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Bill Clinton calls on Senate Democrats to push through health bill

Bill Clinton, joined by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), center, address the media as they head into the Senate Democratic Caucus luncheon Tuesday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images).

By Shailagh Murray
Former president Bill Clinton urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to overcome their differences and pass health-care reform as soon as possible, warning that politically and economically, "The worst thing to do is nothing."

Addressing the Democrats at their caucus luncheon, Clinton noted the grim consequences of his own failed reform effort in 1994: Democrats lost control of Congress in the November midterm elections, health-care costs skyrocketed, and the uninsured rate continued to rise. This time, Clinton told senators to be prepared to compromise for the sake of victory.

"It's not important to be perfect here. It's important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling," he told reporters after the meeting. "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."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invited Clinton "to share his insights" with the caucus, said Reid spokesman Jim Manley, on the eve of a Senate debate on the issue. Reid is awaiting an cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office on the bill that he cobbled together from two committees' work. Senate Democratic leaders are now scrambling to unify the 60 members of their caucus, which must act unanimously to bring the bill to the floor.

Reporters asked Reid on Tuesday morning whether he expects to take health-care reform to the Senate floor next week, and whether the Senate and House could produce a final bill by Christmas. The Senate leader responded, "yes and yes."

Senate Democrats said they were wowed by Clinton's presentation.

"His ability to analyze complex issues is unmatched," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). "He is able to penetrate through the fog of policy and politics better than any person I've heard."

"He made a strong case for Congress getting this done this year," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The quicker the legislation is put aside, he said, the more closely President Obama can focus on efforts to mend the economy. "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. He made a compelling case for that position."

Wyden, a policy wonk, was equally impressed by Clinton's grasp of health care details. "He recites statistics about Switzerland," Wyden said.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who has concerns about the Senate bill and hasn't committed to help Reid break a Republican filibuster, said Clinton urged lawmakers not to expect their ideological ideal.

"He said you need to pass the best bill that you can," Nelson said. "Getting the best bill is not only good for the people, it's good politics -- and it's that simple."

By Shailagh Murray  |  November 10, 2009; 3:54 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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The best policy is the best politics... that is so profound! I wish I had said it.

Posted by: blasmaic | November 10, 2009 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Clinton is absolutely right: INACTION is NOT AN OPTION, given that at the current rate the cost of government's expenditures on health care will exceed the value of the GDP within the decade.

Posted by: ddeebbee | November 10, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

He says "the worst thing is to do nothing". Absolutely wrong. The government can find ways to do much worse than nothing. If you are over 30, you know this.

Posted by: primegrop | November 10, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: rdonrichardson | November 10, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Will someone,Not a demoncrap,They are well known liers,But let me know what happen,Did Slick willy[bill clinton]Get impeached or not?,I do know the corrupt drug out his impeachment,To his term end,But He was impeached,Was'nt he or not?.If so what in the HELL is he doing in washington?,He has NO DAMN RIGHT TO OPEN HIS LIEING MOUTH ABOUT ANYTHING,He not only still makeing money,Because was a snake of a pres,But dealing with other corrupt countrys,And getting payed by tax payers,And flying around in our jet,Like pelosi's,$65,000.00 per-wk,To check on her subjects,in CA.How much more are these discusting demoncraps going to take,Before they see how these thives are steeling from them to,I guess you have to be a follower,& weak minded,To be a demoncrap,Not to think on their own,Were do these losers think democrat come from,Think people {DEMON},& {RATS},They just throwed in the {C} to dress it up.Please stop being arrogant & weak,Please help us get this old polititons,And put new ones in,Weather repub or dem,Just get these old traitors out!

Posted by: dickiesnhogheaven | November 10, 2009 8:05 PM | Report abuse

president bush and his republican party lawmakers done nothing in 8 years other then taking this country to war , obama is perfectly handling many things at one time , iam disapointed that some of the dems senators are trying to slow him down , they should proudly stand with pres obama to bring the change he promised , obama is doing the right thing , and unlike republicans who distanced themselves from bush in election , democrats would,nt have to do that with obama in next election if they can stay united and help him move faster , right now by staying united they can do wonders for this country. bill clinton should speak to them more often.

Posted by: zain101 | November 10, 2009 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Holy Stethoscope, Batman! Can the Democrats really be looking for wisdom from Slick Willie on HEALTH CARE???

It's like asking Jason Blair to talk about ethics in journalism. Oh wait, some college just did THAT!

If only Neville Chamberlain was still around. We could get some advice from him on how to deal with radical Islam.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | November 10, 2009 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Webb and Warner have one of two choices:

1) Listen to Slick Willie and their clueless, arrogant leader in the White House.
2) Listen to the Virginia voters that punished Democrats last week.

I suggest they go with option number 2.

Posted by: conservativemaverick | November 10, 2009 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Somebody got it right!
Regardless of your political persuasion,
I love the sentiment here!
We must limit politicians to two terms: one in office and one in jail.

Posted by: thgirbla | November 10, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

I see the pervert is still at it.
He just can't resist a PhtoOp !!!

Posted by: thgirbla | November 10, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

You got to realise the frustration Pat Buchanan, myself and some others feel.

We almost had this much better system in 1974 but the damn Conservative Democrats and Ultra Conservative Republicans in coalition threw a coup.

"The benefits offered by the three plans would be identical for all Americans, regardless of age or income. Benefits would be provided for:
--hospital care;
--physicians' care in and out of the hospital;
--prescription and life-saving drugs;
--laboratory tests and X-rays;
--medical devices;
--ambulance services; and,
--other ancillary health care.

There would be no exclusions of coverage based on the nature of the illness. For example, a person with heart disease would qualify for benefits as would a person with kidney disease.

In addition, CHIP would cover treatment for mental illness, alcoholism and drug addiction, whether that treatment were provided in hospitals and physicians' offices or in community based settings.

Certain nursing home services and other convalescent services would also be covered. For example, home health services would be covered so that long and costly stays in nursing homes could be averted where possible.

The health needs of children would come in for special attention, since many conditions, if detected in childhood, can be prevented from causing lifelong disability and learning handicaps. Included in these services for children would be:
--preventive care up to age six;
--eye examinations;
--hearing examinations; and,
--regular dental care up to age 13.

Under the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan, a doctor's decisions could be based on the health care needs of his patients, not on health insurance coverage. This difference is essential for quality care.

Every American participating in the program would be insured for catastrophic illnesses that can eat away savings and plunge individuals and families into hopeless debt for years. No family would ever have annual out-of-pocket expenses for covered health services in excess of $1,500, and low-income families would face substantially smaller expenses"

Posted by: WilliamBlake | November 10, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

We don't care what Bill (The Loose Zipper) Clinton says; What does the Constitution say about this rip off of the American citizens?

Posted by: TexRancher | November 10, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton is absolutely right. Whether we like it or not, doing nothing is fatal to the Democratic party. Get on board Blue Dogs.

Posted by: dorisbrady | November 11, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Good 'ol Bill ! Got to get as much publicity as possible. Needs to prove himself relevant! Did he have Hillary's approval before he addressed the legislators?

Posted by: SeniorVet | November 11, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

I don't understand why we must compensate for the incompetence of simply can't make everyone better off without degrading the quality of current health care. So you cant afford health care?, are you the same individuals that rely on welfare? Why allocate tax money to a ridiculous cause that will mainly benefit the same people who are unproductive members of society. This is what it boils down to. I bet if more people simply got off their lazy ass and ceased to rely on the govt, thus getting an education, taking out a low interest loan for college, maybe they wouldn't have to fall back on the govt. Then we could be a more productive society as a nation, thus relying LESS on our govt.(avoiding socialism). and more on ourselves.

Posted by: clwoodall88 | November 11, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

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