September 16th, 2010
02:37 PM ET
4 years ago

Jimmy Carter blames Ted Kennedy for health care delay

Former President Jimmy Carter blamed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy for delaying the passage health care legislation.
Former President Jimmy Carter blamed the late Sen. Ted Kennedy for delaying the passage health care legislation.

(CNN) – The late Sen. Ted Kennedy is widely hailed for devoting his political career to the cause of providing health care to all Americans. But in an interview set to air on 60 Minutes Sunday, former President Jimmy Carter says Kennedy is the one to blame for delaying legislation to provide such care.

"The fact is that we would have had comprehensive health care now, had it not been for Ted Kennedy's deliberately blocking the legislation that I proposed," Carter told CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl. "It was his fault. Ted Kennedy killed the bill."

Carter proposed health care reform in the late 1970s but was unable to sign any legislation. He said Kennedy blocked the bill in Congress out of spite in advance of the Massachusetts senator's unusual, and ultimately unsuccessful 1980 bid to unseat him.

"He did not want to see me have a major success in that realm of life," Carter said.

Kennedy at the time was pressing for a health care program run by the federal government, comparable to the so-called "public option" that many progressives fought for last year. Carter preferred to enact smaller changes over time to improve the existing health care system, similar to the legislation signed by President Obama in March. In the end, both of their plans failed to gain traction and the issue was put on the back burner when Ronald Reagan was elected president.

In his 1982 presidential memoirs, Carter painted Kennedy as a stubborn politician capable of using his clout to obstruct policy changes.

"Because of his key committee assignments, [he is] able to block almost any health legislation of which he does not approve," Carter wrote in Keeping Faith: Memoirs of a President. "In effect, he insisted on his plan or nothing at all."

Later in his life, Kennedy expressed regret that he held out for a government-run health care system. While he said he wished he had made a deal to reform health care with President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, it was his same attitude that led him later that decade to criticize Carter's plan for reform.

Kennedy died in August 2009, less than one year before President Obama signed major health care reform legislation.


Filed under: Health care • issues • Jimmy Carter • Ted Kennedy
soundoff (90 Responses)
  1. Ron in Califonia

    Jimmy go back to Plains...please.

    September 16, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. hjs3

    Yup, egos run a little high in that arena....

    But still it's not cool to slam dead people....

    September 16, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  3. tabu

    Good ol Jimmy blame it on Kennedy who is not alive to defend himself. Carter and Obama blamers.

    September 16, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. Troubled Independent

    Ted Kennedy devoted his career to health care, and in spite of decades, little was accomplished.

    What in the world do our congress people do all day long? Might be their numerous, long vacations and campaigning. I just answered my own question!

    September 16, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. barry

    Carter gets back in the spot light because he knows Obama has taken his place as worst President. Obama has made Jimmy Carter a very happy man.

    September 16, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. JJ in NY

    Has Carter lost his peanuts ?

    This buffoon needs to go away and stay away .

    September 16, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  7. Nelson, Colorado Springs Co

    What took so long for former President Jimmy Carter to make this statement. He should have siad long time ago when Sen. Ted Kennedy was still alive. Carter is JUST OLD

    September 16, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  8. fred astaire

    God help me but I am going to stick up for teddy. jimmy Carter is an angry, dried up old fart who should began Alzheimer's treatment.

    September 16, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  9. Hugo

    Yep, Jimmy Peanut Carter may actually be able to hang on to that worst President of our lifetime tag with remarks like that, it is going to be a tough call between he and Obama though. I know every responsible hard working American wants to keep on working harder and harder to pay for perpetually escalating premiums so Manuel and his family of 8 can go to the Emergency room for free...

    September 16, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  10. Cocitizen

    I believe President Carter is telling the truth. Kennedy readily admitted before he died that he was responsible for the fact that health care reform legislation was not adopted during the Nixon admin. because he, Kennedy, did not think Nixon's bill went far enough. A decision he said he later regretted. So it is not surprising that Carter ran into the same problem with him. Not to take anything away from Kennedy, because I admired him, but facts are facts.

    September 16, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  11. Cindy

    Water under the bridge. None of this matters anymore.

    September 16, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. john

    I'm adding a comment here because CNN chose to NOT post my comment about Michele Obama....how disgusting, ask for comments and then NOT print them....it was just "Go Take another Vacation, Michelle", nothing offensive except that the CNN love affair with the Obamas continues on and on.....

    September 16, 2010 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  13. Objective Guy

    Is anyone actually shocked to hear this???

    September 16, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  14. Whatever

    Jimmy, Jimmy... Jimmy – - Have you ever heard of the saying – - It is not nice to speak ill of the dead?!! LIke anyone remembers back that far. I will admit I was a child when you were in office and I just remember the attempt to free the hostages that didn't work. Regean simply paid them and supplied them with guns for the release but was made the big hero. Being respectful of my elders, please go sit back in your rocking chair on the front porch! GRACIAS (thank you)!

    September 16, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  15. jeff, alabama

    I never thought anything more of Ted Kennedy as a man as
    I would have thought of PeeWee Herman as a man.
    But I'm sure now everyone can see that Carter doesn't much
    fit the description of a man either.
    How these idiots ever got elected I'll never understand.
    WOOOOPS.........I voted for Carter the first time he ran.
    America, please forgive me for that.

    September 16, 2010 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  16. Kathleen

    I like Jimmy Carter, but this subject is a mute topic at this point.
    Politics is crazy, and unethical at times! Who knows what motivates
    a politicians actions.

    I also have great respect for Ted Kennedy. So now what?

    September 16, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Steve (the real one)

    Hey Wait! I thought liberals only blamed the GOP! What the....???
    Actually, this is shameful. Kennedy is gone! Let it go Jimmy, let it go. Your one term was more than enough. But thanks for asking!

    September 16, 2010 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  18. Sharon

    After admiring both President Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy, I tried to tell everyone Ted Kennedy was not a friend to the working middle class and especially women. He was a very selfish and it was all about him. The above story just proves it. All you need to do is to study what he did during his time in Congress. You would be surprise.

    September 16, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  19. tess

    this might be one of the most bitter and vindictive old men in the country today!! all you have to do is look at the pinched face of his wife and his completely fake smile and you see that there is nothing but venom in both of them! i'm from georgia and he has always been an embarassment!!! i wish he would just SHUT UP and go away.

    September 16, 2010 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  20. John

    President Carter's views accord with my own memory of these events.

    September 16, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  21. spencerblair

    Jimmy should probably stick to carpentry and sucking up to America's enemies in order to secure prisoner releases. Revisionist history just doesn't suit him.

    September 16, 2010 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  22. go drink some billy beer

    Can we put Jimmy Carter and Sarah Palin on a boat together to ride off into the sunset and disappear from the public eye? It's perfect. Two worthless "politicians."

    September 16, 2010 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  23. diridi

    it is already passed, then what is this slamming....

    September 16, 2010 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  24. Now The Truth

    Now the truth comes out about kennedy. The lion it seems had weasel ways.

    September 16, 2010 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  25. ja

    damn policticans, the same is happening to President Obama

    September 16, 2010 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
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