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Hillary Clinton To Oversee Drafting of Health-Care Proposal

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WASHINGTON--President Clinton last week announced that his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, would oversee drafting of a proposal to overhaul the nation's health-care system.

In doing so, the President cast Mrs. Clinton in a role reflective of her work on education reform in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley continued to organize his own team and named civil servants to fill top Education Department posts temporarily.

Department employees also have been told that Billy Webster, a South Carolina businessman, will serve as the Secretary's chief of staff.

Mr. Webster, like Mr. Riley, hails from Greenville, S.C. He owned a chain of fast-food restaurants until last year, and once served as the chairman of the Greenville County Democratic Party.

Mr. Webster is also a member of President Clinton's circle of friends, serving as South Carolina treasurer for the Clinton campaign, according to Pat Taschal, the current Greenville Democratic chairman.

Mr. Webster moved to Washington last year to accept a White House fellowship at the Agency for International Development. He then worked with Mr. Riley on the Clinton transition team.

Mr. Riley's plans for another longtime associate from South Carolina remained unclear last week. Terry Peterson, who was Mr. Riley's education aide during his tenure as South Carolina Governor, has been seen at the Education Department, and has told associates he would be joining the Clinton Administration.

Madeleine M. Kunin, the former Vermont Governor picked by Mr. Clinton to be the deputy secretary, has also begun work at the department. A spokesman for the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee said the panel would probably not hold a hearing on her nomination, but would vote on it at its next, as yet unscheduled, markup.

School-Reform Role Cited

Observers in the education community had already been speculating about Mrs. Clinton's possible policy role, noting that she was a central figure in the education-reform debate in Arkansas and has been involved in the national reform movement.

In announcing her assignment, Mr. Clinton said he wanted her to head his health-care panel because "she's better at organizing and leading people from a complex beginning to a certain end than anybody I've ever worked with in my life.''

The President specifically referred to his wife's previous work on education reform. Much as he did last week, he asked Mrs. Clinton in 1983 to study a controversial issue and try to forge a consensus on a reform package that could be sold to lawmakers and the public.

The result then was a package of education reforms that increased school standards, boosted state spending with a tax increase, and imposed a controversial teacher-competency test.

Mrs. Clinton's current assignment is to draft a plan that can provide universal health insurance while also reducing rising costs.

She will lead a health-care team that includes Carol Rasco and Ira Magaziner, both top White House domestic-policy advisers; Judith Feder, who led the health-care transition team; Leon E. Panetta, the director of the Office of Management and Budget; Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, a longtime friend of Mrs. Clinton's; and the secretaries of Treasury, Commerce, Defense, and Veterans Affairs.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the President would name a similar committee to draft a plan for welfare reform.

Temporary Officials Named

The temporary Education Department officials named last week are:

  • Mary Jean LeTendre, the director of compensatory-education programs, to head the office of elementary and secondary education;
  • William Smith, the deputy commissioner of rehabilitative services, to head the office of special education and rehabilitative services;
  • Emerson J. Elliott, the commissioner of education statistics, to head the office of educational research and improvement;
  • Alan Ginsburg, the director of the planning and evaluation service, to head the office of policy and planning;
  • Ricky Takai, the director of special populations for the planning and evaluation service, to head the office of vocational and adult education;
  • Maureen A. McLaughlin, the postsecondary director for the planning and evaluation service, to head the office of postsecondary education;
  • Jeanette J. Lim, the director of policy development, to head the office for civil rights;
  • Deputy General Counsel Steven Y. Winnick as acting general counsel;
  • Sally H. Christensen, the director of the budget service, to head the office of management and budget;
  • Rene Gonzalez, a senior analyst, to head the office of bilingual education and minority-languages affairs; and
  • Veronica D. Trietsch, the director of personnel management, to head the office of human-resources administration.

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