GENE SPERLING

Congress Must Pass Health Bill, Aide Says

A SENIOR White House official says if Congress fails to adopt health care reform this year, it would be ``deeply resented'' by the American people.

Gene Sperling, deputy assistant to the president for economic policy, says unless the Democratic Congress passes health reform, it will mean ``starting from scratch next year'' - when Republican strength could be far greater. At a Monitor breakfast meeting with reporters, Mr. Sperling insisted that he remains optimistic because health reform would be a boon to working, middle-class families who are in constant danger of losing their health insurance.

``There's a very simple question you can ask about all these [health reform] plans,'' he says. ``If you are a family, and you work right now, and you have health care, and you lose your job,... which plan will guarantee that this ... misfortune will not put your family at risk of financial ruin?''

Fending off questions about Bob Woodward's new book, ``The Agenda,'' on the inner-workings of the Clinton White House, Sperling rebutts charges of ``chaos.''

``We'd be the first to say that we have learned a lot of lessons as we've gone along. We've probably had our ups and downs like any organization in its first year. But there have been critical moments where the place worked so well....''

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