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Special Event

President Clinton Criticizes House-Passed Prescription Drug Bill

Aired June 29, 2000 - 12:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to go back to the Oval Office now, where President Clinton is taking questions on the prescription drug plans now before Congress.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On the Democratic bill,

on the Democratic bill. And I just wanted the American people to know that the bill that they passed is an empty promise to most of our seniors.

The bill passed along partisan lines and it offers a flawed, unworkable private insurance prescription benefit that the insurance companies themselves -- to their everlasting credit -- the insurance companies themselves have said this will not work, these policies will not be affordable, most seniors who need help will not be able to take advantage of this bill. Now, they have said it over and over.

This provides more political coverage for the Republicans who voted for it than insurance coverage for the seniors who need to buy medicine.

Now let me just say this: In a report that was made available only late yesterday, too late to be of use in the debate, I might add, Congress' own budget office concluded that more than half the Medicare beneficiaries who don't have drug coverage today would not be covered by the Republican private insurance plan.

It also shows that their premiums would be 50 percent higher than those under our plan and the coverage would be 20 percent lower. So for seniors with incomes over $12,600 a year or couples with incomes over $16,600 a year, this plan doesn't do the job. And it certainly doesn't do the job for Americans with disabilities who would also be covered by a real Medicare prescription drug plan.

That's why the leading aging and disability groups across the country have supported our plan. And that's why the drug manufacturers and their allies have supported the Republican plan.

CLINTON: And it's important that the American people understand the difference between the two proposals.

Again I say, we have a substantial budget surplus projected. If we can protect the Medicare tax receipts, I'm prepared to work with Congress on a real prescription drug benefit and on marriage tax relief and other tax relief that will cost about the same amount of money that the Republicans say they want.

But we're going to have to work across party lines on a bipartisan bill. We don't need the kind of one-party vote we had last night, especially without allowing us to even bring up our substitute and see how many Republican votes we could get for a real bill.

So, I haven't given up and we're still working.

Thank you all very much.

MESERVE: President Bill Clinton talking in the White House and tearing into House Republicans, who last night passed a prescription drug bill. The president said the bill they passed is an empty promise to many senior citizens. It is flawed. It is unworkable. He criticized them for not allowing a Democratic plan to come up for a vote, although a report from the Congressional Budget Office, the president says, shows that the Republican plan involved higher premiums and less coverage.

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