By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump will vow to pursue massive tax relief for middle-class Americans and overhaul the U.S. healthcare system in a speech to Congress on Tuesday as he faces pressure to rebound from his difficult first weeks in office.
"The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us," Trump will say, according to excerpts from his 9 p.m. nationally televised speech.
Trump will use the address to outline what he would like to accomplish during his first year in office from reforming healthcare and taxes to strengthening U.S. borders and fighting Islamic militants.
He will call on the Republican-led Congress to repeal and replace former Democratic President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law known as Obamacare with reforms that expand choice, increase access and lower costs, according to the speech excerpts.
Trump will also say his administration is developing a tax-cut proposal for corporations and "massive" tax relief for the middle class.
The president will pledge to work with U.S. allies, including those in the Muslim world, to defeat Islamic State militants.
In a reflection of his "America first" philosophy, Trump will say that "to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American economy" by making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and impose protectionist policies to make it harder for them to leave.
After an initial month in office in which he frequently struggled to control the narrative, Trump looked for a reset to move past a chaotic period that dominated the headlines, including a temporary travel ban he signed for people from seven Muslim-majority nations that aroused protests and airport disruptions. The ban was blocked by the federal courts.
There was a possibility Trump could use the address to signal a shift in his thinking on what to do about millions of illegal immigrants, one of the most contentious U.S. political issues.
He told television network anchors at a midday lunch that he was open to the type of broad overhaul of U.S. immigration policy that his two predecessors in the White House were unable to achieve.
"The time is right for an immigration bill as long as there is compromise on both sides," a senior administration official quoted Trump as telling the TV anchors.
Whether Trump would use his speech to Congress to lay the groundwork for what would be a major shift on immigration was unclear. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he took a hardline stance against illegal immigrants.
The Republican president has used his early weeks in office to repeat vows to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and intensify deportations of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.
At the same time, he has expressed sympathy for children who entered the country when their parents crossed the border without proper authority, the "dreamers" who so far are protected by an ordered signed by Obama.
World financial markets will be scrutinizing the speech on whether the president aims to make good on promises to tackle tax reform, boost infrastructure spending and simplify regulations he says are harming business.
White House officials say the speech will include some gestures toward unifying a country polarized by a bitterly fought election and divided in the early days of his presidency.
An average of recent polls by Real Clear Politics put his approval rating at about 44 percent, low for a new president.
Trump, whose inaugural speech on Jan. 20 painted a dark picture of the United States and referred to “American carnage,” told Reuters last week his address would be a speech of optimism.
In a rare show of self-criticism, Trump told the "Fox & Friends" television program in an interview broadcast on Tuesday that "maybe it's my fault" the administration's goals on immigration may not have been communicated effectively.
Overall, Trump said he had performed well in the Oval Office so far. "I think I get an A in terms of what I've actually done, but in terms of messaging, I'd give myself a C or a C+."
Invited to say how he would change the messaging, the businessman and former reality TV star said: "Maybe I change it during the speech."
Trump has said he wants Congress to focus first on overhauling Obamacare, but Republicans remain divided on how to accomplish that goal and Democrats are ardently opposed to tampering with a system that provides health insurance for millions of low-income Americans.
Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said in the Democratic response to Trump's speech that "you and your Republican allies in Congress seem determined to rip affordable health insurance away from millions of Americans who most need it."
(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan, Ayesha Rascoe, Jeff Mason, Emily Stephenson and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)
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