President Clinton Stumps for Passage of Health Care Reform Legislation
On Tuesday, President Clinton urged Senate Democrats to pass health reform legislation this year, regardless of whether the legislation is perfect, the Washington Post reports (Murray, Washington Post, 11/11).
"The worst thing to do is nothing. That was my message to them," Clinton told reporters after addressing the Senate Democratic Conference lunch (Pierce/Drucker, Roll Call, 11/10).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invited Clinton to the luncheon "to share his insights," according to Reid spokesperson Jim Manley.
Acknowledging the political and economic consequences of his failure to pass health reform in 1994, Clinton urged senators to compromise. "It's not important to be perfect here. It's important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling," he said (Washington Post, 11/11).
"There is no perfect bill because there's always unintended consequences," Clinton added (Hunter, CQ Today, 11/10). "There will be amendments to this effort, whatever they pass, next year and the year after and the year after, and there should be. It's a big, complicated, organic thing. But the worst thing to do is nothing," he said (Washington Post, 11/11).
Clinton called it "good politics" to pass health reform legislation as soon as possible, saying that reform is an "economic imperative" and "the right thing for America." He also said he believes that as changes are made to the health care system, "the costs will come into line with our competitors much more quickly than people think."
He said that the Congressional Budget Office faces certain limitations when scoring legislation, noting past instances when money was saved more quickly than expected (Stolberg/Herszenhorn, "Prescriptions," New York Times, 11/10).
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said that Clinton's address helped unite the caucus. "His ability to analyze complex issues is unmatched," Conrad said, adding, "He is able to penetrate through the fog of politics and policy better than anyone I have heard" (CQ Today, 11/10).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said, "He's the former president of the United States. He's got a lot of â¦ sway" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 11/10).
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that members of the Senate Democratic caucus came out of the luncheon with "real optimism we can get it done this year."
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said, "He made a strong case for Congress getting this done this year," adding, "I think there is a general sense that the clock is ticking, ... that getting it done this year will in effect clear the tables and allow the focus to be on jobs and infrastructure and education" (Washington Post, 11/11).
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), a moderate whose support for health reform is seen as wavering, said that Clinton effectively argued "that if we don't do something, the trend for increasing costs for health care and insurance premiums is unsustainable" (CQ Today, 11/10).
Some senators had differing interpretations about Clinton's comments on an imperfect bill. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said that liberals probably came away believing that centrists -- like himself -- should drop objections to the public health insurance plan, while he came away believing that liberals should drop the public plan from the legislation completely. "This is the Clinton genius, because we all hear what we want to hear," Lieberman said (Roll Call, 11/10).
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said that although Clinton "was not at all addressing the abortion issue," the former president was saying that "whether you are a progressive or a conservative within our caucus, there may be things that you're not going to like," but it is "more important to get the job done" (CQ Today, 11/10).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.