WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush will try to rally Americans behind his new Iraq plan on Tuesday in a State of the Union speech that will propose domestic initiatives on energy and health care.
It will be the first time Bush will give his annual address before a U.S. Congress controlled by opposition Democrats, and faced with that new reality, he will make a fresh call for bipartisanship.
“I’m going to remind Congress that we’ve got to show the American people that we’re capable of accomplishing some big things,” Bush told USA Today in an interview published on Monday.
Bush goes into the speech in what could be the weakest political moment of his six years in the White House. A Washington-Post/ABC News poll gave him a job approval rating of 33 percent.
It said 65 percent of Americans oppose his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, up from 61 percent immediately after his January 10 speech outlining the plan.
Bush said he will talk about his Iraq strategy, which has been met with scorn on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are preparing nonbinding resolutions against it.
“There’s no question there’s a lot of skepticism, both Republicans and Democrats, and the best way to convince them that this makes sense is to implement it and show them that it works,” Bush said.
His speech comes two weeks after he delivered a major address laying out his retooled Iraq strategy, and he is expected to defend it as a vital step in the broader war on terrorism in his address that this year will focus on several big issues rather than a laundry list of ideas.
Expected to last about 50 minutes, Bush’s speech will include proposals on expanded use of alternative fuels to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, as well as breaking a legislative logjam on an immigration plan that provides a possible path to citizenship for about 12 million illegal immigrants.
On health care, Bush will propose what could amount to a tax increase for some 30 million Americans who now have the most expensive health care plans.
Bush has shied away from tax increases his entire presidency and hammered Democrats who talked about them. But the White House admitted on Monday that his proposal to make health insurance more affordable for more Americans would mean “some people would be paying more for health insurance.”
Bush’s proposal would for the first time allow people to take a tax deduction — similar to the one used by homeowners for their mortgage costs — when they have private health coverage on their own or through an employer.