Washington Prowler

In Recovery

War could make Bob Graham healthy. The White House fills out new prescriptions.

By 3.2.03

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THE SILENT HAWK
Sen. Bob Graham of Florida has been dialing for dollars over the past two weeks. While convalescing from serious heart surgery at first his daughter's home and then his own townhouse, Graham has been using his time calling longtime donors and fundraisers for his presidential campaign.

"He's pulling in a quarter million a day," says a Graham adviser on Capitol Hill. "Not bad for a guy who hasn't been getting out."

Much of Graham's backing is coming from Florida, where he is a Democratic Party icon. Graham has some catching up to do with party comrades already committed to running for president.

Graham has failed to attend the so-called "cattle call" events held over the past month in Washington: the National Abortion Rights conference in Washington and the DNC's winter meeting.

Graham believes, though, that he has one advantage over his other competitors: war with Iraq.

"When war breaks out, the media is going to want a Democrat who's on top of all the security issues, and as ranking Democrat on Intelligence, he's that guy," says the adviser. "He'll be the most visible Democrat during the war. We're banking on it.

With that kind of hope for war, you'd think the senator would be more vocally supportive of the initiative against Iraq.

NEW PRESCRITIONS
With K Street lobbyists saying the Bush Administration's prescription drug plan is already dead on arrival, and growing concerns about his broader Medicare reform and economic stimulus package on Capitol Hill, the White House political team has begun tinkering with them.

First is the prescription plan, which will feature a drug discount card for all Medicare participants, as well as a catastrophic care provision, which would give Medicare seniors a greater amount of underwriting for care and drugs when a patient's health reaches critical mass.

"They had to do this because the general receptivity among interest groups and Democrats was that the first plan wasn't going to make it out of committee. It was just dead," says a Republican staffer on the Finance Committee.

Under the original plan, if Medicare patients wanted discounts on drugs, they would have to jump to an HMO.

Under the revised plan, Medicare patients who do jump to one of five to seven HMO options will receive a greater drug discount plan than those who stay in Medicare.

"But Democrats can't say we aren't offering everyone a greater number of options, while we're lgiving everyone a drug discount," says the staffer. "That was important. This new plan will give us something to start building on."

Republican staffers were briefed on the new plan late last week. And indications were that the Bush Administration might be looking to revise other proposals before they reach Congress.

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