11/24 - Bush to discuss Medicare reform during visit - East Valley Tribune: News

11/24 - Bush to discuss Medicare reform during visit

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Posted: Monday, November 24, 2003 8:52 am | Updated: 1:32 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

President Bush is expected to make a final push for the Medicare reform plan while on a campaign swing Tuesday through the Valley.

Senate Democrats are promising to continue debate Monday on the House-approved plan, despite an endorsement by AARP, the most influential seniors group in the country. But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., predicted Sunday that he has enough votes to deliver the legislation, which would add Medicare's first prescription drug benefits.

Either way, Bush will try to use the Medicare issue to build momentum for his re-election campaign as he speaks Tuesday to seniors at Los Olivos Senior Center in Phoenix.

The president was originally coming to the Valley to speak at a $2,000-per-plate fund-raiser at the Arizona Biltmore resort.

Scottsdale resident Barron Thomas said he will attend the Biltmore dinner to show his support for Bush's leadership on issues such as Medicare and the war on terrorism.

"What the naysayers are harping about is that they don't want George Bush to get the credit for it," Thomas said. "They want to try to stall this thing until their guys or their side can get the credit for it. I think that's abominable."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates more than 729,000 people in Arizona would have access to a prescription drug benefit by 2006.

But the legislation has encountered fierce opposition from Democrat lawmakers and groups who say too many seniors won't see any relief in their drug bills.

With almost no details of Bush's visit released by late Friday, members of the Alliance of Retired Americans were scrambling to prepare a protest against the Republicans’ Medicare reform plan.

"It's time to mobilize the troops one more time," said Dana Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the group's Phoenix office. "No bill is better than a bad bill. This bill does not do what he promised."

Bush will arrive Tuesday afternoon at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport for his sixth visit to Arizona as president.

Arizona is viewed a key Western state in next year's presidential race because of the state's early Feb. 3 primary and its 10 electoral votes that will be up for grabs between Bush and the eventual Democratic nominee.

The state's role in national politics means Bush won't have the spotlight solely to himself Tuesday. U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., plans to visit the state Capitol to hand-deliver his running papers for the state primary. Then, Lieberman will spend two days campaigning around the state, including a stop Wednesday morning at the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa.

Aviation officials said regularly scheduled air traffic at Sky Harbor will be stopped for about 15 minutes when Air Force One arrives and again when the president leaves.

Sky Harbor spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said federal aviation officials will try to limit delays during one of the airport's busiest weeks of the year. "They realize that's a huge impact on an airport," she said. "They minimize the amount of time that it takes."

The Federal Aviation Administration will direct private pilots to stay away from Sky Harbor and the Scottsdale Airport until Bush leaves Tuesday because of a 10-mile safety zone around the president's location, said Donn Walker, a spokesman for the FAA Western-Pacific regional office in Los Angeles. Private pilots will be told to use other Valley airports instead, including Mesa's Falcon Field Municipal Airport and Williams Gateway Airport, and Chandler Municipal Airport, he said.

That information was a surprise Friday to Scottsdale officials.

"They have never closed us down while the president is in town," said Chris Read, Scottsdale's assistant aviation director. "Unless something changes, we haven't been notified about anything."

Unlike Bush's Phoenix visit in October 2002, when the president stayed overnight at the Biltmore, security officials said they aren't planning any freeway or road closures to accommodate his movement.

"There will be a rolling motorcade," said Phoenix police Sgt. Randy Force in a voice message. "People stopped at a red light might have to wait a cycle or two for the motorcade to go by."

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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