Bush touts health, energy plans
In weekly radio address, president urges bipartisan support for proposals to reduce dependence on foreign oil, expand health care access.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Turning from his contentious decision to increase the number of troops committed to battling insurgents in Iraq, President Bush used his weekly national radio address Saturday to urge bipartisan support for his plans to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and expand access to health care.
"Our nation's dependence on oil leaves us vulnerable to hostile regimes and terrorists who can hurt our economy by disrupting our oil supply," Bush said.
In addition to asking that Congress double the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Bush said he will propose legislation giving industry incentives to develop alternative fuels and to increase vehicle mileage requirements over the next 10 years.
"By expanding our use of renewable and alternative fuels like ethanol, we can become less dependent on oil, and confront the serious challenge of climate change," the president said.
Earlier this week, Bush sent two health care proposals to Congress.
One would establish a standard tax deduction for health insurance like that now in place for dependents. Under the proposal, no income or payroll taxes will be deducted on $15,000 of income for families and $7,500 for single people, Bush said.
"With this reform, more than 100 million men, women and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills," he said. "This reform will also level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance from their employers."
The president said he will also ask Congress to OK providing states with federal money to make "basic private health insurance available to all their citizens..." The proposal, using existing federal funds, would create "Affordable Choices" grants that Bush said would give our governors "more money and flexibility to get basic private health insurance to those most in need.
"The government has an obligation to provide care for the elderly, the disabled and poor children; and we will meet these responsibilities," Bush said. "For all other Americans, private insurance is the best way to meet their needs."
In the Democratic response to the president's radio address, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined the call for a bipartisan approach to national challenges.
But the first-term mayor said challenges facing America's families and security extend beyond energy and health care to include a need for comprehensive immigration reform, better education and a workable plan for leaving Iraq.
Villaraigosa said national leaders would do well to take their cue from local officials who "connect with people every day.
"Mayors don't see our nation's challenges in abstract terms," he said. "We see real people who need our help.
"Never is that more true than with our troops serving in Iraq, Villaraigosa said. "The costs of the Iraq war have been staggering, to our men and women in the military, their families, to our citizens and to our states, cities and towns."