Morning Political Note: Jan. 28

"On health care, Bush is planning to focus on ways to improve access to health insurance for displaced workers, in sync with the administration's theme of economic recovery. The White House will do this, according to one industry source, by borrowing the idea of insurance tax credits for Americans who have lost their jobs, part of the economic stimulus package adopted last month by the House. The administration also may seek to expand health care tax credits to broader groups of people, an idea that some congressional Republicans have long advocated."

"Similarly, Bush is preparing to focus on job security in the administration's proposal for extending the overhaul of the welfare system. Those changes, begun in 1996, will expire in October, unless Congress reauthorizes them this year … At the same time, policy analysts say, the president plans to embrace part of the conservative social agenda on welfare, either by giving states credit for trying to enlist fathers in providing more support for their children or by seeking new funds to promote marriage."

"In another nod to conservatives, the president is expected to propose an education tax credit for private school tuition and school supplies for poor and middle-class families. The initiative would be an effort to recover from the elimination of the controversial idea of private school credits from the education changes the president pushed through Congress last year."

"On Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, the administration plans to revive its proposal from last summer, which called for a new prescription drug benefit, greater reliance on private health plans and looser regulation of the health care industry and, for the first time, special help for patients with especially large medical bills. The president is proposing $190 billion for such changes — less than Congress indicated it was prepared to spend last year."

The Wall Street Journal says the President will make "an impassioned plea to Congress to immediately pass an economic (stimulus) package" that includes tax cuts, "[e]ven (though) top congressional Republicans are privately conceding that the time may no longer be right — at least politically — to cut taxes further."

Rick Berke offers his preview in the New York Times : "Mr. Bush's advisers said he would seek to turn his popularity as commander in chief into an asset in taming the recession … White House officials said they hoped to highlight the war, and the heroes of Sept. 11, by including in the audience the interim Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, as well as members of the military, police officers and firefighters." ( )

Even after last week's story, Berke apparently is still getting free and easy Karl Rove quotes: "Still, even Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, said it was not easy striking the appropriate tone and message. 'This is a very difficult challenge because we're in the middle of a war,' Mr. Rove said. To come up with a comparable moment, he said, 'You'd have to go back to the '60s when Lyndon Johnson was coming aboard as a new president dealing with the war — or when Franklin Roosevelt was thrust into a war.'"

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