Hillary Clinton Gets Seat on Senate Labor/Health Committee
As expected, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) Jan. 11 captured a seat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the panel presiding over many health care issues -- the issue she "tried to put her stamp on" as first lady, the New York Times reports. Clinton spokesperson Karen Dunn said that the HELP panel could serve as a "strong platform" for the New York senator to "push" health care proposals, such as improving medical coverage for low-income Americans (Hernandez, New York Times, 1/12). "I am extremely pleased," Clinton said, adding that the committee post will allow her to "work on ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Americans" (Godfrey, Washington Times, 1/12). The New York Times calls the move "somewhat of a surprise," since Clinton has "been so closely identified with" the administration's "failed" 1993 universal health care plan. Ranit Schmelzer, a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), said that the Democratic leader selected Clinton to serve on the HELP panel because of her "expertise" in health care and education, dismissing suggestions that Clinton would prove a "polarizing figure" on the committee. "I think she will fit right in. She'll lend her expertise to issues, and she'll have a lot to learn," Schmelzer said (Hernandez, New York Times, 1/12). Although Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), the committee's ranking Democrat, said he was "delighted" with Clinton's appointment, Sen. Jim Jeffords (R-Vt.), the panel's top Republican, offered a "less effusive" reception. "We will welcome her as we would any other new member of the committee," Jeffords spokesperson Joseph Karpinski said (Washington Times, 1/12). Some lawmakers worried, however, that while Clinton would "bring greater attention" to their issues, her "celebrity status" could "eclipse" them (New York Times, 1/12). In addition to her post on the HELP panel, Clinton will serve on the Environment and Public Works and the Budget committees (McCaffrey, AP/Albany Times Union, 1/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.