updated 1/27/2005 5:06:30 PM ET 2005-01-27T22:06:30

Sen. John Kerry has not gone away quietly.

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In his first major speech since conceding the presidential election, Kerry, D-Mass., took aim at President Bush’s health care proposals Thursday, saying they were irresponsible and would not meet the needs of children and low-income families who did not have health coverage.

Going head to head with Bush, who was revealing his plan for computerized medical records at about the same time, Kerry criticized the administration’s failure to negotiate drug prices or consider drug reimportation.

‘Cradle-to-grave irresponsibility’
“That’s how the president who promised to usher in a ‘responsibility era’ proposes to deal with a real health care crisis, even as he seeks to gin up a phony crisis in Social Security,” Kerry said in an address to the nonprofit consumer group Families USA. “It sounds like a cradle-to-grave irresponsibility plan to me.”

Bush also has been promoting plans for health savings accounts, which Kerry opposes.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, questioned Kerry’s commitment to health care, saying he was “long on political attacks and short on credibility.”

“Over the course of Senator Kerry’s two decades in Congress, he has introduced virtually no health care legislation,” Diaz said.

Kerry is pushing his own proposal, which would provide health care to all children through an expansion of the Medicaid program. The federal government would absorb states’ costs for children at or below poverty level, to encourage states to expand coverage to children in families that make less than about $47,000. It would cover children up to the age of 21.

Kerry plan fulfills campaign pledge
The plan, Kerry said, fulfills one of his campaign commitments because “it’s a promise we not only can afford to keep, but one we cannot afford to break.”

While it is a legislative long shot in the Republican-controlled Senate, which is struggling with a budget deficit, Kerry is vowing to push for hearings in the Finance Committee and force debate by trying to attach his proposal to any bill he can.

The speech is the latest in a series of moves Kerry has made against the White House. Last week, Kerry issued a public call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s ouster, and he was one of two senators on the Foreign Relations Committee to vote against the nomination of Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state.

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