[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JIM LEHRER: Now, that just- finished week that was in the Congress of the United States. With the August recess looming, there was action on everything from energy and Mexican trucks to a squelched Presidential nomination and the Patients’ Bill of Rights. Kwame Holman takes us back, first to last night.
SPOKESMAN: (Gavel bangs) The yeas are 218; the nays are 213. The amendment is agreed to. (Cheers and applause )
KWAME HOLMAN: Illinois’ Ray Lahood didn’t reveal even a hint of a smile last night when he announced the crucial vote on patients’ bill of rights legislation. Most of his fellow House Republicans, however, cheered wildly and chanted “Norwood,” for Charlie Norwood. It was Norwood, the retired dentist from Georgia, who the day before, single-handedly brokered a deal with President Bush. It moved Norwood’s bill toward the President’s desire to hold down the number of patient lawsuits and limit the amount of damages such suits could bring.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Get to work up there on the Hill, Charlie. Thank you very much.
KWAME HOLMAN: And as house members cast their votes last night, it became clear Norwood’s freelance work also had secured the support of most Republicans. North Carolina’s Richard Burr:
REP. RICHARD BURR: There is one member who has had his eye on the American people for years on this issue. His name is Dr. Charlie Norwood.
KWAME HOLMAN: Kentucky Republican Dr. Ernie Fletcher:
REP. ERNIE FLETCHER: It is surprising the respect that Dr. Norwood, has across this nation. According to the majority leader in the Senate, he is the most respected voice on patient protection across this nation.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Norwood’s tactics cost him the votes of previously supportive Democrats. Wisconsin’s Jerry Kleczka came to the floor to mock Republicans’ newfound praise for Norwood.
REP. JERRY KLECKZA: It is amazing to sit here and listen to the debate, how a person can go in less than 24 hours from an SOB to a PAL, and there is such glowing praise for one of the members of this body. Wow, where was that praise last year?
KWAME HOLMAN: California’s Anna Eshoo expressed the sense of betrayal felt by many Democrats.
REP. ANNA ESHOO: Last night something happened. Dr. Norwood, a dentist, brokered something with the White House, and we’re being asked to trust.
KWAME HOLMAN: Eshoo’s comments were too personal for Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas to ignore.
REP. BILL THOMAS: In listening to the way in which Charlie Norwood has been described, a member got up recently and said he is a dentist. Now, I do not think that was quite said in a way that would indicate that he has some knowledge in terms of the medical profession or that based upon his experience in dealing with HMO’s he wanted to make a change. I think it was done deliberately. I think it was done on purpose.
KWAME HOLMAN: But it was Greg Ganske who might have had reason to feel most betrayed, the Iowa Republican had worked closely with Charlie Norwood to write a Patients’ Bill of Rights until Norwood, on his own, struck the deal with the President. Yesterday, however, Ganske said it had been a privilege to work with Norwood.
REP. GREG GANKSE: He has been a stalwart in fighting for patient protections, even if I have had to take a little Maalox over the last few days.
KWAME HOLMAN: Just before last night’s vote, Norwood returned the compliment.
REP. CHARLIE NORWOOD: Well, I know you’re trying to do the right things for your patients, and God knows there is nobody no more persistent and tough and stubborn and willing to fight and stand up. And Greg, I’ve admired you so because you’ve taken some tough hits. And I know, the people of Iowa need to be grateful to have you as their representative in Congress.
KWAME HOLMAN: The outcome of last night’s vote remained in doubt even after time expired. It wasn’t until the last dozen or so members weighed in that Norwood realized his victory. And moments after the vote was announced, Charlie Norwood walked off the House floor, looking like the quarterback who had led his team down the field for the winning touchdown. President Bush was feeling victorious, as well, when he appeared in the Rose Garden this afternoon with members of his cabinet.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: On this path, we’re headed for a year of strong, meaningful legislative achievements. And I want to express my thanks for every legislator who made tough decisions, every legislator who chose long-term progress over short-term political gain.
KWAME HOLMAN: For President Bush, last night’s vote on the Patients’ Bill of Rights was only one of several victories that newspaper headlines trumpeted this week. On Wednesday, the House backed the President’s energy plan, including his call to allow oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. On Tuesday, House Republicans pushed through their ban on human cloning, a ban extending to the development of embryos for stem cell research. The Democratic-controlled Senate also cooperated with the President this week. Within a span of four days, it considered, debated, and unanimously approved Robert Mueller’s nomination as the new FBI Director. But the Senate also rejected Mary Sheila Gall, the President’s choice to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And the President’s plan to lift border crossing restrictions on Mexican trucks ran head on into Senate Democrats’ demands for tighter safety rules. Still, questions yesterday to Majority Leader Tom Daschle centered on what had the appearance of a very good week for President Bush.
REPORTER: Do you feel like Democrats are put at any kind of political disadvantage, because it looks like, you know, that Bush is back in the driver’s seat?
SEN. TOM DASCHLE: Not at all. You know, I think that we’ve got to move these bills forward. There will be ups and downs, there will be highs and lows and wins and losses, but at the end of the day, I hope that we can produce legislation the American people feel good about. There are many times when Democrats have felt very good about the progress we’ve made on bills as well, and there will be many more of those, I expect. But we’ll take them as they come. I think the most important thing is that we’ve got to find a way to seek common ground to get as much done as possible, Republicans and Democrats. We’ll let the people decide who the real victors are.
REPORTER: Mr. President, I hope the presiding officer has a productive and uneventful break and returns with his usual vim and vigor.
KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon with Robert Byrd presiding over the Senate, legislative action in the Capitol came to a close.
SEN. ROBERT BYRD: The Senate stands in adjournment under the provisions of S208 until 10 o’clock AM on September 4th, in this year of our Lord, 2001.
KWAME HOLMAN: Members of both Houses went their separate ways knowing despite this week’s flurry of activity, final decisions on patients’ rights and other major legislation await them when they return after Labor Day.