Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell emerged from a meeting with President Clinton Monday promising that his scaled-down health-care plan will meet the president's main objective - insurance for all Americans.
"That's the goal on which the president has never wavered - what I believe we will attain," Mitchell told reporters outside the White House.Mitchell's plan will stretch out the period for covering all Americans and limits employer responsibility for premiums to 50 percent. He will unveil the plan Tuesday and hopes to put it to a vote next week.
Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation," Mitchell promised Sunday to keep senators in session through the usual August recess until they act on health reform.
Clinton was traveling to Liberty State Park, N.J., Monday for a campaign-style rally designed to ignite a public outpouring of support as Congress nears a critical point in the health-care debate.
He was pressing his case for universal coverage at the waterfront park in Jersey City in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty. Among those at the rally were health care supporters on their way from Boston to Washington - one of four bus caravans due to converge on Washington on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The president made a similar trip to Independence, Mo., on Saturday, denouncing the "hot air and hot signs" of his critics. "I do wish they had some burden to prove that what they're for works," he complained.
Mitchell played down Monday's meeting, saying he discussed "the substance of health care, the timing of the legislation," along with other issues. He strongly defended Clinton, whose own plan sank in public opinion polls although many individual features are popular with voters.
A House plan introduced by Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., on Friday mirrors Clinton's original concept. It would provide health care to all Americans by 1999, only a year after that proposed by Clinton, and would require employers to pay 80 percent of the cost.
Mitchell said his "prime option" is a voluntary system that encourages people to enter health plans but avoids any immediate mandates concerning employers' responsibility for providing coverage.