Bill Clinton urges Dems to pass health bill

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Former President Clinton, whose own attempt to reform the nation’s health care system fell apart amid intraparty squabbling in the early 1990s, urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to overcome their differences to pass health care reform for both political and policy reasons.

“It’s not important to be perfect here,” he told reporters after meeting with lawmakers during their weekly policy lunch. “It’s important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling.”

Several issues have threatened to take down the health care reform debate, including costs, taxes, and in recent days, abortion. Both Republicans and Democrats are expecting a bruising battle to get the bill through the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Tuesday that he expects to bring the bill to the floor next week.

Mr. Clinton, who campaigned on reforming health care in 1992, urged Democrats to keep their eye on the main goal of passing a comprehensive reform bill, said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat.

“Whether you’re progressive or conservative within our caucus, there may be things in here you’re not going to like,” he said of Mr. Clinton’s remarks. “But it’s more important to get the job done.”

Because all Republicans have said they likely would oppose Mr. Reid’s bill, all 60 Democrats would have to support the bill and all the procedural votes for it to pass.

Mr. Clinton said failure to pass health care reform would forever brand the attempt, such as the label his effort still has 15 years later: “Hillarycare.”

“He did indicate to us that the politics of it are such that if you don’t get it done, the critics will always say it was what it wasn’t,” Mr. Cardin said. “By getting it done, you prove it wasn’t what the critics said.”

But the former president also stressed the importance of passing legislation that reduces the nation’s health care spending, particularly compared with other countries, which spend less than the United States.

“The worst thing to do is nothing,” Mr. Clinton told reporters. “The worst thing is to keep dragging around a 16.5 percent of [gross domestic product] health care system that doesn’t cover everybody, that doesn’t get the right results and can do so much better.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the American public doesn’t support the reform bills that Democrats are crafting.

“It strikes me from looking at the coverage and listening to what the Democrats in the House and Senate are saying that there’s a great effort under way here to convince their members to ignore public opinion,” he said Tuesday. “They’re speaking increasingly loudly that they do not think it ought to pass.”

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