DENNIS HASTERT: Presumptive Speaker Knows Health Debate
Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), tentatively chosen by the House GOP caucus as speaker-to-be mere hours after Speaker-nominee Bob Livingston's (R-LA) resignation Saturday, "has been a leading GOP figure on health care issues," heading House opposition to President Clinton's 1994 health care reform and helping to draft the House GOP patients' rights bill this year (Walsh, Washington Post, 12/20). Today's Post reports that Hastert said his agenda would "focus on Social Security, tax cuts and the war on drugs" (Connolly, Post, 12/21). Current reports on Republicans' legislative priorities indicate this list may widen to include Medicare and HMO reform. Passing any health care legislation in the 106th is bound to be tricky: Thomas Scully, hospital administrator and former Office of Management and Budget official, said, "It's pretty hard to have any major initiative in this (upcoming) Congress with votes so narrow. And it's awfully tough when there's no relationship between the president and the Hill -- and I can't see how there would be" (Gugliotta/Pianin, Washington Post, 12/21). The Post notes that given the GOP's slim majority, Hastert's selection may be a sign that the GOP "might return to the more routine legislative style that predated Gingrich's more aggressive speakership, while leaving the setting of a national GOP agenda to the party's presidential candidates" (Connolly, 12/21). Hastert is known as a "get-along legislator who facilitates compromise and shuns the spotlight" (Pearson/Gregory, Chicago Tribune, 12/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.