Democrats To Revive 'Patients' Bill of Rights'

Implications of the Nov. 3 Congressional election, in which Democrats surprisingly pared the Republican majority in the House and kept the GOP from picking up additional Senate seats, already are apparent in at least one key business-related legislative issue. At a White House meeting Nov. 5, President Clinton and top Congressional Democrats agreed to push early next year for revival of the "Patients' Bill of Rights" ardently opposed by business. The measure, which would impose limitations on managed health-care plans, failed by a five-vote margin in the House this year. But with Democrats gaining five House seats in the new Congress, party leaders believe the bill can pass and provide early momentum to the Democratic agenda. They also believe that they can gain support for the legislation in the Senate, in which Republicans failed to add to their 55-45 majority. The GOP leadership killed the bill in the Senate last year. Leaders of major business lobbying groups have refrained from public comment on the election results. But clearly, they had hoped for Republican gains, which would have improved the prospects for passage of business priorities. For example, one such priority -- "fast-track" trade negotiating authority -- appears certain to be dead. It failed narrowly this year and would have required additional GOP support to have a chance in the 106th Congress.

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