US Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle ; Excerpts from a Monitor Breakfast on the Medicare Bill

Article excerpt

In his new book "Like No Other Time, " Tom Daschle says he grew up shy in Aberdeen, South Dakota. He graduated from South Dakota State University in 1969, then served three years in the Air Force studying satellite surveillance photos.

Daschle came to Washington as an aide to Sen. James Abourezk, a position he held for five years. Sen. Daschle was elected to the US House in 1978 with an 110 -vote margin. He won a seat in the Senate in 1986 - becoming the 1,776th senator in US history. He was elected Senate Democratic leader in 1994.

Here are excerpts from his remarks:

On whether Congress will have to revise Medicare legislation again next year:

"I guarantee we are going to be back within 12 months doing something. I don't think that the current plan --even though it does not largely kick in until 2006 -- is sustainable politically. My own experience in South Dakota and around the country bears this out.

...Keep in mind they are going to be spending $4,000 [in premiums] for $5,000 in benefits. They are going to be paying a premium during a coverage gap that lasts $2,800. They are still going to be paying a premium while they get absolutely no benefit from the program. Figure that out. When that happens I just can't imagine Congress can sustain the political pressure they will be under not to change it."

On why experts say the government budget process is out of control:

"The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) called the current budget trends unsustainable if you will recall just a couple of months ago and I think that is a proper characterization...

What has happened? Well, two things. Republicans gained control of the White House and the Congress and secondly they have passed an irresponsible fiscal policy starting with tax cuts and now loaded with giveaways. Every single bill that passes is loaded with payouts to the special interests. We saw that with the energy bill, we have seen it now with the Medicare bill, we are seeing it with the omnibus (spending) legislation. You name it, there are huge handouts for a lot of the special interests."

On the Bush administration's handling of war in Iraq:

"There is no plan. It is really remarkable. We are mired there. Even the Secretary of Defense a month ago, if you will recall, complained bitterly about the lack of planning, the lack of a yardstick by which to measure success, the lack of progress. …

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