Carter: Kennedy “Killed the [Healthcare] Bill” in 1979
Thanks to a caller to the Matt Allen Show, I was tipped off to something I’d never heard before. In an event at his Presidential Library (broadcast by C-SPAN on September 15, 2009), former President Carter explained that, back in 1979, he had bi-partisan support for a health care reform package that was completely financed and approved by various committees. Well, except for one powerful committee chair who was opposed: Senator Ted Kennedy. That Carter’s revelation came just a few weeks after Senator Kennedy’s death may explain the dearth of media coverage.
Here is a link to the video (The question and answer begins at around 41:45 of the video and the explanation that Kennedy “killed the bill” is at around 43:30). Here is the relevant snippet as explained by President Carter:
[My health care proposal] would have passed except for—at that time we had the full approval of all of the committee chairman of the House and Senate; Republicans endorsed it with me in a press conference—except for the key Senator and that was Senator Kennedy, who at that moment had decided to run against me for President and didn’t want to see us have success. So he killed the bill.
Thirty years ago, Senator Kennedy was willing to unilaterally–not even as one of 40 filibusterers, but all by himself–stop health care reform solely for his own political benefit. Legacy indeed.
UPDATED: Here’s a brief, contemporary story from the Harvard Crimson about the plan. CNN covered the speech last September, but reported the above as follows:
Carter blamed “political problems” for his inability to overhaul the nation’s health care system in 1979 so that all 15 million Americans then without health insurance would have gotten coverage. That number has tripled in the intervening years.
One is left to infer that the problems must have been partisan based (ie; the GOP must have stopped him), just like they are now. And they wonder why they have the reputation they have. Finally, according to the Wikipedia entry on Jimmy Carter, similar accusations by Carter against Kennedy can be found in Carter’s book Keeping Faith (pp. 86–87).