Clinton Pushes Health Legislation, Election-Year Politics
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 9) -- President Bill Clinton urged the nation's largest doctors' group Monday to push Congress to pass four pieces of health-related legislation before the legislators adjourn in less than 70 days.
In a speech to the American Medical Association that was interrupted several times by applause, Clinton touched on several themes from his State of the Union address: Social Security, economic prosperity, environmental concerns and weapons of mass destruction.
The thrust of the speech, however, was a straightforward pitch for the doctors' support in getting Congress to pass four pieces of health legislation. Clinton cast his programs as popular ones with bipartisan support, but the speech also positioned him to declare the session a "do-nothing Congress" in an election year if the legislation is not considered.
Taking credit for the booming U.S. economy, Clinton said, "It is easy for people to say, 'Let's relax.' That would be a terrible mistake. That's the number one message I have today. We have to move. Prosperity and confidence gives us the freedom of movement that we have to seize. We have to move. This is not a time to sit still; it's a time to bear down and go forward."
As the doctors applauded, Clinton added: "And we need your help."
Noting there are fewer than 70 days before Congress adjourns, Clinton said he wanted it to "go down in history as a Congress that saved lives by passing the Patients' Bill of Rights, by passing tough and sweeping tobacco legislation, by passing the research fund for the 21st century with its big increase in medical research, and extending health care coverage to those who are presently uninsured."
All four initiatives were applauded.
"Will this Congress go down in history as one that passed landmark legislation to save lives and strengthen America for the new century," Clinton asked, "or one that was dominated by partisan electio-year politics?"
Clinton sympathized with doctors "who spend more time with their bookkeepers than with their patients" and urged "lifting the gag order on our nation's doctors" who want to use medication or procedures that health insurers don't approve.
Briefly describing each of his four health initiative, Clinton capped the speech with another appeal. "We can do all this in the next 70 days," he said. "But to do it, we'll have to do it together. I need your help; your patients need your help; your country will be richly rewarded if you can persuade the Congress to act in these areas."