Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt Outlines New Strategy for Health Care Take `Incremental Approach,' Congressman Advises

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gephardt Outlines New Strategy for Health Care Take `Incremental Approach,' Congressman Advises

Article excerpt

Go slower. Take smaller steps. Do a better job of explaining. Isolate some of the vocal opposition.

With an eye to next year, House Majority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., began to outline on Friday a potential strategy for Democrats to revive the attempt to overhaul the health care system and save it as a centerpiece of President Bill Clinton's administration.

"If we can't do something this year, in the beginning of the next year we can bring forward legislation," Gephardt said at a breakfast Friday. He added: "We will be in a position to move this country forward - maybe in slower steps, maybe in a longer phase-in - but we can move this country toward the goals he (Clinton) set out."

Politicians hate to concede that high-profile legislation is dead, so Gephardt carefully avoided acknowledging that the Democrats are throwing in the towel this year. But he called congressional action now "probably unlikely," talked of the health care issue in the past tense and laid out his version of what went wrong.

Gephardt blamed chiefly Republicans, a multimillion-dollar campaign by opponents and the complicated issues of health care.

"The Republicans have been in a mode of obstruction on most things and certainly on this one," Gephardt said, citing ongoing Senate Republican filibusters against a desert preserve in California and campaign finance reform.

"They have as one of their strategies not letting legislation go through if they can avoid it."

For their part, Republicans gleefully proclaimed health care reform to be dead on Thursday - the anniversary of Clinton's unveiling of his proposal - and defended their tactics as a protection of the public from bad legislation.

And also marking the anniversary, two studies - one by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and one by the liberal watchdog group Public Action - calculated that $60 million had been spent on health care advertising. The studies also noted that $100 million was spent for health care lobbying and congressional campaign contributions in the two years that reform has been a front-burner political issue. Most of the money was spent by opponents of health care, the studies said. …

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