WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton urged Senate Democrats on Tuesday to resolve their differences with a health-care bill and pass an overhaul as soon as possible. Summoning the lessons of his own history with health care-reform, Clinton warned: "The worst thing to do is nothing."
Clinton's appearance at a caucus luncheon came three days after President Barack Obama delivered a similar message to House members, after which the House passed its health-care bill.
Clinton noted the grim consequences of the failed reform effort 15 years ago: Democrats lost control of Congress in that year's midterm elections, health-care costs skyrocketed, and the uninsured rate continued to rise.
"It's not important to be perfect here. It's important to act, to move, to start the ball rolling," he told reporters after the meeting.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada invited Clinton to speak at the weekly session "to share his insights," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a former senior Clinton aide, also urged him to attend, Manley said.
Democratic lawmakers have yet to read the health-care bill, which Reid is expected to unveil early next week. The leader is awaiting a cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office on a merged bill, based on the legislative work of two committees. In the meantime, Reid is scrambling to unify the 60 members of his caucus behind a procedural motion to bring the bill to the floor.
Reid told reporters Tuesday morning that he expected floor action to begin next week, and said the House and Senate could still produce a final bill by Christmas.