Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Takes on Mitchell's Health Plan

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Takes on Mitchell's Health Plan

Article excerpt

Republican senators stepped up their attack Wednesday on the Democratic health care reform bill backed by President Bill Clinton, saying they keep finding in it more taxes, bureaucracies and inequities.

As congressional debate on the historic proposal to revamp the U.S. health care system moved into its second day, a group of hard-line critics said they had found 18 new taxes, 44 new bureaucracies, and 177 new requirements that would be imposed on state and local governments.

"We'd have to declare a new town as our state capital just to take care of the new bureaucrats," said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.

The Senate began debate on the health care bill drafted by its Democratic majority leader, George J. Mitchell of Maine, on Tuesday. It would rely on subsidies and insurance reforms to give 95 percent of Americans health insurance by the end of the century.

The Senate set aside several more hours for ceremonial opening speeches Wednesday, but votes on amendments that will determine the fate of the ambitious reform initiative were unlikely until later this week as the lawmakers wrap up other less controversial, but time-sensitive, business. A first symbolic test battle fizzled out Wednesday when Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., set aside a proposal that the Senate go on record as favoring a one-year delay in the health care debate.

Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., riffling through the thick Mitchell bill, said: "We've got a bill we've never seen. ... It is an absolutely, insane, inane, unfair process."

Reflecting the new GOP emphasis on bureaucracy, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., took to the Senate floor with color charts claiming to show that Mitchell's bill creates 65 more government agencies and commissions than Clinton's.

But Mitchell defended his plan and said the Republicans for weeks had nothing but "a phantom bill. ... No one will be rushed. We'll stay here as long as it takes, days and weeks, months if necessary."

Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, at the forefront of conservative opposition to any major federal revamping of health care, remarked to reporters that he expected a huge drubbing for Clinton, whom he accuses of being ideologically fixated on a government takeover of health care. …

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