BILL OF RIGHTS: Dead for Now, Podesta Says
Speaker Hastert's (R-IL) controversial appointment last week of 13 Republicans to the patients' rights proposal conference committee appeared ready to spark the debate again. But on yesterday's "Meet the Press," White House Chief of Staff John Podesta indicated that the bill is a dead issue for this year, saying that "it certainly doesn't look promising. I don't think we're going to get it." Podesta stated that the White House was "very displeased with what the speaker did" last week concerning conference appointments. While the vote in favor of the bill was "overwhelming" and had the support of 75 House Republicans, Podesta noted that "twelve of the 13 Republicans [Hastert] appointed as the committee voted against the bill." Consequently, Podesta stated that "the fix is in. The special interests still have a hammerlock on this process. I think they're trying to put in a closet, not let it come out." Podesta, said, however, that the "American people are [not] going to stand for" the dismissal of the bill. He suggested that perhaps there is some good news in pushing the measure until next year, explaining that "maybe now members of Congress will get out of town, get out of the grip of special interests, go back home and listen to their constituents ... Maybe when they come back next year, they'll understand that this is the number one issue ... and they'll finally take action on a real enforceable Patients' Bill of Rights ("Meet the Press" release, 11/7).
Lott Weighs In
Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), when asked on the state of the Patients' Bill of Rights, had a differing opinion. Lott told FOX News that, "[The bill is] alive, and we're continuing to work with Dr. Bill Frist (R-TN) and a number of people who're going to be conferees with the House." Lott noted that "there are some legitimate concerns and problems in the area of patients' access to records, what happens when there's a disagreement, but we think the solution is to have an appeals process within a quick period of time to get results, not a lawsuit." Lott warned, however, that "If the president's going to insist just on more lawsuits, then we're not going to get an agreement" ("FOX News Sunday," FNC, 11/7).