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. Karen Baker

    Pretty easy to criticize someone who is not around to defend or explain their action!

    September 16, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  2. Citizen

    The health care martyr, slammed on that same issue. Ironic?

    September 16, 2010 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  3. falcon

    just another thing Ted Kennedy killed

    September 16, 2010 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  4. duryea

    Sure, make the comment now that Kennedy is dead and cannot address Carter. Shame on you!!!

    September 16, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  5. Jonny-Boy

    Real class act there Carter. Kick a dead man who can't respond to your attacks. Glad you were one and done.

    September 16, 2010 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. CATom

    Don't worry Jimmy you are still the 2nd worst president ever right behind obama.

    September 16, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  7. Kathy B from Michigan

    I really think Jimmy is losing it.

    September 16, 2010 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  8. margo

    Isn't that what is going on now, spite and revenge at the cost of the citizens of this country. Too much ego up on the hill.

    September 16, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  9. Bob the Observer

    Poor Jimmy. The whole world was against him.

    I'm not a Kennedy fan, but I would take him over Carter any day. At least he meant what he said, and said what he meant.

    Jimmy Carter would say he hated Peruvians if he thought it would get him a vote or two.

    He is easily the worst president we ever had.

    September 16, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  10. Charles W. Skinner

    And once again, we see that Democrat party members are only interested in helping "the little people" when it helps them politically to do so. At other times, they tell "the working man" to take a hike because they don't care if he starves unless there is a camera there to show the Democrat giving a hand-out.

    September 16, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. shooter

    How very interesting. I wonder how the Dems will spin this...

    September 16, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. IB

    People who oppose Health Care Reform, have not been affected by the cost of not having decent medical insurance.

    We lost our thirty year old daughter, our only child, in May of 2010. She had never been sick, She was a college graduate, with a job that suppplied lousy insurance coverage, that most doctors and hospitals would not accept. When she develop a minor UTI infection, we ended up taking her to the ER for treatment. She received Cippro. Could not receive after care at the same hospital clinic, lousy insurance. Ten days later she was back in the ER room. Five days later she was dead.

    We demanded an autopsy. The report sent total over 600 pages.

    If Health REform was available, our daughter might have survived the lousy medical care she received. We attempted to buy additional Health Care from the major insurance covers and was denied. Her weight may her uninsurable.

    Those of you, Americans and politicians who care more about their high paying jobs than the qualty of life for Americans'scitizens. Tomorrow, your life could change.

    Life as it is, is not guranteed tomorrow. I hope you and your love ones never require basic services that improves the life of everyday, American citizens, that our money continuous to provide you with quality health care, that your life don't become the nightmare that ours has become.

    You were not elected to protect your salary, but to earn it. You were not elected to protect the rich at the expense of Americans that pay your salary. I am making an assumption that your salary is not padded by Wall Street.

    Shame on all of you!

    September 16, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Dexter

    Carter – picking on the Kennedy's post mortem. What exactly did Jimmy do again? Nucleur, etc.

    September 16, 2010 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  14. Christopher E. Burcham

    How typically classless of Carter to blame a now-dead senator (unable to defend himself) for one of his myriad failures of more than 30 years ago. Carter is a bitter old man who has never recovered from his rejection at the polls, in part perhaps because he has never forgiven any of those whom he perceives as having contributed to his defeat. The painful truth is that his "involuntary retirement," as he likes to call it, was nothing other than the American people's repudiation of his failed presidency.

    September 16, 2010 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  15. Devon

    Further confirmation that the late St. Ted was ego-driven scum.

    Of course, Carter no doubt thinks that TK's 1965 Immigration Act, which opened U.S. borders to the overflow of the sewers of the Third World, was just peachy.

    September 16, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  16. Adam

    Worst president ever just won't go away!

    September 16, 2010 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  17. JCJ

    Too soon JC?...too soon?

    September 16, 2010 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. tonyS

    Gee, what a surprise. A politician working for himself, rather then us.

    September 16, 2010 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. GOP Scorched Earth Politics

    Yes but even Nixon wanted to propose Healthcare but that too got messed-up because the parties could not compromise. So you can't just point the finger at a dead man Jimmy.

    September 16, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  20. Todd

    Kind of easy to throw stones when your opponent can't respond ain't it Jimmy?

    September 16, 2010 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  21. deli

    K.former president carter let me ask u why didn`t u ask him or tell him this so call blaming ted before he got sick or died. i dont believe the word u said just because u brought the american prisoners home from korea that doesn`t mean o ur being honest and u know what truth will always comes out and it will hunt u. so be careful what u say.

    September 16, 2010 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  22. Lidija

    "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."

    Wait a minute – you're saying the legislation passed in March consists of "smaller changes over time" to the health care system simply because it doesn't include a public option. Those are some expensive smaller changes, Jeff.

    September 16, 2010 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. Bull

    Why on earth is anybody interested in anything Carter has to say.He is the worst president we have ever had.The second worst is in office now.

    September 16, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. Aukala

    Ted Kennedy was an alcoholic, loud mouthed adulterer. He could block anything he chose to block, he was King of the senate and the rest of the Dems hung on his every word and followed his every command. Now they're hoping they have another messiah to lead them.

    September 16, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  25. Ramon F. Herrera

    Carter's support of the 2004 referendum, which was a total fraud is the reason Hugo Chavez is still around.

    September 16, 2010 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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