More understand the health legislation than I can...

I CAN NO

August 08, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

I CAN NO more understand the health legislation than I can read my doctor's handwriting. What I can understand is that if this legislation is going to be as revolutionary as its predecessors, it needs more support than it has now.

Its predecessors were Franklin D. Roosevelt's Social Security Act of 1935 and Lyndon B. Johnson's Social Security Amendments (Medicare) of 1965.

The former passed the House of Representatives 372-33. It passed the Senate 77-6. Though many Republicans preferred a watered down version, in the end the support for the bill was bi-partisan. Only 18 Republican representatives voted "no." Only five Republican senators did.

Thirty years later, the bi-partisanship was far less dramatic, but it was still there. The House passed Medicare 313-115 (after a Republican substitute failed, 236-191). On final passage Democrats voted for Medicare 248-42. Republicans voted against 73-65. The Senate passed the bill 68-21. Democrats supported it, 55-7. Republicans opposed it, 14-13.

The leading opponent of the 1994 health care bill in the Senate is the minority leader, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. In 1965 he was a member of the House of Representatives. He voted against Medicare.

If he votes against the health care bill this year, he will have duplicated the feat of Willis Robertson (Pat Robertson's father). He was a representative from Virginia in 1935 and voted against Social Security. In 1965 he was a senator and voted against Medicare.

The only senator in today's Senate who voted against Medicare as a senator is Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. Senator Thurmond also voted against Social Security in 1935. Also against the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution. Just kidding. He's not that old. He wasn't even born in the 1860s. He was in South Carolina's state senate in 1935, but he was a Democrat in those days and South Carolina was the most pro-FDR state in the nation. So Strom was probably pro-Social Security.

I doubt very much if William Jefferson Clinton will get anything close to these votes for his health care proposal. Why? What did FDR and LBJ have that HRC -- I mean WJC -- doesn't have? Well, most important, coattails.

FDR was elected in 1932. He brought in 97 new Democrats to the House (net) and 12 to the Senate. Then in 1934 his party gained nine more House seats and 10 more Senate seats. The House that passed Social Security was Democratic 322-103-10 (third parties). The Senate was, 69-25-2. LBJ was elected in 1964. He brought in 38 new Democratic representatives and two new senators. The House that passed Medicare was Democratic, 295-140. The Senate was 68-32.

Poor Bill Clinton. His party lost seats in the House and Senate in 1992-1993. The Democrats' edge in the Senate is only 56-44, and the House, 257-178-1. Next year's count is expected to be worse.

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