hoping to win over traditionally Democratic allies, President Bush spent Labor Day courting union members, expressing both concern and confidence about the state of the economy. Bush assured carpenters union members in Green Bay, Wis., that he shares their worries, before flying to Detroit for a Teamsters Union barbecue. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the schedule "a little bit unusual" for a Republican president.

Mexican President Vicente Fox is to begin a state visit in Washington today, during which he and Bush plan to discuss issues ranging from immigration to antidrug efforts. Debate over immigration has picked up lately, as the White House considers a plan to grant guest-worker status - and eventually legal residency - to some of the 3 million Mexican illegal immigrants believed to be in the US. Facing conservative opposition, Bush abandoned plans for announcing an agreement on immigration during Fox's visit. The two leaders will outline a framework for immigration reform instead. (Story, page 1.)

The administration said its plan to update China on US missile defense isn't a signal that it condones a nuclear-weapons buildup there. The Beijing government will get an update on the American plans as part of the administration's effort to convince China, Russia, and other nations that the proposed defense system isn't a threat, White House spokesman Fleischer said. Some critics have said the missile-defense system would prompt China and other countries to improve their arsenals.

A federal judge upheld a local Albuquerque, N.M., ordinance that limits political campaign spending, a ruling some experts say could affect spending across the country. Under the city's charter, mayoral candidates can't spend more than twice the mayor's annual salary. The US Supreme Court ruled spending caps unconstitutional in the 1970s, but observers say the New Mexico ruling could reopen the door for allowing campaign spending limits in other areas.

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