Bush Calls for Compromise on Kids’ Health, Defends Veto
President Bush on Saturday in his weekly radio address indicated that he is willing to increase funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program above his proposed level of $5 billion, the Los Angeles Times reports (Pasternak, Los Angeles Times, 10/7).
The comments were Bush's "first public gesture of a possible compromise with the Democrat-controlled Congress on how much to expand" SCHIP, according to the Washington Times (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/7).
Compromise legislation vetoed by Bush on Wednesday would have provided an additional $35 billion in funding over the next five years and increased total spending on the program to $60 billion. The additional funding would have been paid for by a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the tobacco tax. An override vote in the House is scheduled for Oct. 18 (California Healthline, 10/5).
Bush in his weekly radio address said, "If putting poor children first takes a little more than the 20% increase I have proposed in my budget for SCHIP, I am willing to work with leaders in Congress to find the additional money" (Soraghan, The Hill, 10/6). However, he offered no specifics on how much of an increase he is willing to consider.
Bush criticized the compromise bill as "deeply flawed," adding that the proposal is "an incremental step toward [Democrats'] goal of government-run health care for every American," which is "the wrong direction for our country." Bush also said six states estimate that this fiscal year they will spend more on adults covered under SCHIP than children, and he urged Democrats and Republicans to come together to craft a bill "that moves adults off this children's program" (Los Angeles Times, 10/7).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in the Democrats' weekly radio address responded, "The truth is, America's largest private insurance lobbying group supports this bill -- as do America's doctors, nurses, children's advocates and, most importantly, 72% of Americans" (Freking, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/7).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt on Sunday echoed Bush's calls for compromise, the Washington Times reports.
"If it takes more money, we'll put it up," Leavitt said on ABC's "This Week." Like Bush, Leavitt declined to discuss specific funding levels (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/8).
Leavitt said SCHIP could be at risk if Democrats are unable to control spending. In addition, he said Democrats would experience negative political consequences -- and the Republican administration would not -- if the program cannot be reauthorized because of a stalemate.
Leavitt said, "We're prepared to have negotiations at any time the Democrats want to," adding, "Unfortunately, they put it off for two weeks so they can play politics with children's health care" (Yen, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/8). Video of an appearance by Leavitt and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" is available online (Stephanopoulos, "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," ABC, 10/7).
A group of Republican senators who last week introduced an alternative SCHIP bill is promoting that bill as an option if the House is unable to override a veto, CQ Today reports. The bill -- introduced by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Whip Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and 17 other Republicans -- would expand SCHIP by $14 billion over five years for a total of $39 billion. The bill would restrict coverage to individuals younger than age 19 in low-income families.
However, Republicans who support the compromise bill "seem unlikely to flock to the GOP alternative," according to CQ Today (Armstrong, CQ Today, 10/5).
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said, "Because the president and Republican leaders are not pushing a positive health care agenda, a lot of people are not comfortable opposing anything that has children in it," adding that the "lack of a forceful positive agenda from the president and leaders in Congress has sort of split our caucus" (Stanton, Roll Call, 10/9).
Meanwhile, Bush's veto of the SCHIP legislation and veto threats against 11 of the 12 appropriations bills "have failed to energize the conservative base this year," as "[p]otential political momentum has been slowed by the Republican Party's own fiscal recklessness in the past," the Washington Times reports.
However, according to a Senate Republican aide, "Democrats recognize that Republicans can reclaim the fiscal discipline mantle by upholding presidential vetoes on spending bills." The aide added, "So, the cynical speculation is that they will not conference bills, continue to delay and ultimately offer up an omnibus that will be much more difficult to veto" (Ward, Washington Times, 10/9).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on "Fox News Sunday" said that Democrats need about 14 additional Republican votes to override Bush's SCHIP veto, Bloomberg/Denver Post reports. Pelosi said that the next 10 to 14 days will be spent pressuring Republicans to vote to override the veto, although Pelosi declined to give the odds of a successful override. Pelosi said, "The best thing that could happen for our country, for our children, for the president of the U.S., is that we override this veto" (Larkin, Bloomberg/Denver Post, 10/8).
Senate Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Friday called on the public to pressure Republican lawmakers to override Bush's veto. Durbin said that Democrats "are begging the congressmen to reconsider" their vote against the bill (Jadhav, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 10/6).
In related news, several advocacy groups and labor unions on Monday launched a $1 million advertising campaign targeting lawmakers who voted against the SCHIP bill, the New York Times reports (Hulse, New York Times, 10/8). The campaign will use television and radio ads in 17 congressional districts held by Republicans (Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/5).
MoveOn.org, Americans United for Change and labor unions announced the ads, which officials said would impact more than 30 Republicans (Hay Brown, Baltimore Sun, 10/6).
AFL-CIO, True Majority and USAction also will launch a "ground campaign" that will include one million phone calls from union members to 43 House members in 24 states asking them to override the veto (CongressDaily, 10/5).
One ad from Americans United claims that Bush has the wrong priorities because he "and his backers would rather send half a trillion to Iraq than spend a fraction of that here to keep our kids healthy" (Freking, AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/6).
Alan Charney, program director of USAction, said, "We're going to create such a firestorm of passion and anger that these Republicans will have no choice but to switch" (Clark, Miami Herald, 10/6).
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is targeting Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.), Randy Kuhl (R-N.Y.), Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).
The Service Employees International Union in television ads is targeting Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.), Thelma Drake (R-Va.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Robin Hayes (R-N.C.), Tim Johnson (R-Ill.), Kuhl and Reynolds. SEIU in radio ads is targeting Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) (CongressDaily, 10/5).
The New York Times on Saturday examined how the debate over SCHIP "offers a cautionary lesson to Democrats running for president" because it "shows how hard it will be to persuade many Republicans to sign on to their vision of universal coverage." According to the New York Times, "Many of the questions that provoked fierce argument in the battle over the child health bill" -- such as whether the government should subsidize coverage for middle-income people, the extent to which government should be involved, who would pay for coverage and how much the government should contribute -- "would be even more divisive in a debate over universal coverage."
In addition, the debate over SCHIP "prefigures a battle over health policy that is likely to run through the presidential campaign and occupy center stage in Congress in 2009, regardless of who wins the election," the New York Times reports. Defining the role of the government in health care will be "perhaps the biggest domestic policy challenge facing the next president," with Democrats supporting a larger role for the government and Republicans criticizing an expansion in the role of the government, according to the Times (Pear, New York Times, 10/6).
Several broadcast programs recently reported on issues related to SCHIP. Summaries appear below.
- CBS' "Face the Nation": The segment includes a discussion with Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) about the SCHIP bill (Schieffer, "Face the Nation," CBS, 10/7). Video of the segment is available online. Expanded CBS News coverage is available online.
- CNN's "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta": The segment includes comments from Bush and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) (Henry, "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta," CNN, 10/6). A transcript of the complete program is available online.
- CNN's "The Situation Room": The segment includes comments from Pelosi, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Leavitt (Bash, "The Situation Room," CNN, 10/8). Video of the segment is available online. A transcript of the segment also is available online.
- Fox News' "Fox News Sunday": The segment includes a discussion with Pelosi about SCHIP and other issues (Wallace, "Fox News Sunday," Fox News, 10/7). Video of the segment is available online. A transcript of the segment also is available online.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.); Alan Charney, program director for USAction; Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas); and David Rohde, a professor of political science at Duke University (Rovner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/5) Audio of the segment is available online. The program on Friday also included a discussion with White House counselor Ed Gillespie about SCHIP and other issues (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/5). Audio of the segment is available online. Sunday's program included a discussion with Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) about the SCHIP bill (Seabrook, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/7). Audio of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio); Dick Manuki, a coordinator for MoveOn.org in Ohio; Gene Beaupre, a political scientist at Xavier University; and Blunt (Elliot, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/8). Audio of the segment is available online. The program on Monday also included a discussion with NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts about the Democrats' strategy (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/8). Audio of the segment is available online.