President Bush Promises To Call on Congress To Address Medical Liability Reform Legislation Early in Second Term
President Bush at a news conference on Thursday "vowed" to quickly act on an "ambitious agenda he set out during the campaign," calling "for Congress to move speedily" on legislation that would limit noneconomic awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, the New York Times reports. Bush said malpractice reform would be one of several "very difficult issues" he would propose to the new Congress when it convenes in January (Stevenson, New York Times, 11/5).
According to the Wall Street Journal, Bush suggested that his malpractice reform efforts, which thus far "have floundered on Capitol Hill," could "win quick approval" from a Congress with larger Republican majorities (Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 11/5). "We must confront the frivolous lawsuits that are driving up the cost of health care and hurting doctors and patients," Bush said. He added that certain issues that have previously been debated in Congress already have "the groundwork ... laid for some legislation" and would be raised quicker than other matters in the legislative session.
Bush added that he also would "continue to press forward on the HIV/AIDS initiative, the Millenium Challenge Account," and "make sure that Medicare reforms we put in place remain robust to help us make sure Medicare is available for generations to come." He said, "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style," adding, "I'll reach out to everyone who shares our goals. ... I readily concede I've laid out some very difficult issues for people to deal with. And I would hope to be able to work with Democrats to get this done"(CQ Today Bush speech transcript, 11/4).
Bush noted on Thursday that "there's no vacancy for the Supreme Court" and said when a seat does open, he would pick a justice "who knows the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law." He added, "I've sent up a lot of judges: well-qualified people who know the law, who represent a judicial temperament that I agree with and who are qualified to hold the bench" (CQ Today Bush speech transcript, 11/4).
While Bush did not specifically mention abortion on Thursday, social conservatives who "turned out big" for the president expect him to support "further efforts to restrict abortion, such as federal rules requiring parental consent," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Meckler, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/4).
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) on Thursday attempted "to quell an uproar" over comments he made Wednesday that "were widely interpreted as warning President Bush against choosing Supreme Court nominees who oppose abortion rights," the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, Specter, who was re-elected to a fifth term on Tuesday, supports abortion rights and is expected to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. "When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose ... I think that is unlikely," Specter reportedly said on Wednesday.
However, in a statement released Thursday, Specter noted that he has supported all of Bush's previous judicial nominees, adding, "I have never and would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue. ... Contrary to press accounts, I did not warn the president about anything." He later added, "I expect to support his nominees." According to the Post, the "controversy" could put Specter's accession to chair of the committee "in jeopardy" (Dewar/Lane, Washington Post, 11/5).
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who previously has indicated he would step down after the election, is "rethinking retirement plans in the wake of the GOP's triumph in Tuesday's election," the Post reports (VandeHei/Kessler, Washington Post, 11/5). Thompson said in December that he would not remain in the Cabinet long after the election, but on Thursday the secretary "hinted he might stay, while batting away questions on details," the Journal reports. Thompson said, "The president and I have not had a chance to talk yet."
Thompson could return to his home state of Wisconsin or possibly succeed Tom Ridge as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Journal reports. According to the Journal, political lobbyists view "fast-rising" CMS Administrator Mark McClellan as "a successor" to Thompson. Over the next term, the HHS secretary will need to concentrate on implementing the new Medicare law, the Journal reports. Claude Allen, HHS deputy secretary and an unconfirmed nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals, also could succeed Thompson (Fields et al., Wall Street Journal, 11/5).
According to the Post, administration officials said they expect several Cabinet departures to be "staggered over the next nine months," to better provide Bush with an opportunity "to pursue the aggressive legislative agenda he has planned." An unnamed former administration official said, "Even people who really, really, really want to go have been told they may have to wait. [Chief of Staff Andrew Card] will not let everyone walk out the door at once" (VandeHei/Kessler, Washington Post, 11/5).
Bush said on Thursday that he had not yet made any decisions regarding his second-term cabinet (CQ Today Bush speech transcript, 11/4).
Two newspapers recently reported on the generally positive reaction among the health industry to Bush's re-election. Headlines for the articles appear below.
- "Insurers and Drug Makers See Gain in Bush Victory" (Pear, New York Times, 11/5).
- "Pharmaceutical Industry Viewed a Kerry Presidency as Hard Pill to Swallow" (Krauskopf, Bergen Record, 11/4).