Clinton to delay health care package Mid-June unveiling of reforms is set

April 30, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton seems likely to delay the release of his health care reform package by about three weeks, hoping to avoid a legislative traffic jam caused by trying to push his health plan and his budget simultaneously, according to advisers.

Mr. Clinton had been planning to release the health package in a speech to a joint session of Congress on May 25. Now, however, the speech is likely to be put off until mid-June, sources familiar with the White House debate on the subject said yesterday.

Administration strategists hope that by mid-June the House will have passed the massive budget reconciliation bill that would enact key parts of Mr. Clinton's budget for the next fiscal year, including his proposed tax increases. The bill should also have moved through the Senate Finance Committee by that point, which is where Republican leaders have been hoping to ambush many of Mr. Clinton's tax ideas.

Delaying the health care plan until June would be something of a compromise between aides, including Leon E. Panetta, director of the Office of Management and Budget, who has advocated postponing the health plan perhaps until fall, and others, including first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who fear that delaying the health plan would effectively kill any chance of enacting it by next spring.

"He'd still like to pass it this year, although that may not be realistic," said one Clinton adviser. "If you delay longer than this, that would be impossible."

The subject of when and how to unveil the health plan has been repeatedly discussed in the White House. The debate intensified earlier this week when Mr. Panetta publicly suggested delaying the announcement until Congress completes work on the budget.

Yesterday, Mrs. Clinton played host to a reception -- in effect a farewell party -- for the hundreds of people who worked for her health care reform task force. Since late January, when it was set up, the task force has prepared hundreds of memos summarizing scores of policy options and making recommendations about how to fix the system. Now it is up to the president and his top advisers, including his wife, to decide ,, which of those recommendations to follow.

Earlier, task force members were given a mass debriefing at a standing-room-only meeting in the Old Executive Office Building. They were told by administration lawyers, for instance, that they may not take their work documents with them.

"It'll all end up someday in the Clinton presidential library," said one task force member.

Many task force members will remain on call and be consulted in the next few weeks as the agenda takes its final shape, said

Robert O. Boorstin, special assistant to the president for policy coordination.

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