[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book II)]
[December 2, 1998]
[Page 2110]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 2110]]

Remarks Following a Meeting With Congressional Leaders
December 2, 1998

    Thank you very much, Senator. Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I 
want to congratulate the new members of the leadership in the Democratic 
Senate caucus and thank the returning Members for their service.
    I would like to acknowledge the presence and the leadership of one 
Senator who had to leave, Senator Patty Murray from Washington State, 
recently reelected. Patty Murray had to go home to a memorial service 
for General John Stanford, the superintendent of the Seattle schools. 
And on behalf of the First Lady and the Vice President and myself, I 
would like to say at the outset that we admire John Stanford. He was a 
patriot. He was a great educator. His loss is a loss to the children of 
Seattle and to the people of the United States, and our prayers are with 
his family. And we thank Senator Murray for going home to that service.
    Now, let me say that we just had a good meeting, but it was a good 
meeting not about what happened last month but about what happened--what 
will happen in the months ahead and the mandate that we have received to 
move forward on the American people's agenda.
    This is a remarkable moment for our country. We have the strongest 
economy in a generation. It gives us the opportunity and the obligation 
to move forward on the deepest concerns of the American people and the 
great challenges of our time, to move forward in education, to move 
forward in health care, to move forward on Social Security, to move 
forward in stabilizing the global economy so we can continue to grow the 
American economy.
    The American people have made it clear that they expect us to focus 
on modern schools and world-class educations for their children, on a 
sound Social Security system for the 21st century, on strong patient 
protections in the area of managed care.
    Senator Daschle, his colleagues, and we in the administration are 
determined to make passage of a comprehensive Patients' Bill of Rights a 
top priority in the next Congress. It is a decision that the Congress 
should be able to make in short order. We must give the American people 
the peace of mind that comes from knowing that when they fall ill, they 
will be treated as people, not dollar signs on a ledger.
    I have taken many steps to do everything I could to strengthen 
patient protections. Just last week--or this week, our administration 
instructed hospitals all across America that waiting for approval from 
an insurance company cannot be a reason for denying a person emergency 
    We have also extended the protection of the Patients' Bill of Rights 
to people who are in federally funded health care coverage plans. We 
have gone to the Supreme Court to help clear the way for patients who 
have been harmed by health plans' decisions to seek justice under State 
    But now the time has come for Congress to do its part to give all 
Americans the protections of the Patients' Bill of Rights. With Senator 
Daschle and his colleagues leading the way, we will make this not a 
Democratic issue or a Republican issue but an American issue.
    Thirty days ago the American people gave all of us our marching 
orders. They want us to work on their behalf. They want us to work on 
their business. They want us to go forward into the future with 
progress, not partisanship. We heard them, loud and clear. And all of us 
look forward to working with our colleagues, across party lines, to 
create a new season of achievement and progress for the American people.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:10 a.m. at the South Portico at the 
White House.