WASHINGTON — HOUSE Speaker Thomas Foley (D) of Washington argues that the multibillion-dollar stimulus package moving rapidly through Congress is an essential "insurance policy" for the American economy.
Although the economy is recovering, the jobs program advanced by President Clinton is needed as "a hedge against another dip in economic activity," he says. Representative Foley spoke at a Monitor breakfast yesterday.
Foley was less optimistic, however, about speedy approval of federal health care reform. Foley says health care "is probably the [toughest] political challenge of this administration."
The White House plans to propose a full-fledged health-reform package by May, and hopes to see it become law quickly, perhaps by the end of the year. Foley resists such deadlines, however.
The Speaker says to rush through the reform process would be wrong. The key is to devise the best possible plan, he says, without regard to artificial timetables.
Foley had this to say on other topics:
* Campaign reform. He favors adoption of campaign reform, but admits that "it is difficult legislation, no doubt about it."
A critical issue will be public financing of congressional campaigns. Incumbents see public financing as an aid to their challengers. But Foley admits that many voters see public financing as a way for incumbents to "pickpocket" the United States Treasury.
Since neither members of Congress nor voters are enthusiastic about this pivotal element of reform, a campaign-reform package could have tough sledding in both the House and Senate.
* Gays in the military. Foley opposes two ideas that drew some support from Mr. Clinton at a recent press conference: The Speaker says excluding gays from combat assignments would be a big mistake.
He also says segregating them from heterosexuals would be an extremely bad idea.