Democratic Lawmakers Refuse To Negotiate on Kids’ Health
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday said congressional Democratic leaders will not compromise with President Bush on the State Children's Health Insurance Program, after Bush on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded the program, the AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. Democratic leaders said that no matter the outcome of the override vote, they would not negotiate further (Babington, AP/St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/4).
The House on Wednesday won a procedural vote that allowed them to postpone until Oct. 18 a vote to override a veto of compromise SCHIP legislation. The compromise bill 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 (California Healthline, 10/4).
Reid said, "We're not going to compromise." He added that Bush's comment on Wednesday that he might be willing to add a "little more money" to the program is "an insult." According to Reid, the House in approving the compromise bill "basically took [the Senate's] position with very few changes. You cannot wring another ounce of compromise out of it" (Pierce, Roll Call, 10/4). Reid and other Democrats on Thursday at a press event used piles of fake money as they criticized Bush "for losing $9 billion of taxpayer funds in one year in Iraq and vetoing $7 billion a year for children's health care," the Washington Times reports (Miller, Washington Times, 10/5).
Efforts to win Republican support in order to override Bush's veto "might involve a new bill that costs less than the $35 billion" compromise bill, according to CongressDaily. The changes likely would involve the overall cost of the bill and income eligibility levels. However, changes likely would occur only after a failed override vote, CongressDaily reports.
Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) said, "The changes necessary to get more Republicans on the margins are actually fairly modest." House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Republicans realize the need to be flexible on funding amounts. "Five billion is not enough," Blunt said, referring to Bush's SCHIP proposal that would have funded the program at $5 billion over five years. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that Democrats have "compromised all we could compromise" but noted that she always is willing to talk (Johnson/Bourge, CongressDaily, 10/5).
Four Republican presidential candidates -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.) -- said they support Bush's SCHIP veto, "once again testing the political risk of appearing in lock step with a president who has low approval ratings and some critics of the veto within their party," the New York Times reports.
By supporting the veto, the candidates "are mindful of the concern of fiscal conservatives that expanding the program could result in huge future costs," and, in discussing the veto, "have focused largely on what they see as drawbacks in" SCHIP, "rather than trying to rally behind President Bush or criticize the supporters of the bill," according to the Times.
McCain on Thursday in South Carolina said, "I certainly would favor an increase" in SCHIP, "but I think that a $35 billion increase which is funded by a bogus proposal which is a, quote, one dollar increase tax on cigarettes and somewhere around 2012 it basically disappears is not an unfunded liability I think we ought to lay on the next generation."
Giuliani on Thursday said, "Half to two-thirds of the children that they're going to take care of already have private insurance," adding, "They're going to move them to the government. It is not just a beginning, it's a big step in the direction of government-controlled medicine" (Healy, New York Times, 10/5).
In related news, Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) on Thursday called for Congress to override Bush's veto, the Virginian-Pilot reports (Simpson/Fiske, Virginian-Pilot, 10/5). Kaine's comments "were part of a coordinated effort by Democrats nationwide to step up pressure on Republicans in Congress to override Bush's veto," according to the Washington Post (Craig, Washington Post, 10/5). According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, SCHIP "is the latest national issue to be injected into statehouse contests that traditionally hinge on local concerns." Kaine on Thursday said that SCHIP "points out some things about priorities, and voters ought to take that into account" in local elections (Schapiro, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 10/5).
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) on Thursday announced that New York has joined Illinois, Maryland and Washington state in a lawsuit against HHS to challenge new rules announced by the Bush administration that are designed to limit SCHIP enrollment, the AP/Albany Times-Union reports.
Arizona, California, Connecticut, New Hampshire and New Mexico have filed amicus briefs in support of the suit (AP/Albany Times-Union, 10/5). Under the rules, announced in August, states must demonstrate that they have enrolled at least 95% of children in the state in families with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level who are eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP before expanding eligibility to children in families with incomes greater than 250% of the poverty level.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that the rules overstep the federal government's authority to set income limits for SCHIP beneficiaries. New Jersey earlier this week filed a separate lawsuit against the federal government, alleging that the Bush administration is trying to impose "mandatory, rigid and illegal" income limits on SCHIP beneficiaries by imposing "arbitrary and capricious" new rules on the program, according to the suit (California Healthline, 10/2).
Spitzer said, "It is a tragic day when we have to sue our own president for denying health care coverage to children who cannot afford it" (Osburn, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 10/5).
House Democrats and Republicans on Thursday "launched a war of words" over pay/go rules that apply to new entitlement or tax legislation, CongressDaily reports.
House Budget Committee Chair John Spratt (D-S.C.) released a report that found of about 360 House bills passed this year -- including 30 with spending or revenue impacts of $1 million or more -- all have complied with pay/go rules. Pelosi said that 80% of the offsets have come from reducing spending rather than raising taxes. Republicans said that Democrats' pay/go rule is "riddled with gimmicks," according to CongressDaily.
Budget Committee ranking member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said that most of the major initiatives that Democrats have pushed through, including SCHIP, have been paid for with "gimmicks, fees or tax increases." Ryan said that when Republicans were in charge, they also used gimmicks to hide the true cost of a bill but added, "It's not enough to say Republicans broke the rules, so it's OK if we do it. We can't accept that any more." In addition, Ryan said that pay/go rules are an excuse to raise taxes, such as the cigarette tax present in the SCHIP bill (Cohn, CongressDaily, 10/5). The pay/go report is available online (.pdf).
Four broadcast programs reported or are scheduled to report on SCHIP. Summaries appear below.
- ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos": The program on Sunday is scheduled to include a discussion with HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine (D) about SCHIP ("This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Web site, 10/5). Additional details about the segment are available online.
- C-SPAN's "Washington Journal": The segment includes a discussion with Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) about Bush's veto and the pending override vote. Thursday's program also included a discussion with Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) about the veto and override vote ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 10/4). Video of the discussion with Pallone is available online. Video of the discussion with Putnam also is available online.
- NPR's "The Bryant Park Project": The segment included a discussion with NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner about SCHIP (Stewart, "The Bryant Park Project," NPR, 10/4). Audio of the segment is available online.
- PBS' "Washington Week": The program on Friday is scheduled to include a discussion with Associated Press congressional correspondent Charles Babington on Republicans' position on SCHIP ("Washington Week" Web site, 10/5). Additional details about the segment are available online. A broadcast schedule also is available online. Video of the segment will be available online Friday after the broadcast; a transcript will be available online Monday afternoon.