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HEALTH COVERAGE AVAILABILITY AND AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 1996
(Senate - July 25, 1996)

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[Pages S8820-S8821]
       HEALTH COVERAGE AVAILABILITY AND AFFORDABILITY ACT OF 1996

  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate 
insist on its amendments with respect to H.R. 3103, the health care 
reform bill, the Senate agree to the request for a conference with the 
House, and the Chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of 
the Senate.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
  The Presiding Officer appointed Mr. Roth, Mrs. Kassebaum, Mr. Lott, 
Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Moynihan conferees on the part of the Senate.
  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, before we go to the other unanimous-consent 
requests, I again want to thank the distinguished Democratic leader for 
his efforts in this. He has worked very hard to get a medical savings 
account agreement. Senator Kennedy has been involved in that. Senator 
Kassebaum has been very helpful in working to get a medical savings 
account agreement. We did come to an understanding on medical savings 
accounts, today. Therefore, we now can go forward with appointing 
conferees to resolve the balance of the issues. I am prepared to give 
to the Democratic leader the language that we will be working on in 
conference as soon as we complete these unanimous-consent requests.
  Would the Democratic leader like to comment?
  Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I will have more to say about this later 
on this evening. But let me just take a moment at this point to thank 
the distinguished majority leader for the effort that he has put forth 
over the last couple of weeks in particular. Were it not for the 
cooperation that we were able to demonstrate on both sides, especially 
from the majority leader, I do not know that we would be here tonight.
  Let me also compliment the distinguished Senator from Massachusetts. 
No one has been more relentless and more cooperative and more helpful 
in providing us with ways in which to resolve the many complicated 
aspects to this negotiated settlement than has the distinguished 
Senator from Massachusetts. I thank him, as well as the chair of the 
committee, the distinguished Senator from Kansas.
  This has been a very cooperative effort in the last several days. It 
has taken a lot to get to this point. We are here, and I applaud all of 
those who had a part to play in it, in particular the majority leader 
and the Senator from Massachusetts.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Will the Senator yield?
  Mr. LOTT. I yield to the Senator from Massachusetts.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I want to join in commending both the 
majority leader and the minority leader for giving such support and 
encouragement towards reaching this important agreement which hopefully 
will free us to move forward on the underlying issue, which is 
portability and the elimination of the preexisting condition for 
millions of Americans. This is legislation that reflected strong 
bipartisan support under the leadership of Senator Kassebaum and the 
Republicans and Democrats on that committee.
  I think this agreement, which includes a real, fair test of some 
750,000 policies and other consumer protections, will, I think, provide 
for a test of this concept. But most importantly, what it will do is 
move us closer to the day when we can provide for the 25 million 
Americans that have preexisting conditions and for the millions of 
Americans who want portability to achieve this goal.
  This has been a time where there has been strong views on certain 
issues. But I think it is a real tribute to both of our leaders and the 
persistence of Senator Kassebaum, as well as the leadership of Mr. 
Archer over in the House of Representatives, that we have been able to 
move this process forward.
  I want to say how much I look forward to working with the majority 
leader and the other conferees to moving to the conclusion of the 
conference. But I join others in thanking Senator Lott and Senator 
Kassebaum--and Senator Daschle, who has been such a strong supporter of 
moving this process forward. I thank them for their very strong support 
for this conclusion.
  Mr. LOTT. I thank the Senator from Massachusetts.
  Mr. President, I now ask unanimous consent that the Senate insist on 
its amendments with respect to H.R. 3448, the small business tax relief 
package, the Senate then agree to the request for a conference with the 
House, and the chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of 
the Senate.
  There being no objection, the Presiding Officer (Mr. Bennett) 
appointed, from the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, Mrs. 
Kassebaum, Mr. Jeffords, and Kennedy, and from the Committee 
on Finance, Mr. Roth, Mr. Chafee, Mr. Grassley, Mr. Hatch, Mr. Simpson, 
Mr. Pressler, Mr. Moynihan, Mr. Baucus, Mr. Bradley, Mr. Pryor, and Mr. 
Rockefeller conferees on the part of the Senate.

  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, Senator Daschle and I have been working with 
the chairman of the Finance Committee and Senators D'Amato, Moynihan, 
and Reid, with regard to an issue involved in this conference. And the 
chairman of the Finance Committee has assured me, Senator D'Amato, and 
Senator Moynihan that the language, under this legislation, with regard 
to electric and gas utilities that are eligible for the two-county 
local furnishing rule under current law, will not cause them to lose 
their ability to issue tax-exempt bonds, including their ability to 
expand service within the counties and the cities they presently serve.
  Mr. DASCHLE. Mr. President, I indicated to both New York Senators my 
desire to work with the majority leader to ensure that we are able to 
address their concerns to their satisfaction. I am sure that we can do 
that, and we will work with the two Senators from New York to make that 
a part of whatever agreement we reach in conference.
  Let me also say that with regard to both conferences, the 
distinguished majority leader has indicated his desire to make these 
truly bipartisan conferences. He has given me that assurance on the 
floor on a number of occasions. He has related and reiterated his 
determination to make that happen privately to me on many occasions.
  So, indeed, my expectation is that in both of these conferences we 
will have true bipartisanship in an effort to involve every Member of 
these delegations. That is the reason we appoint both Democrats and 
Republicans. I am very hopeful that our work can proceed in a way that 
will allow us to complete the work on these bills sometime in the very 
near future. Working together, I am quite sure that can happen.
  Again, I appreciate his assurances that we will see that 
bipartisanship through the deliberations of both of these conferences.
  Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, if I could respond to that. First, the 
conferees on the welfare reform package did meet today--both parties--
and I understand they are going to be meeting again in the morning, to 
work through the differences between the two bodies.

[[Page S8821]]

  In the case of health insurance reform, the small business tax relief 
package, and the minimum wage issue, I do not see any way it could be 
concluded without bipartisan cooperation. In fact, we would not have 
been able to appoint these conferees tonight without a lot of 
cooperation across the aisle in the Senate and the bicameral 
cooperation on the other side.
  When the Congressman from Texas, Mr. Archer, and the Senator from 
Massachusetts, Senator Kennedy, can get together, I think we all can 
get together. These conferences will proceed in this bipartisan and 
bicameral manner.
  Mr. KENNEDY. Will the Senator yield for a brief comment?
  Mr. LOTT. I am glad to yield.
  Mr. KENNEDY. I want to join in thanking both leaders in moving us 
forward, particularly on the minimum wage. I think all of us 
understand--there is virtually no difference--that we accept the House 
provisions on the minimum wage. We will have to make sure that we have 
a date for enactment in a timely way. I had hoped that we would be able 
to do that with a 30-day provision in there. We have done it in as 
short as 23 days in other times when we have had the increase in the 
minimum wage.
  I want to join with Senator Daschle and others to say that these 
workers have waited a long time. And I am very, very hopeful that we 
can get to the conference and move ahead so that we complete the 
conference to at least try to make sure that the working families are 
going to get that raise hopefully by Labor Day or very shortly 
thereafter.
  I thank the majority leader and Senator Daschle very much for moving 
ahead on this program.

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