WASHINGTON -- With an eye on the 1992 campaign, congressional Democrats unveiled yesterday an effort to build grass-roots support for reform of the nation's health care system, an issue on which they say President Bush has failed to show leadership.
The issue already has worked once for the Democrats, in an upset victory by Harris Wofford in last month's special Senate election in Pennsylvania. Now they are taking the issue on the dTC road and hoping to make it work next year against Mr. Bush and other Republicans.
Next week, 10 Senate Democrats will hold field hearings on health care in Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver and Tampa, Fla. Then, 200 Democratic House members will hold simultaneous town meetings Jan. 14 to address the issue.
The idea is to underscore what the Democrats say is a flawed system that costs too much and covers too few people.
Americans spend $670 billion a year -- $21,000 every second -- for a system that leaves 37 million people without health insurance and millions of others fearful that a major illness will wipe them out financially, Democratic leaders said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
"President Bush says he cannot move forward to deal with the health care crisis," said Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine. "That's not leadership, that's followership."
During a trip to Ohio on Wednesday, Vice President Dan Quayle underlined the administration's awareness that health care reform will be a major campaign issue. "It is a topic of major concern to the American people," he said. "I would put it right behind the economy and jobs."