In the fall of 1993, as then-first lady Hillary Clinton was pushing her health care reform package, she warned Democratic lawmakers that the individual mandate was a political loser, according to new documents released Friday.
The documents, made public for the first time by her husband’s presidential library and the National Archives and Records Administration, shed light on how Clinton approached the difficult task of overhauling the nation’s health care system, and where she differed from the approach President Obama would take on the same issue years later.
Hillary Clinton spearheaded the White House’s 1993 reform effort, which ultimately failed, and went to Capitol Hill in early September that year to brief Democratic House and Senate leaders and committee chairs and to try to convince them to support her plan. The White House proposal relied more heavily on an employer mandate to pay for health insurance, while the Republican alternative at the time proposed a mandate on individuals to purchase coverage.
“We have looked at that in every way we know how to,” Clinton told the lawmakers of the individual mandate. “That is politically and substantively a much harder sell than the one we’ve got — a much harder sell.”
“Not only will you be saying that the individual bears the full responsibility; you will be sending shock waves through the currently insured population that if there is no requirement that employers continue to insure, then they, too, may bear the individual responsibility,” Clinton added.
It’s an artifact of how much of a political ping-pong ball the individual mandate has become over the intervening two decades, bouncing back and forth between and inside the two parties. The mandate started at the conservative Heritage Foundation as an alternative to Clinton’s plan.
But in 2008, when she was running for president, Clinton had come to support the mandate — drawing the ire from her then-primary challenger Barack Obama, who warned Clinton would “force uninsured people to buy insurance, even if they can’t afford it.” He too, of course, switched positions on the mandate, making it a key part of his signature health care law once he came into office. His law also includes an employer mandate like Clinton’s 1993 plan.
Her lengthy exchange with the Democratic leaders, including difficult questions and complaints about lawmakers being kept in the dark, suggest Clinton had a deep command of the both policy and politics of health care reform, and clear-eyed view of the challenges she faced. That includes many of the same challenges Obama faced and currently faces with his own health plan.
“I think that there will be, very honestly, a period of adjustment, a period of setting, before any of you will feel comfortable with all the features of this, because we are really approaching the health care system in a different way,” she told the lawmakers.
For instance, she counseled Democrats to focus not on expanding coverage when speaking with constituents — though that was the central goal of the plan — since the message doesn’t sell as well. “It may be an unpleasant fact for some of us Democrats to face, but the argument is not going to be won on bringing in the uninsured. The argument is going to be won on keeping [coverage] for everybody, including those who are insured, but may not be next year or the year after,” she said.
It’s advice that rings as true in 2014 as it was in 1993. Of course, Clinton wasn’t successful then and Obama has yet to convince the country today.
What We're Following See More »
A day after saying he could not yet support Donald Trump's presidential bid, House Speaker Paul Ryan has invited the billionaire to a meeting in Washington next week with House leadership. Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will also meet separately with Trump.
"President Obama used the White House podium on Friday to dismiss Donald Trump as an unserious candidate to succeed him, and said leading the country isn't a job that's suited to reality show antics." At a briefing with reporters, the president said, "I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show. This is a contest for the presidency of the United States. And what that means is that every candidate, every nominee needs to be subject to exacting standards and genuine scrutiny."
In the The White House on Thursday night unveiled a series of executive actions to combat money laundering—"among the most comprehensive response yet to the Panama Papers revelations." The president's orders will tighten transparency rules, close loopholes that allow "foreigners to hide financial activity behind anonymous entities in the U.S., and demand stricter “customer due diligence” rules for banks.
The #NeverTrump movement is now mulling the idea of recruiting a candidate to run as an independent or under a third-party banner. But who might it be? The Hill offers a preliminary list.
- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE)
- Mitt Romney
- 2012 (and perhaps 2016) Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson
- Former Marine Gen. John Kelly
- Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI)
- Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
The U.S. economy added 160,000 jobs in April, a "mildly disappointing" result relative to the 200,000 expected, according to the New York Times' Neil Irwin. On the plus side, hourly earnings were up 2.5% from a year ago. But on the other hand, "the labor force shrank by 362,000 people and the labor force participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage points."