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tv   Health Care Reform 1994 End  CSPAN  April 9, 2017 4:00pm-4:41pm EDT

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hmong also left to other countries in the world such as australia, france, germany and countries in south america. ms. lo: if it was up to our parents they probably would , never -- they just woke up and say let's go to america because better opportunity. to know that we are just like everybody else, we have worked accepted,ant to be just like any other group. and to understand that, even though we don't have a homeland, the younger generation, they were born here, and we do want to call ourselves hmong -americans, and we are the neighbors and friends. tourncer 1: our cities recently went to california to learn about it history. learn more about chico and other stops on the cities tour.
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you are watching "american history tv" all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. in september 1994, senate democratic leader george mitchell announced the end of efforts to pass a health care bill that year. the press conference followed a year and a half long effort by the clinton administration and members of congress. up next on "american history tv," senator mitchell's press conference followed by reaction from republican leader robert dole. it is about an hour. george mitchell: at the beginning of this congress, i said the passage of comprehensive health care reform would be a high priority. i repeated that goal at the beginning of this year and said i would give it my close attention and all my energy. two years ago, americans made the judgment at the polls that the nation's problems had been subordinated for too long to problems abroad.
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the pressures on working middle income families from corporate downsizing, defense industry conversion, violent crime, college costs, and inflated health insurance costs all made americans ask us here in washington to focus on america -- american needs. president clinton and the democratic congress responded with a budget that cuts the deficit and has contributed to the creation of more than 4 million new jobs in the last two years. and with legislation to reduce crime, improve college loans, broaden trade, speed up the introduction of new technologies, and the economic prosperity they promise. we also made a strong effort to reform the existing health insurance system so that every american could afford private health insurance coverage as good as that which covers senators and members of the house of representatives.
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the president made this effort a high priority. first lady hillary rodham clinton devoted thousands of hours to it and they both , deserve enormous credit. many members of congress, most of them democrats, but including some courageous republicans, worked to develop reforms and -- in our health care system. we welcome the president who supported our work on health reform. most americans like our health care system, but they know the health insurance system is broken and needs fixing. too many families have lost insurance because a child got cancer or a father lost his job. too many families can't afford to pay $300 or $400 a month if the place they work does not provide health insurance. i believe that all americans
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have a right to affordable, high-quality health care. unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of our republican colleagues in the senate do not agree. under the rules of the senate, a minority can obstruct the majority. this is what happened to comprehensive health insurance reform. over the past few weeks, i have had a number of productive meetings with senators in the so-called mainstream group to explore the possibility of a modified reform plan. we reached agreement on almost all issues. i believe we could have and would have come to final agreement on the substance of a bill. but that is not the only factor for a successful outcome. any bill must command the votes necessary to pass. so, we all agreed, all of the members with the mainstream
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group with whom i had these discussions that it would serve , no purpose to go forward unless we had the necessary votes. i had hoped that agreement with the mainstream group would produce the 60 votes needed to defeat a republican filibuster. regrettably, very few senate republicans shared that view. the overwhelming majority opposed any health care legislation, even a modest bill to extend health insurance to children, and reform some industry practices. then last week, the republican leaders of the house and senate said aloud what their colleagues had been saying privately. they will oppose any health care bill this year, modest or not, bipartisan or not. even the republicans are a minority in the congress, in the senate, they are a minority with a veto.
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they have the ability to block legislation, and they have done so on health care reform. therefore, it is clear that health insurance reform cannot be enacted this year. on september 18, "the new york times" reported that the republican floor manager on health care, senator bob packwood, told his republican colleagues, and i quote, "we have killed health care reform. now we've got to make sure our fingerprints are not on it." and of quotation -- end of quotation. they have succeeded in their first objective of killing health care reform. whether they succeed in making sure their fingerprints are not on it remains to be seen. i commend all of those senators who worked so hard and so long in this effort.
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there are many, many of them, and i can name only a few. effective work was done in the senate labor committee under senator kennedy's leadership and in the senate finance committee under senator moynihan's leadership. senator wofford, senator daschle, and senator rockefeller among democratic senators led the way, and senator chafee among republican senators led the way. they are among a larger number who wanted to pass meaningful legislation this year, but unfortunately, we were not able to do. i will be pleased to take questions. >> how about next year? what do you think the prospects are for next year or the year after? george mitchell: i believe it is inevitable that comprehensive health care reform will be enacted.
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you will recall that it took 10 years or more to pass medicare. and there was a great deal of opposition to it. it was not until after the decisive election of 1964 that it finally was enacted. and i believe that the same thing will happen inevitably on health care reform. i do not know and cannot say whether it will be next year or the year after. obviously, many factors will contribute to that, but i believe, given the situation in the country today with respect to health insurance and health financing especially, that action is inevitable. >> your democratic colleagues and democratic candidates for office to use this to blame, to use this in the election six weeks from now? george mitchell: i have not discussed this in that context. and that will be a matter for each candidate to judge on his or her own. >> i'm sorry.
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>> the senators that you mentioned and praised when you were talking about next year, you will not the among the. -- of them. any regrets on your decision? george mitchell: on my decision not to seek reelection? no. i have no regrets. [laughter] >> as the current -- george mitchell: i regret that we were not able to pass health care reform, but i do not regret my decision to not seek reelection. >> has the acrimony in the final days of the session lead you, facetiously or not, not to say this is among the worst session whyu have seen, and that is you do not regret it? george mitchell: it has been a very difficult session. and the events of last week were unprecedented in the history of the senate and the history of our nation. we have not had a situation to the best of the knowledge of the senate historian and the senate parliamentarian and others of whom i have inquired in which we
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had a filibuster on trying to take a bill to conference. and i think there is now a policy in place on the part of the republicans of total obstruction. that is to say, simply to block anything and everything no matter what. that is regrettable. i don't think it is helpful to the institution nor do i think , ultimately will it be helpful to either political party or to individual senators. >> are you presenting this to senators interested in putting forth a bill that would just cover children or other reforms, are you not going to make any attempt? there will be no legislation put up this year? did you talk with him, that he will not attempt to bring that to the floor in the last couple of weeks? george mitchell: do you think as
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an amendment to some other bill? >> right. to the floor. george mitchell: i speak only for myself, of course. i would encourage senators not to do that. but, as you know, every senator is his or her own person and acts on their own. but i do not believe any useful purpose would be served in so doing. >> go back a little bit over your own process in making this decision, and at what point you finally made the decision that this was just not doable. was it over the weekend, or? george mitchell: i reached the decision in a preliminary way during the meeting at the white house last week. when the republican leaders of the house and senate told president clinton in my presence that they would oppose any type of health care legislation this
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year, and then went on to say not only would they oppose any health care legislation, but if an attempt was made to pass it, they would try to kill other, unrelated legislation, which they otherwise might have supported. that clearly endangered every aspect of the legislative agenda. and, in effect, placed other important measures in a position of being hostage to health care legislation. since the prospects for passing health care legislation were not good, in any event, i believe that i've made the appropriate decision. i then discussed it further with members of the mainstream group, specifically senator chafee and senator durenberger on the republican side and senator
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breaux and senator kerry of nebraska on the democratic side. i asked senator chafee to canvas his republican colleagues who are part of the mainstream group to determine how many of them would support ending a filibuster on a compromise bill . were we able to reach compromise? and i also undertook to simultaneously consult with my democratic colleagues. and following the -- those discussions, and the report i received from senator chafee, my conclusion, my tentative decision not to proceed, was reinforced. that is to say, it became increasingly clear that it would not be possible in any event to get the 60 votes needed to end
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the certain republican filibuster against even a modified bill. i had intended to make a statement of this type last friday afternoon, but there were a large number of senators who have an interest in this matter and with whom i wanted to speak personally before announcing any decision to inform them of what i was considering doing to get their reaction and to give them the opportunity to get their views to me, and i was simply not able to reach them all by friday afternoon. and so i continued the process of talking with them over the weekend and during the day today. and in those discussions, several of them urged me not to take this action, not to announce this decision, but rather to make an effort to proceed.
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several others said they agreed with me. but in any event, the decision was mine. and it was reached in the time and for the reasons i have just stated. >> other items on the agenda. is the campaign finance reform in a similar condition, and how do we stand on gas? george mitchell: i strongly favor enactment of both campaign finance reform legislation and the gatt, or trade legislation, to which your question refers. and i am going to continue to do the best i can to get them both passed. we, of course, facing difficult situation on campaign finance reform legislation. i earlier referred to the fact that we now have for the first time in the senate's history to my knowledge of filibuster on trying to get a bill to conference. that is the bill to which i referred.
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as you know, incredibly enough, there exists under the senate rules the possibility of three separate filibusters just to take a bill to conference. we've overcome one of them. we're going to vote on the second one tomorrow. we may be required to go through an additional 60 hours of senate legislative session and a third cloture motion to get to conference. i hope that our colleagues will discontinue this effort, and that we can proceed to passage of the bill. i think it is very important. and i think the gatt is very important. it will reduce tariffs worldwide on american goods by a third. it will greatly enhance the ability of americans who are engaged in activities involving intellectual property rights and services to make those goods and services available in other countries.
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it will be very good for the american economy. and i'm going to do the best i can to see that that bill is enacted as well. >> are you saying if republicans don't relent on the procedural filibuster on campaign finance reform is done? george mitchell: i must be having trouble communicating because i think i intended to say just the opposite. but we are relent, going to proceed. >> it has been often repeated that you gave up a chance at being on the supreme court to shepherd health care reform through the senate, and this was going to be a crowning achievement of your legislative career. now in the light of the fact that you are pronouncing it dead, is this for you a personal defeat above and beyond the reasons you mentioned? george mitchell: i'm disappointed, of course. i believe strongly that health care reform is necessary in our country.
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and i would have much preferred a situation in which i were now having a press conference announcing passage of the bill, but i do not regret my decision. i believe i made the right decision based upon the circumstances which existed at the time. the president had set a high priority on health care reform. so had i. in fact, long predating bill clinton becoming president. i've served on the senate health subcommittee for nearly 15 years. and i was chairman of that subcommittee before i became majority leader and have been involved in health policy for a long time. and the more i've been involved, the more convinced i have been of the need for action. when i met with the president this spring he told me he wanted , to nominate me to fill the supreme court vacancy. i told them that i was flattered, but that i wanted very much to get health care reform legislation passed.
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and i felt that it would be difficult in any event, and it would be made even more difficult were i to have to withdraw as majority leader in the middle of the session, and i felt that would be necessary were i to be nominated to the court. that is, i could not serve fully throughout the year as majority leader were i nominated. and therefore, i felt the best thing to do would be to decline the offer and to concentrate my efforts on health care reform. the president also wanted health care reform. he made it very clear to me when we talked that he wanted to pass health care reform. in fact as i said he deserves , enormous credit enormous , credit for making this a high priority, for putting it on high on the american agenda, and i think that when it eventually does pass, it will be to his credit. now, as i said, i think i've made the right decision on the circumstances which existed at the time.
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when i told him that i knew it would be difficult in any event, it turns out i was right. david? >> some republicans said that there was some miscalculation, that a deal could have been cut, perhaps by the president, last winter with republicans to get a bill through, but you were not ready to deal. and in fact, it was that political miscalculation that brought us to where we are today. george mitchell: i do not believe that to be an accurate assessment. if you go back over time, you would see that late last year, senator chafee introduced a bill which was cosponsored by senator dole. and i believe a total of more than 20 republican senators. which proposed universal health care and a mandate to achieve universal health care. but over time, as the political circumstances changed, they abandoned their own legislation
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and moved away from it. and i do not believe that there was such a time or such an agreement possible. in fact, this is obviously all speculative, but i am certain in my own mind that that was not possible. >> what did the president say? george mitchell: no, i talked to the president on friday. >> the decision to throw in the towel? george mitchell: well the , president was disappointed. he thinks health care reform is very important, and he has devoted a great deal of time and effort to it. >> does he agree with you in that way? george mitchell: there was no way. i did not ask him to agree or disagree with me. and i didn't, it was simply the nature of my informing him of my view and what i was thinking of doing, and he listened and graciously responded, said a few nice things about me and what i tried to do. and i'm sure he's going to be
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able to he will speak for , itself, when he gets the chance. >> other than the republican attitude towards health care, which you explained, are there other larger lessons you learned in this effort about the size of the bill or things that you think went wrong in the process, or? george mitchell: the men who wrote the american constitution had as their central objective the prevention of tyranny in america. they lived under a british king, they did not want there ever to be an american king. and so they tried very hard to prevent any individual agency or branch of government from accumulating total power. they accomplished their objective by dispersing power widely throughout our system making it difficult to get , anything done so as to prevent bad things from happening.
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in the process they made it , difficult to do even good things, and overall, i think their decisions were correct. and we have a good system which preserves our individual liberty. but it is very clear that those who want to obstruct or prevent things from happening have an enormous advantage in the american political system and especially in the senate. and those who want to enact especially complex legislation have a large burden , to overcome. notwithstanding that, we have in the past acted when there has been sufficient interest and support across the country. this year, that support declined as the legislation's complexity was exploited by opponents, and there was, also, a great deal of misinformation presented about the bill by those who opposed it.
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in addition, i'm certain that myself and others who favored it could have done a better job of focusing public attention. and i accept responsibility for that. but, ultimately, i believe that , difficult as it is and complex as a subject like this is to move through the legislative process, that because it is so right and necessary, that it will occur. david, thank you. >> do you think the mainstream bill or when you have been working with do you think that , is a good starting point for next year? or do you think that is something that you are willing to deal with given the timeframe -- you get to go over again when you get back? george mitchell: i think there will be several good starting points next year, including the mainstream group's efforts, including the effort by senators harkin and levin, including senator kennedy's efforts, senator moynahan's and others.
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i have said on several occasions, and i repeat now i , commend the members of the mainstream group, democrats and republicans alike. i think they were serious, sincere, wanted a bill. and i'm sorry on their behalf and mine, and most important a -- importantly from the standpoint of the american people we were not able to get it done. they have indicated to me that they are going to put their bill out and use it as a basis for debate and discussion over the course of the next several months, possibly, although they did not state it in these words on the hopes that it will become the basis for action next year. >> you had negotiated with them and come to a sort of mitchell-cheney bill. they were talking about a pure mainstream product that you had negotiated with. george mitchell: i believe what they are going to do is take the original mainstream bill, then they will determine which of the
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changes that we discussed they think are appropriate. i'm quite certain it will not be all of the changes because some of those were compromises. although, on several points, several of them said to me we think your suggestions are good our and actually improve bill, and therefore we are going to include them even if we don't reach an agreement with you. >> dole promised to free things up. to a certain point the republicans did not want to have a big vote on health care. there was another point to where they wanted this, in order to -- not then late q -- that they like you attacking them, with a free up some of the tax on gatt? have you gotten any quid pro quo on this? george mitchell: there is no quid pro quo. there is no agreement. i did not negotiate any agreement with senator dole. >> do you get a sense from your meetings with them, having said what you have said today putting , health care aside for this year, that they will now be
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prepared to expedite the remaining legislation? george mitchell: i don't know that. i can only report the objective facts as they occurred in my presence and as they exist. the threat was made specifically to oppose gatt if any effort was made on health care. my hope is that, since we will not be proceeding on health care, there will be support for gatt, but i've made no effort to negotiate an agreement to that effect. >> senator, when the congress comes back next year, they will be starting from a point where the mainstream group left off and where senators harkin and levin left off, where a lot of these people left off. what is to say the republicans will be more accepting of working with the democrats or, what is to say they are going to be more desirous of doing a health care reform bill next year? george mitchell: there is nothing to say that. >> senator, could this bill have passed last year? >> can you give us some idea?
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what would your advice be to the incoming congress as to what they might be able to do to make it work next year? george mitchell: do the best they can to present a bill and move forward on it as we tried to do this year without final success. way -- youro question seems to me to be will the republicans act better next year than they did this year. and i have no way of knowing that. i hope they do. >> senator could this bill have , passed last year of the white house had gotten the legislation up earlier? if the momentum had been there? george mitchell: i don't know. i do not think that is the reason for this. we had time to act this year had there not been the adamant opposition to it. i think that the president, i believe, deserves a great deal of credit for the effort he has made on this. no president has done this to the degree that he has involved
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himself in it personally, involved the first lady in it, mastered the details, devoted a great deal of time and effort to it, placed it front and center on the american agenda, and when this, when the reform passes in whatever form it takes, i believe it will be due in large part to the initial efforts made, and i am certain the continuing efforts, of president clinton. now you say could the bill have , been set up earlier? well, there were many who argued to the president, do not send a bill up. propose an outline. it is one of those darned if you do or darned if you don't. if you don't send the bill all , the critics say, where is the bill? if you send up a bill all the , critics pick apart that bill. i think he did a good job in pushing it. i think you did the right thing,
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and he did the right job in pushing it. >> several of your democratic colleagues suggested that even if you could not pass a bill, at least bring a bill back to the floor for a couple of days, if only to expose the republican tactics for what they are. why did you opt not even to do that? george mitchell: well first, i , believe the republican tactics are clear. i mean i don't know how it can , be any more clear than in senator packwood's own words. and he was the republican manager of the bill. how could it possibly be more clear? quote "we've killed health care , reform. now we've got to make sure our fingerprints are not on it." secondly, we have other important legislation to attempt to enact. third, the time is limited, and even two or three or four more days are important at this stage.
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in addition, it is obvious the bill couldn't pass, but we do not have 60 votes. that is an unpleasant reality , but it is reality. i must deal with the senate as it exists, not as i wish it were. for all of those reasons, i concluded this was the best course of action. i have the greatest respect for my colleagues who feel differently. and there are some of them who feel very strongly differently, and who urged a different course of action upon me. but, ultimately, the responsibility and the decision are mine. and i believe this to be the correct decision. >> senator, you said several times this year that republicans blocking health care would hurt them politically. is that still your feeling, and does that hurt them this fall? george mitchell: that will depend in large part upon the individual races.
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but i believe, overall, that a pattern of obstruction has emerged that is so clear to the american people that it will have an affect, not just on health care reform, but on other matters as well. peter? peter. >> trying to assess the chances of this issue coming back in the future. you said earlier, you pointed out that medicare passed only after the decisive 1964 election. a lot of people thought it was a rather decisive election in 1992. was a moment lost, and will it take another -- we have to wait another presidential election and some further statements by voters before this issue can really come up and get passed? george mitchell: it is not possible to know that, of course, but the difference between the election of 1964 and
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1992 is that the republicans preserved a sufficient number in the senate after the 1992 election to effectively filibuster to death any legislation that they were united on. that was the case on health care reform. that was not the case after the 1964 election, in either the numbers or mood or temper of the times. so it is a combination, i think, of numbers and the sentiment that exists in the country at the time. >> do you predict that the republicans are going to lose that margin in midterm elections? so, effectively, is your prediction that this issue cannot come up in any way where something will get passed at least until 1996? george mitchell: you know, i am making no prediction. i think you are asking me to and i am declining. what i'm saying is that no one
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can be sure. it depends upon the races. i recognize that it's part of your function is to draw national conclusions from specific events, but the fact of the matter is i have been , involved in many elections and have traveled all across the country in many elections. what is or is not at issue in a particular campaign depends upon the candidates. health care might be a major issue in some campaigns and not an issue at all in others. and so the affect cannot be , stated in any broad, national, all-encompassing sense. if two candidates agree on an issue, it isn't an issue. it does not, in the campaign. -- it does not come up in the campaign. that has been my experience. they pick those things on which there is disagreement, and they think will be held to them. it will probably make a difference in some places and make no difference in others. >> the senate campaign finance reform, there are two other major pieces of reform
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legislation pending out there the congressional compliance , bill and the lobbying registration and gift ban bills. what is your intention on getting this up to the floor? george mitchell: hopefully get them up and pass them both. >> have you intend to get that congressional compliance bill out? in what form? will it be an amendment, or should it be brought up as a freestanding -- ? george mitchell: i hope it is a freestanding bill, but i have not made a decision. i have to do one thing at a time. we are still trying to pass the appropriations bills required by law to pass. we are still engaged in a filibuster, the second of i guess three filibusters going to conference on campaign-finance reform. we have a filibuster going to conference on the california desert protection act. and so, when you've got these multiple filibusters coming at
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you from all sides, you have got to take each day one at a time and each step one at a time. so, hope we can bring them both up and pass them, but if you want to know the time or day or precisely how it is going to happen, we have not reached that point yet. [speaking simultaneously] >> could you take a question on haiti, please? >> do you think congress is likely to propose a deadline for withdrawal of american soldiers? george mitchell: no. my preference is there not be a deadline. because i think it will make the situation more difficult there. there are several senators who agree with my view. there are several senators who hold a contrary view. and i'm certain that it will be decided on the senate floor. and i do not yet know what the outcome will be. >> it will come to a vote this week? george mitchell: what is that? >> it will come to a vote this week? george mitchell: i do not know when it will come to a vote. i expect it will come to a vote, but i cannot predict when, because we do not know, to give an example, the second
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filibuster on campaign-finance reform will be voted on tomorrow. under the rules, the republicans can use up 30 legislative hours at that point. they did it last week, and we were in all night. i do not know whether they will do it again. that means that everything will be delayed, including this or askedher bills that were about here. it depends in large part upon how many filibusters we have and how much delay we have. i would like to make if i might, , jim one point that has not , been made yet, and that is that, although i'm very disappointed at the results on health care reform, as i said, i would much prefer to be here announcing passage of a bill, i think in many respects, this has been a very good and productive session of the congress already. the most important thing that president clinton has done, the most important factor in the
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presidential campaign of 1992 was to change the economic policy of this country. the president's economic plan and his deficit reduction or -- reduction proposal of last year passed. and we are seeing the benefits of that now. the opponents said when the president put his plan forward that if it were passed, economic growth would go down, the deficit would go up, and unemployment would go up. every single republican in congress voted against the president's plan. we passed it. and what has happened has been the opposite of what his critics said would happen. economic growth is way up. so much so that the federal reserve board has seen fit to raise interest rates four times in an effort to slow down economic growth. unemployment and down and the deficit is way down. the president's plan cut spending by $255 billion, the largest reduction in spending ever in our nation's history.
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and so i think it has been a good result with more than 4 million jobs being created, 90% of them in the private sector. we have done a lot of very good things the north american free , trade agreement, the family medical leave act, the omnibus crime bill, the community service bill, the brady bill, a whole host of others that i think once we have the perspective of time and distance, we will see that a lot was done. and i hope we still can get a lot done in the remaining weeks of this session, including some of the bills i have mentioned in response to questions campaign-finance reform, , congressional compliance, lobbying and gift reform, the world trade agreement, and many others as well. i thank you. i will give you the last question. you have been very patient. >> thank you. what role do you see a special -- see if any of special interests in the outcome of health care reform? george mitchell: i believe that
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special interest played a very large role in making it impossible to pass reform legislation this year. i've read newspaper accounts of the very large sums of money being spent in lobbying against the bill. and according to those accounts, it is by far a record, tens of millions of dollars being spent in lobbying activities against the bill, led by the insurance industry. and i must say a lot of the , information about the bill was false. there were substantial, a substantial campaign of misinformation that raised questions in the minds of the american people. and i think the combination of the insurance industry on the outside and majority of the republicans on the inside proved to be too much to overcome. thank you all very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and cu


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