Trying to push health care legislation over the finish line in Congress, President Clinton said Saturday that "violent, extreme interests" are trying to keep the government from insuring health coverage for all Americans.
Clinton, in Michigan for a Democratic fund-raiser, visited privately upon his arrival at Selfridge Air National Guard Base with a woman who was left with $24,000 in medical bills after her husband was shot and killed in 1993.Clinton said the plight of Linda Roster Clark of nearby Flint demonstrated the need for swift action in Congress on both crime and health-care legislation.
He accused critics of Democratic health-care plans of trying to deny all Americans the benefits they already enjoy.
"The violent, extreme interests in this country that are trying to keep health care out of the reach of ordinary American working people are a disgrace to the American dream," Clinton said in brief remarks at the airport. "Most of them have health care and most of them have parents on Medicare. Why do they not want you to have the same thing that they have?"
In his weekly radio address before leaving Washington, the president said the nation faces historic decisions "that call on us to break through partisan barriers and political rhetoric" on both health care and crime legislation.
"Let's stop playing games with these two important issues," Clinton said. "Let's get the job done."
With the House and Senate nearing showdown votes on health reform, Clinton is trying to mobilize public support for legislation that would ensure coverage for all - or nearly all - Americans.
The House and Senate are preparing to take up Democratic-sponsored bills that Clinton supports, but the White House faces a difficult battle against critics who say the bills are too bureaucratic and hard on business.
Seeking to illustrate the need for action, Clinton cited the case of an Oklahoma girl, Amanda Stewart, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1990 car wreck. Although her medical costs no longer are significant, her family recently was notified its insurance premiums would jump from $3,400 a year for limited coverage to $9,600, Clinton said.
"People like Amanda and her family are the reason we have to guarantee private, not government, health insurance for every American," Clinton said. "We can do better and we must."
On crime, the president expressed frustration that legislation bottled up in Congress for six years hasn't gotten final approval from the House and Senate even though congressional negotiators reached agreement on a compromise bill.
Again, he used a true-life example to demonstrate the need for action. He spoke of the shooting death of 9-year-old James Darby of New Orleans just nine days after the boy had written to Clinton "because he was afraid that someone might kill him," the president said.
With the legislation stalled in the House on a procedural dispute, Clinton blamed the National Rifle Association and other unspecified interests for using a "trick maneuver" to try to keep legislators from even voting on the bill.
"The NRA and the others should come out of the shadows," Clinton said. "They ought to fight this bill on the merits . . . "