Kennedy Says That He Will Introduce Senate Bill for Universal Health Care

By Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), making his second appearance on Capitol Hill since he began treatment for a malignant brain tumor in June, told reporters yesterday that he would advance a bill early next year calling for universal health care.

Some Democrats, including members of President-elect Barack Obama's circle, have begun to view expanded coverage as a longer-term goal.

The brief appearance by Kennedy, who made a surprise return in July to vote on a Medicare bill, represented an opportunity for him to show colleagues that he remains energetic and engaged, and that he intends to reclaim his committee post in January and take charge of the Obama health-care agenda. Some Democrats had speculated that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would attempt to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) rolled out his own health-care bill days after Obama was elected, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also expects to be a leading participant in the effort to establish universal health care.

Kennedy has a head start on them all. Despite his illness, he directed his staff months ago to begin work on legislation that would vastly expand health coverage, a career-long goal of his.

But as the economy has worsened, attention has shifted to measures aimed at creating jobs and stabilizing the housing market. Obama is particularly eager to advance his alternative energy agenda.

Kennedy acknowledged the competition. "There's some major issues, obviously, the economy and also environmental issues," Kennedy said on his way to a staff meeting, where he was greeted with cheers.

"But the president-elect has indicated that this is going to be a priority, and I certainly hope it will."

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