First lady backs saving Medicare and Social Security
By Phil Hirschkorn/CNN
September 14, 1999
Web posted at: 5:17 p.m. EDT (2117 GMT)
GREAT NECK, New York (CNN) -- Prospective Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, echoing White House positions backed by her husband, came out strongly Tuesday for using the majority of the federal budget surplus to extend the life of Medicare and Social Security.
The first lady spoke to a group of senior citizens on Long Island at the start of her seventh visit to the state since the exploratory phase of her Senate campaign began in July. She has not officially announced but has formed an exploratory committee, which is seen a precursor to a formal announcement and allows her to raise money.
"Will we honor our parents and grandparents by saving Social Security and Medicare, the lifeline so many Americans rely on, or will we squander this opportunity?" she said.
Mrs. Clinton said that part of the federal budget surplus should be used to save those programs, especially Medicare, which is forecast to be insolvent in 2015.
"I believe, as the president does we must extend Medicare's life by an additional decade and offer a prescription drug benefit to all seniors," she said.
Mrs. Clinton pointed out that there are 2.7 million Medicare beneficiaries in New York, 2 million of which don't have prescription drug coverage. The president also has called for Medicare to offer coverage for prescription drugs.
Once again Mrs. Clinton attacked the Republican tax plan that is facing a promised presidential veto. "The Republican plan would ask us to cut and run on seniors," she said "I would fight it if I was in Congress."
Mrs. Clinton is looking more and more like a candidate. During her speech, a member of the crowd asked how she could join her campaign and Mrs. Clinton replied "I'd love to have your help."
"I want to continue to be part of making positive change here in New York. I also think it really matters who is in the Senate," she said. "If you look at the issues we've raised - health care, public education, campaign finance reform, monopolies, consolidation of powers - it matters who represents New York. New York is the center not only of our country, really our future and the world."
Mrs. Clinton's likely opponent in a Senate race would be New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The mayor also has not made a formal announcement but had formed an exploratory committee. No other Democrats have announced run for the seat, which is being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Another possible GOP candidate, U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio of Long Island, suspended his candidacy in August after Republican Gov. George Pataki endorsed Giuliani and asked Lazio to step aside.
Pataki's endorsement of Giuliani was designed to avoid a potentially bitter GOP primary that would have been both politically and financially expensive. The governor had been under pressure from some national and New York GOP leaders to use his muscle to keep Lazio out of the race on the grounds that Giuliani would be a stronger Republican candidate.