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Book: Hillary Clinton pushed for PPACA effort

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(Bloomberg) — Hillary Clinton, once President Barack Obama’s political foe, emerged as his top ally on what would become his signature policy achievement: revamping the U.S. health-care system.

In 2009, she quietly helped administration officials and Democratic lawmakers overcome their concerns about attacks by members of the Tea Party movement, according to the book “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton.” (Crown, 440 pages, $26.)

Jonathan Allen, a Bloomberg News reporter, and Amie Parnes, a reporter at The Hill, wrote the book.

Allen and Parnes tell a story about Clinton sitting to the right of Obama at a Sept. 10, 2009, cabinet meeting.

Clinton listened with alarm as other secretaries asked whether passing the legislation that became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was worth sacrificing much of the rest of the president’s agenda, Allen and Parnes write.

“This is the time to do it,” Clinton told the others, Allen and Parnes write. “We’re all in it. Everyone in this room knows how important this is.”

Clinton lost her own fight to change the U.S. health insurance system in 1994, during President Bill Clinton’s first term.

“I thought, ‘Look, the president had more support in Congress than my husband did back in ’93, ’94, so he could put together a majority,’” Clinton says in the book. “If the Republicans stonewalled, which they were beginning to show they would, despite his best efforts, he could still put a package on the floor and get it passed in both houses, which doesn’t come along every first term of a president.”

Obama signed the bill that became PPACA into law March 23, 2010.

Democrats are still experiencing repercussions; anger about the law contributed to their loss of control over the House of Representatives in 2010 and has returned as a dominant theme in this year’s congressional races. Republicans are positioned to retain the House and need a net of six seats to take the Senate.

The book also traces Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s path through Obama’s administration. In a twist, the former Citigroup Inc. executive began in the State Department in 2009 after Obama’s then-chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, objected to installing him at the Treasury Department.

Emanuel was “worried that it wouldn’t look good to put a Citigroup executive in that job in the midst of a Wall Street bailout,” the book says.

Clinton came to regard Lew as her “secret weapon,” the book says, detailing how he was able to fight off a late 2009 budget plan that called for a minor cut in State Department funding when she wanted a double-digit increase. After Lew’s intervention, the White House budget request for State and aid programs represented a 10.6 percent increase over the previous year, to $56.6 billion, the book says.

In Clinton’s own recitation of her political life, she insists that she has been drafted for her offices, including the 2000 New York Senate race she won as she was preparing to leave the White House. “I never thought I’d run for office, and then circumstances kind of conspired to suck me into the Senate race in New York,” she says in the book.

Describing her future plans, she says: “I never know what’s going to happen next.”

–Editors: Don Frederick, Michael Shepard

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