(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.