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THE NATION

Kennedy has an offer for Clinton

If she doesn't become Obama's secretary of State, she could help lead the Senate's planned overhaul of the healthcare system.

November 19, 2008|Noam N. Levey | Levey is a writer in our Washington bureau.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y), considered a prominent contender to become secretary of State in the Obama administration, was offered an alternative Tuesday -- to be a senior member of the Senate team aiming to overhaul the nation's healthcare system.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has announced plans to craft sweeping healthcare legislation next year, asked the former presidential contender to head a working group focused on insurance coverage.

The potential assignment comes a decade and a half after Clinton led a controversial effort to reshape the healthcare system as first lady during her husband's first term in the White House. That campaign collapsed amid bitter opposition from many in the healthcare industry and accusations that Clinton ran a secretive process that ignored input from important stakeholders.

President-elect Barack Obama has not indicated how he plans to tackle healthcare. But many involved in the debate have high hopes that his push will be more successful.

Doctors and business and consumer groups are gearing up for an effort to improve care and bring about 46 million uninsured people into the system, something Obama and Clinton made centerpieces of their presidential campaigns.

And lawmakers on Capitol Hill are lining up to try to lead what is expected to be a long but high-profile legislative campaign.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) last week unveiled his template for reshaping the healthcare system.

Kennedy, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced Tuesday that he also had asked Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to head a working group on prevention and public health, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) to head a working group on improving the quality of care.

Clinton had no immediate reaction to Kennedy's invitation.

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noam.levey@latimes.com

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