Friday, January 12, 2001

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will get to voice her concerns on health care and education from her new spot on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Mrs. Clinton did not get the other plum assignments she wanted, a seat on either the Appropriations or Finance committees, but neither did any other freshman Democrats.

“I am extremely pleased,” the first lady and New York Democrat said in a statement released by her office.

“They will help me honor the commitments I made to New Yorkers during the campaign and continue my work on behalf of children and families,” she said.

Mrs. Clinton, who led the White House’s failed effort to create a universal health care system in 1994, said she hopes to use her committee assignment to “work on ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said he is “delighted” that Mrs. Clinton will be joining the committee, where he is the highest-ranking Democrat and looks forward to working with her.

“We’ve worked together on key challenges over the years, especially on health care, education and children,” Mr. Kennedy said. He predicted those same issues would be “at the center of action in the new Congress.”

The committee’s highest-ranking Republican was less effusive.

“We will welcome her just as we would any other new member of the committee,” said Joseph Karpinski, spokesman for Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont Republican and next chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Mr. Karpinski said his boss’s immediate goals will be to craft a managed care reform bill, and to address medical privacy issues and medical errors.

Mr. Jeffords will also try to move an education bill, but he would like to get a signal from the Bush administration on whether it would rather do a quick, targeted piece of legislation or a broader bill that might take longer to put together.

Mrs. Clinton also secured slots on the Budget Committee and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Mrs. Clinton said she was “particularly pleased” with the environment and public works seat, “where I can fight for cleaner air, cleaner water, and improve highways and roads throughout New York.”

Political observers say it will be Mrs. Clinton’s ability to get money for New York’s highways and roads that will be most important for her future tenure in the Senate.

Sen. Robert C. Smith, New Hampshire Republican, welcomed Mrs. Clinton and two other freshmen Democrats to the environment committee, of which he will be the chairman.

“I remain confident that Republicans and Democrats on the committee can work together and with the Bush administration, on an environmental agenda that is in keeping with the goal that we all share that of environmental protection,” Mr. Smith said in a statement yesterday.

Mr. Smith has said his first priorities will be to renew legislation providing for the cleanup and development of abandoned industrial sites, and to address the problem of contamination from certain petroleum-based products.

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