Dingell: Obama Budget to Include National Healthcare

The Obama administration's budget has already carved out a portion dedicated to a national healthcare package, and may move quickly to address that issue, said a House Democrat spearheading healthcare reform efforts during a speech Monday night.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that "the stars are aligning" for quick action by Congress and the administration to move a healthcare reform package.

"I had the opportunity of speaking to President Obama the other day, and I urged him to do two things," Dingell said during a speech at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. "One was to look after the American auto industry, but the other thing was to realize that his healthcare plan has to come up quickly."

"The president has already put a national healthcare package into his budget," Dingell added. "That gives us a procedural and substantive leg up."

Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress who's made a career out of emphasizing the need for healthcare reform, said that he hoped to address the issue soon after lawmakers take actions to address the ailing U.S. economy. The former Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman said that Obama should be careful to not echo President Clinton's actions on healthcare, when the healthcare industry lobby spend hundreds of millions to sink a reform package that made its way through Congress.

"I'm hopeful it will be a bipartisan approach, but I can't make that promise," Dingell stated, saying that Republicans' refusal to join with Democrats in support of the economic stimulus bill made it unlikely they would sign onto a healthcare reform plan. "I intend to put everything I have into it. I will be pushing the administration's package, and I will be a cosponsor."

Watch a video of Dingell's speech here.

Update (1:56 p.m.): In a statement on last night's speech, Dingell adds:
If the Economic Recovery bill is any indication, which included major investments in health information technology, prevention and wellness programs, and comparative research, the Administration will see the budget as an opportunity to move us a few steps further on reforming the nation