Can the next Congress pass a comprehensive health care package?

George John Mitchell is the American special envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration. A Democrat, Mitchell was a United States Senator who served as the Senate Majority Leader from 1989 to 1995. He was chairman of The Walt Disney Company from March 2004 until January 2007, and was chairman of the international law firm DLA Piper at the time of his appointment as special envoy.

He is the Chancellor of Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  In 2006, he was asked by the Commissioner of Baseball to lead an investigation of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.

In addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Senator Mitchell has received awards and honors including the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, the Truman Institute Peace Prize, the German Peace Prize and the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize.In the Senate, he was closely associated with free trade and environmental legislation, and with aid to housing and education. He led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean-up law. Mitchell led the Senate to passage of the nation's first child care bill and was principal author of the low income housing tax credit program. He was instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled. Mitchell's efforts led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans. Senator Mitchell was also a leader in opening markets to trade and led the Senate to ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.For six consecutive years he was voted "the most respected member" of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides. In 1994 George Mitchell declined an appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States in order to remain in the Senate and pursue the struggle for universal national health care.

  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

 

Question: comprehensive health care package?

 

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George Mitchell: Well, you’ve asked three questions, each of which would take about an hour to answer properly. So, I can’t get into that. I’ll just tell you that, by coincidence, a very short time ago, Senator Bob Dole and I held a press conference in Washington. Bob and I and Howard Baker and Tom Dacshle, four former Senate Majority Leaders, two Republican, two Democrat, are joining in an effort totry to agree on a healthcare reform program that we will make public after the election, in the hopes of generating and spurring debate. There are other commissions and groupings that are doing it, and we’ve said we’re gonna enter it with an open mind, we’re gonna try very hard to reach agreement among ourselves. We’re all good friends personally, and that’ll help a lot. But, so I wouldn’t try to pre-judge it at this point, and honestly, this is not the kind of thing you can reduce to a bumper sticker and a slogan. It requires a thoughtful, comprehensive discussion. I think the system is, of course, capable of doing it. I think there are two stages in the legislative process on major issues that affect pretty much the whole country. The first is a consensus among the American people that a problem exists, and I think we’ve reached that stage. The second is a consensus on what is the best solution to the problem, and we clearly have not reached that stage. But I have heard in the past several months, not just in the campaign, but outside the campaign, many, many more voices recognizing the need for some change, including many who are part of the system, what the phrase is stakeholders in the system. People who deliver healthcare, people whose occupations are involved in healthcare, and of course, patient advocates. I emphasize that, while I’m not gonna get into the details of what the program ought to be for the reasons I’ve just stated, that you can’t just look at coverage. You have to look at the quality, the manner in which care is delivered, and the financing of the system. There is a huge amount of waste in the American system. It does not necessarily follow in this case that if you spend more money, you get a better result. I’m not sure that follows in any case, but it surely doesn’t follow in this case. So, it’ll be tough and there obviously will have to be a bipartisan approach because, while it’s likely that Democrats will increase their margins in the House and Senate, it’s not likely that Democrats will increase their margins in the Senate to the sixty votes that are necessary to cut off debate. So, you’re gonna need some kind of bipartisan effort, which is why the four of us are getting together to try to help out in that area. 

 


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