Author`s name Alex Naumov

Bush delivers State of the Union speech trying to regain popularity

A politically weakened President Bush implored a skeptical Congress Tuesday night to embrace his unpopular plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, saying it represents the best hope in a war America must not lose. "Give it a chance to work," he said.

Facing a political showdown with Democrats and Republicans alike, Bush was unyielding on Iraq in his annual State of the Union address. He also sought to revive his troubled presidency with proposals to expand health insurance coverage and to slash gasoline consumption by 20 percent in a decade.

Democrats - and even some Republicans - scoffed at his Iraq policy. Unmoved by Bush's appeal, Democrats said the House and Senate would vote on resolutions of disapproval of the troop buildup, the AP reports.

The president's speech set no new policy on Iraq and painted a positive domestic agenda. At the centre of this was a new energy policy.

For the first time in his presidency he called the threat of global climate change a "serious challenge" and outlined plans to address the rise in greenhouse gas emissions by calling for Americans to cut demand for petrol by 20 per cent over the next 10 years.

His comments reflected a chastened president bowing to rising international and domestic criticism of his policy on global warming, and seeking to forge a legacy based on shifting the US from its dependence on foreign oil, echoing last year's most memorable line that "America is addicted to oil."

Mr Bush outlined his plans for an aggressive shift to alternative fuels such as ethanol, a politically popular stance in the Midwest, and a greater focus on energy efficiency with a call to increase fuel economy standards in the US, which remain below those of China. "These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change."

Mr Bush's address comes as he faces the lowest approval ratings for any president ahead of a State of the Union since Richard Nixon in 1974. A recent Washington-Post/ABC News poll gave Mr Bush a 33 per cent approval rating. Dan Bartlett, White House counselor, said it reflected the fact that officials were "under no illusions about the atmosphere we are operating in" the Financial Times reports.

On health care, Bush proposed treating employer-provided health insurance as income while offering tax deductions for the costs - $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families. The aim is to give the uninsured a tax incentive to enroll in a private health plan.

About 80 percent of people with employer-sponsored health plans would have their tax liability lowered, according to an administration fact sheet. Those with the most generous plans, about 20 percent of those with health benefits, would see their taxes rise.

“We must remember that the best health-care decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors,” Bush said.

The president also sought to revive his proposal for overhauling the nation's immigration laws, including setting up a system that gives legal status to immigrants seeking jobs, Bloomberg reports.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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