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Terror insurance bill signed { November 27 2002 }

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Bush Signs Bill to Boost Terrorism Insurance Policies
Week's Schedule Designed to Highlight New Clout

By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 27, 2002; Page A03

President Bush signed a bill yesterday requiring the government to reimburse the insurance industry for as much as $100 billion a year in claims resulting from terrorist attacks, marking Day 2 of a White House "week of accomplishment" designed to celebrate his new political clout.

The law encourages insurers to provide terrorism coverage for huge construction projects such as skyscrapers, which have been curtailed since Sept. 11, 2001, because such insurance was unavailable or unaffordable. At campaign stops all fall, Bush promoted the measure as a prime ingredient in his plan to "get our hardhats back to work."

"My administration is determined to make America safer, to make our economy stronger," Bush said in the East Room yesterday. "And we're making progress on both fronts."

Bush's aides had said they were trying not to crow after the election victories that restored GOP control of the Senate and widened the party's margin in the House. The gloating ban seems to have been lifted, and Bush sacrificed plans to spend all week at his Crawford, Tex., ranch to hold three formal signing ceremonies at the White House.

Bush signed a bill on Monday to create a Department of Homeland Security and today will authorize an 18-month independent commission to study the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center -- both measures that the administration originally lobbied energetically to kill.

Such fanfare is optional for the White House, which also released a list yesterday of five other laws Bush had signed into law, identifying them only by bill number, title and a clause of explanation.

Aides said this week's ceremonies are designed to show Bush is busy promoting jobs and security, and said his decision to push for all three bills in the post-election session of Congress offered a preview of the aggressive pace he will insist on next year.

Providing an early glimpse of points being developed for the "State of the Union" address in January, a senior administration official said that in the first months of next year, Bush will push for an economic growth and jobs package, a plan to subsidize prescription drugs for Medicare patients and a measure to help "faith-based" organizations compete for federal contracts.

"The president will invest an awful lot of capital in getting a lot done, and all of these will come up early," the official said. "The lame-duck session shows that when Congress puts its mind to it, it can get work done relatively quickly."

Bush also will push right away for his plans to reauthorize the welfare law overhaul of 1996, officials said.

White House officials are warning supporters not to expect too much, because both chambers remain closely divided. "The notion that you can just push through whatever you want is apocryphal," the official said.

The White House yesterday released a four-page list of Bush-backed legislation passed over the past two years, including the tax cut and the "No Child Left Behind" education act. The list, "A Record of Accomplishment for America," called the 107th Congress "a remarkable time of bipartisan accomplishment on the issues that matter most to Americans."

Democrats pointed out that Bush initially fought many of the measures, including restrictions on corporate boards and the accounting industry. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) called the list "a classic case of revisionist history."

"More often than not, this administration opposed key issues until Democrats proposed and gained momentum on them, such as homeland security, generic drugs and corporate accountability," Kennedy said.

One Democratic strategist said it was a mistake for Bush to invest too much energy in a victory lap. "The danger for any president named George Bush is complacency," the strategist said. "That's what people are watching for. The challenge for him is not accomplishments. It's agenda."

White House aides appear to be wary of that risk. They had said Bush would announce his new package of tax cuts in January, but plans are being made to do so in December.

Referring to the accusation of complacency, the senior administration official said wryly, "I would characterize that Democrat's thinking as wishful."

Bush leaves after today's ceremony to fly to his ranch, where he plans no public appearances. He will remain in the public eye through a videotaped greeting to be aired during the first hour of NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The greeting, taped in his residence, encourages viewers to volunteer at schools and soup kitchens. Lettering on the screen directs prospective volunteers to his USA Freedom Corps and gives the Web address (

An aide said the message was designed to link the holiday season with Bush's continuing calls for Americans to perform two years or 4,000 hours of public service during their lives.

"Everyone can do something," Bush said. "We ask you to make this holiday the start of a season of service."

2002 The Washington Post Company

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