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. bob

    Kennedy was always an idiot. He was a rapist murderer also. He is also responsible for all the illegals in this country, along with that sack of sh*t hillbilly carter. Kennedy should be dug up and have his bones peed on and Carter should be burned at the stake.

    September 16, 2010 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  2. Roberta Lewis

    I agree with this analysis by Jimmy Carter. It's probably one of the few things he has said that I agree with.
    Actually this reinforces an opinion held by the voters today that entrenched politicians just look out for themselves. I have come to that conclusion and as a life long democrat I have changed my party affiliation to UNAFFILIATED.

    September 16, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. Doug

    Why am I not surprised.. This guy was a monster.. His car accident that killed that girl ( Mary jo Kopeckne ) should have disqualified him from any public office. I'm not surprised he would block anything that did not make him the star.. What a prick !

    September 16, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  4. steve

    Kennedy killed that health bill, and a call girl or two, also.

    September 16, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  5. mark

    Damn, Carter sounds like a whining Republican. Don't be surprised if he becomes one.

    September 16, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  6. Jane

    Tired old man looking for a bone. Carter=worst president ever...could be surpassed by Obama.

    September 16, 2010 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  7. geronimo

    Waaa!!! Waaa!! Healthcare should be my legacy. I fill you all in on what really happened to my presidency (now that Ted can's defend himself)!

    September 16, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  8. blue

    President Carter, you a fine man and gentleman. You knew what you were doing in making policies for our country. But Kennedy's ambition was too great for him to help you. He wanted your job.

    September 16, 2010 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  9. Ned

    I love ya Jimmy, and I'm sure it's true, and I don't blame you for being bitter. But too soon Jimmy. Too soon.

    September 16, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  10. Nick

    At least compromising your morals in the name of "good politics" at the expense of the American public is not a new trend. I'm sure all the people who went without healthcare over the last 40 years are very happy for Kennedy & Carter's little political spat.

    September 16, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  11. JR

    Damn, is there any ex-president that Carter does NOT have a grudge against?

    September 16, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  12. rj

    idiots. all of them.

    September 16, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. If you want something ruined let a democratic community organizer run it

    My baloney has a first name its J-I-M-M-Y

    My baloney has a second name its C-A-R-T-E-R

    Oh I loved to hate him every day....

    If you ask me why I'll say,

    Cause Jimmy Carter had a way of screwing up the USA.

    September 16, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. johnny orlando

    Well at least it finally got passed. It will cost Obama dearly, but at least he got it done

    September 16, 2010 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. Conflicted

    Oh no, Carter bashes Kennedy. Who are conservatives going to bash in this case? I think there heads might explode trying to figure out this paradox.

    September 16, 2010 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
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