Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Concedes He Can Only Push Congress So Far

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Clinton Concedes He Can Only Push Congress So Far

Article excerpt

Faced with a tired and potentially rebellious Congress, President Bill Clinton and his top aides have decided to slow the pace of his ambitious legislative agenda, White House officials say.

Nonetheless, Clinton insisted in an interview during his trip to Colorado and California this past week that quick action on several measures would still be the best way for Washington to improve its image.

"I know (Congress is) tired," Clinton said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "But they ought to draw energy from the tasks ahead." Future issues will not be as bitter or partisan as his deficit-reducing budget, he insisted. "I think it will get better for the Congress."

The stretching out of the agenda will be most notable on health care, where even the president is conceding that he will not be able to achieve his goal of getting a sweeping reform package this year. Clinton aides now hope for a vote by Congress late next summer.

"We hope to have a vote in time to send members of Congress home in 1994" for their re-election campaigns, a senior White House official said. "Either give them a vote on health care or make it clear whose fault it is that there hasn't been one."

While Clinton plans to introduce his package in a nationally televised speech now tentatively slated for the third week of September, he will not immediately send a specific proposal to Capitol Hill. Instead, aides say, he plans to emphasize general "principles," much as he did during the late stage of the budget debate, while White House aides work behind the scenes to craft the details.

The idea, the senior official said, is to "avoid getting bogged down in the legislative morass" and keep Clinton out of the situation he faced early in the budget debate. Then he was so tied to specific proposals that every change enacted by Congress was reported either as an administration defeat or concession.

The debate on health care and other issues should be less partisan and divisive, Clinton said.

On health care, he said, "all the research shows the American people are very sophisticated about this issue as it affects them." Because of that, "we've got a chance to reduce the `spook factor' here. …

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