Dr. Clinton Tries Another Op Before Retirement

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If Bill Clinton has the type of year he wants, all of the candidate debates over how to spend America's projected budget surpluses will be moot. It seems that the post-Y2K Clinton has narrowed his focus to fulfilling seven-year-old campaign promises, and has been churning multibillion-dollar proposals through the White House almost daily. The latest proposal could help avenge the biggest embarrassment of his presidency (well, the biggest policy embarrassment): the failed Bill/Hillary health care reform of 1992-93. On Wednesday the President proposed a $28 billion plan to subsidize long-term care for those with debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The plan calls for a tax credit of up to $3,000 for families with a member requiring long-term care. Clinton tried to pass a similar, more modest proposal through Congress last year, but it was quashed in last-minute budget horse-trading.

"Two things are going to make it easier for him to pass this through this year," says TIME political correspondent Jay Branegan. "It involves a tax cut, which Republicans like, and it involves the elderly, which Democrats like." The timing should also help. Right when the President is starting to unleash one billion-dollar proposal after another, Republicans have opened up to his ideas. "There's been an incredible shift among House Republicans to vote for Clinton's proposals in recent weeks," notes Branegan. "They're now voting for a tax cut the size Clinton proposed and they've proposed paying down the debt over 15 years, which was what Clinton wanted."

It may just be that everyone wants to look good come Election Day. Clinton's writing his epitaph, while those in Congress are trying to write their meal tickets. "On a lot of these issues Republicans are facing a choice between special interest groups and their constituents," notes Branegan. "In an election year, they're usually going to side with the constituents." And of course, there's Al Gore. While the vice president has been forced to battle Bill Bradley on the left side of the party, where he's not comfortable, Clinton's introduced a handful of centrist proposals that Gore can later tuck into his growing basket of "Clinton-Gore accomplishments."