The White House contends that President Clinton's health reform plan is making headway on Capitol Hill despite Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's decision to withdraw her sponsorship.
Feinstein, who is running for re-election in California, quietly took her name off the bill last week. She was one of 30 original Senate sponsors of the president's proposal.She said in a statement, "I stand with the president on the need for health-care reform, but it is now clear his bill will be substantially reworked in both the Senate and the House."
Deputy White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes said Thursday "a great deal of progress has been made" despite slumping public support for health reforms and problems in some key committees.
He predicted most, if not all, of the five major panels would approve bills by the end of June.
Ickes and Ira Magaziner, a senior domestic policy adviser, told health reporters at a briefing that universal coverage to Clinton means "all Americans."
Some lawmakers are pushing a managed competition bill to broaden coverage without government mandates. The Congressional Budget Office recently concluded that approach would help 15 million Americans get coverage, but leave 24 million uninsured.
If tens of millions of people are still left uncovered, "it's hard to claim that you've got all Americans private insurance that can't be taken away," said Magaziner, an architect of the Clinton proposal.
Ickes, who joined the White House in January to captain the team pushing for passage of health reform, said, "The Clinton plan as we know it took a real beating. We don't deny that."
But "a great deal of progress has been made" in the past 12 weeks, he said.