Rick Perry says a letter he wrote in 1993 praising Hillary Clinton’s health care reform efforts is misunderstood and should not be taken as an endorsement of the law.
The correspondence, recently dug up by The Daily Caller, dates back to when Perry was serving as Agriculture Commissioner in Texas. In it, he asked that rural communities be taken into consideration as a task force led by First Lady Hillary Clinton prepared their recommendations. But he also had some kind words for Clinton personally, writing “I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable.”
In an interview with Sean Hannity on Tuesday, Perry said that he only backed Clinton’s “admirable goal” of reform because the administration had yet to produce its final plan.
“The fact that they came up with this monstrosity of a bill was really — I had no idea that that was going to be the end product,” he said. “What I thought they were truly going to work toward was trying to reform health care.”
As Perry explained to Hannity, there’s nothing particularly odd about an agricultural commissioner trying to advocate for farmers in federal legislation. But the timing on his claim that he had no idea what was coming on health care is a little cute: news reports at the time of his April 1993 letter already included broad details of the Clinton plan even though the task force had yet to formally complete its work.
The New York Times ran a lengthy A1 piece “The Health Agenda: 6 Weeks and Counting — A Status Report” on March 23, 1993, for example, that went over administration discussions on an employer mandate requiring businesses to provide coverage to workers, on possible taxes to cover an estimated $30 to $90 billion annual cost, and on the basics of their eventual proposal to shepherd Americans into large health maintenance organizations with a set of guaranteed basic benefits. First Read notes that the Los Angeles Times included a bullet point rundown with many of the eventual proposal’s main planks in an article just the day before Perry sent his letter.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.