Democrats, Republicans Spar Over Kids’ Health Legislation
Republicans who voted for the State Children's Health Insurance Program expansion legislation say a compromise is possible that would attract more GOP support for the measure, but Democrats say they are "in no mood to negotiate, either with President Bush ... or their Republican colleagues," CQ Today reports (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/10).
Legislation vetoed by Bush last week would have provided an additional $35 billion in funding over the next five years and increased total SCHIP spending 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, 10/10).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said last week he spoke with HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt and told him that Democrats would not compromise because they "want to prevail." Baucus added, "We're bound and determined to get a very significant children's health insurance program that includes overriding the president's veto" (AP/Billings Gazette, 10/10).
Republicans say that if Democrats would make "relatively minor" revisions to the bill, they could garner the approximately 15 votes necessary to override Bush's veto, CQ Today reports. The changes might include tightening language regarding coverage of adults and undocumented immigrants, or inserting language into the bill that would explicitly cap eligibility (CQ Today, 10/10).
Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said that both Republicans and Democrats deserve blame for Congress' inability to pass SCHIP legislation. He said, "The inaction of Congress is really frustrating," adding, "We've been working around the edges on the issues of health care. It's a problem that must be addressed head on and can't be tinkered around the edges" (Man, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/11).
Americans United for Change on Wednesday and Thursday began to air television advertisements urging Republicans to switch their votes on SCHIP to override Bush's veto, CongressDaily reports.
The ads target Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and Ric Keller (R-Fla.) and urge them to "think again" about their vote against the SCHIP bill. Americans United expects to spend $1.25 million to $1.5 million on the ad campaign, which will last until that override vote. The ads are part of a larger campaign targeting at least 21 Republicans who voted against the bill (CongressDaily, 10/10).