Skip to comments.Bush Urges Lawmakers to Pass Medicare Bill
Posted on 09/25/2003 4:11:32 PM PDT by RJCogburn
President Bush prodded lawmakers on Thursday to pass a sweeping bill that would offer prescription drug benefits to senior citizens and played down worries about its impact on the federal deficit.
Bush met at the White House with House-Senate negotiators trying to hammer out a bill on the Medicare health program. The meeting came a day after the top two Republican leaders in Congress told the negotiators they need to pick up the pace and finish the bill by Oct. 17.
Bush acknowledged that there remains "a lot of work to get done." But he said, "I believe people know it's possible to get it done."
The legislation, passed in differing versions by the House of Representatives and the Senate last June, carries a price-tag of $400 billion over 10 years.
Asked by a reporter if he had qualms about the bill given the amount of red ink facing the government, Bush replied, "No, I don't."
"I absolutely believe we're doing the right thing," he said.
Taking into account an $87 billion spending plan Bush has proposed for postwar Iraq (news - web sites), next year's budget deficit is already estimated to grow to around $525 billion. The president has come under heavy criticism from Democrats for the deficits.
However, for Bush, whose approval ratings have been dropping in the aftermath of the Iraq war, passage of a Medicare bill would provide him with a chance to make good on a campaign promise and garner a domestic policy victory.
Talks toward a compromise on the Medicare bill have moved slowly over the past few months but picked up momentum this week.
The Senate bill had broad bipartisan support, while the House bill has scant Democratic backing and passed by a one-vote margin.
While both bills expand the role of private insurers and managed care plans, the Senate bill is far more protective of traditional government-run Medicare. The House bill aims to inject much more market competition, which Democrats say is tantamount to privatizing the popular health care program.
Both Bush and Iowa Republican Charles Grassley, an architect of the Senate legislation, described themselves as optimistic for the bill's passage.
But Democratic Rep. John Dingell, who participated in the meeting at the White House, said there would need to be significant changes to the bill to make it palatable to House Democrats whose support he contended was needed to pass final legislation.
"There is sufficient conservative opposition to the legislation (so that) if we are to get a bill, it must be bipartisan in character," Dingell said.
"Failing that, I think it is very doubtful that this opportunity to get prescription pharmaceutical benefits to our senior citizens can be achieved," he added.
"Bush urges lawmakers to markedly increase the deficit and debt just to achieve a political advantage".
Course he's not concerned. He's not going to be billed for his generosity. Us taxpayers on the other hand...
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