Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

White House Fretting over Health Care Some Officials Fear '94 Will Pass with No Passage of Reform Bill

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

White House Fretting over Health Care Some Officials Fear '94 Will Pass with No Passage of Reform Bill

Article excerpt

IN PUBLIC, a determined President Bill Clinton urges the nation onward on what he calls the final leg of a long journey toward health reform.

In private, some in the White House are starting to think the unthinkable: Is it possible no health care reform will be enacted this year? Behind the upbeat public pronouncements by Clinton's aides, doubts have crept in.

White House officials who have devoted much of the last year to the health care reform effort are reluctant to admit even in private that they might not reach their goal. But they acknowledge that the outcome is largely dependent on a deeply divided Congress.

White House chief of staff Leon Panetta on Sunday sounded less than sure about White House prospects. "I still think there's a good chance we'll get universal coverage," he told ABC.

Clinton himself reflected uncertainty at a news conference Friday when he exhorted Congress to "keep working, keep working at it." He added: "If we don't move now, there's a chance that it won't happen at all. If you delay, you may well lose it altogether."

Delay is exactly what is occurring.

Where each chamber of Congress once was to have completed its version of health reform before Labor Day, no House votes are expected until after that date and Republicans want to hold off on Senate action as well. Even Democrats in Congress talk in increasingly gloomy terms these days.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., told CBS on Sunday a bill would pass this year, but not until October and not with tax increases other than on cigarettes.

Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., said lawmakers were suffering from "sticker shock" at the potential costs of health reform. Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., predicted that the Senate was "weeks if not months away" from casting meaningful votes.

With legislators hoping to adjourn for the year in early October, that doesn't leave much time. …

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