Politics

Rick Perry’s camp defends 1993 HillaryCare praise

Alexis Levinson and Caroline May
Contributor

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been among the most vocal critics of President Obama’s health care reform initiative, and of Mitt Romney’s preceding health care program in Massachusetts. But in 1993, while serving as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Perry praised the efforts of then-first lady Hillary Clinton to reform health care, a precursor to Obama’s health care reform efforts.

In a letter to Clinton, who is now U.S. Secretary of State, Perry wrote: “I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable.”

“I would like to request that the task force give particular consideration to the needs of the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agriculture workers, and other members of rural communities,” Perry continued, noting his administration’s focus on economic development for rural Texans. “Rural populations have a high proportion of uninsured people, rising health care costs, and often experience lack of services.”

“Again, your efforts are worthy,” Perry concluded, ”and I hope you will remember this constituency as the task force progresses.”

The plan Clinton’s task force ultimately presented called for universal health care along with a federal mandate for employers to provide health insurance for their employees.

Perry’s 1993 letter first emerged in 2005 when GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Texas gubernatorial campaign used it as ammunition against Perry. It has not been raised as an issue during the 2012 presidential campaign cycle.

In 2005 Perry’s organization hired a videographer to record a campaign appearance in which Hutchison and Clinton embraced on stage and Clinton called Hutchison “my partner on so many important fronts.” With Perry supporters accusing Hutchison of being too close to the liberal senator, Hutchison’s campaign used Perry’s letter to push back.

Perry has more recently gone on the offensive against both Obama and Romney for their respective health care plans.

“I think Mitt is finally recognizing that the Massachusetts health care plan that he passed is a huge problem for him,” Perry said last week on the Laura Ingraham Show, adding that Obamacare is a “debacle.”

“If I’m so fortunate to be elected the president of the United States, on Day One, when I walk into the Oval Office, there will be an executive order on that desk that eliminates as much of ObamaCare that I can have done with an executive order,” Perry told a South Carolina crowd this month.

Asked by TheDC about the 1993 letter, Perry’s presidential campaign defended it, saying the full scope of Clinton’s healthcare plan was not yet known when Perry signed it.

“You need to read the letter,” top Perry political strategist Dave Carney told The Daily Caller. “He praised her efforts in trying to tackle the issue and urged her not to overlook rural Americans. The letter was at the onset of her efforts before she proposed anything. No one could have imagined the horrible monstrosity she cooked up, in fact not to be outdone until ObamaCare years later.”

“As Agriculture Commissioner he was concerned that rural Americans would be overlooked and their options even more limited,” Carney continued. “Working with the administration regardless of party, working with members of the other party, as long as you don’t violate your principles, is important to getting things done.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in 2005 that Perry “defended” his 1993 praise of Hillary Clinton.

“Don’t get confused that I am for Hillary Clinton,” he told the paper, calling now Senator Clinton “absolutely anathema to the philosophical positions of the Republican Party.”

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