THE HEALTH CARE DEBATE: THE SENATE; Centrist Group Is Seeking Consensus on Health Care
By ADAM CLYMER,
New York Times
A bipartisan group of senators, more concerned about cost controls and bureaucracy than about the loudly debated topics of universal coverage or employer mandates, met for nearly three hours tonight to try to clear a path to consensus in the health care debate.
The centrist group, which calls itself the "mainstream coalition," had a major role in the Senate Finance Committee debate several weeks ago, but has been in partial eclipse ever since.
But its Republicans are the most conciliatory voices in this week's Senate debate, and the Democratic allies of Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the majority leader, are eager to deal with them. These Democrats hope that some changes in Mr. Mitchell's bill could win their support, especially since the moderate Republicans' main concern does not appear to be the universal coverage provisions which President Clinton has said cannot be weakened.
The coalition itself is not sure whom it wants to deal with, and how. So today, several members said after the meeting, they went back to basics and began discussing what an acceptable health insurance bill should contain, not how to achieve it.
Senator John H. Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, said the group planned to stay in touch with both Mr. Mitchell and Senator Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader, whose bill it also finds unsatisfactory in terms of cost controls. "The ideal objective would be to have everybody aboard," Mr. Chafee said tonight. "But maybe I'm dreaming."
In a reflection of the Senate's uncertainty about the battle lines of health care legislation, the mainstream group attracted one of its largest crowds ever to today's meeting. There were 14 senators present, 7 Republicans and 7 Democrats.