Democrats Study Options After Kids’ Health Veto Override Fails
The House on Thursday voted 273-156 to sustain President Bush's veto of legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program, the Wall Street Journal reports (Wall Street Journal, 10/19).
Supporters of the bill were 13 votes short of overriding the veto (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/19). The legislation would have provided an additional $35 billion in funding for the program 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 (California Healthline, 10/18).
In the vote, 229 Democrats and 44 Republicans supported the override, and two Democrats and 154 Republicans voted to sustain the veto. Six Democrats reversed their initial vote to override the veto, and one newly elected House member, Rep. Nicola Tsongas (D-Mass.), voted to override (Pear/Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 10/19). None of the Republicans targeted in an advertising campaign by legislation supporters voted to override the veto (CongressDaily, 10/18).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said work will begin immediately on a new bill. "It is our intention to put a bill on the president's desk in two weeks," Pelosi said (Yachnin, Roll Call, 10/18). However, Pelosi said she would not compromise on the number of children who would be eligible for coverage under a new SCHIP bill and "gave no indication" that she was willing to compromise on the cigarette tax increase, the Boston Globe reports (Issenberg, Boston Globe, 10/19).
Pelosi said, "There are only 10 Republican members of Congress standing in the way now of 10 million children getting health care in America. We think that's a number that is very doable." Pelosi said she is ready to begin discussions with Bush "anytime he is ready" (Wolf, USA Today, 10/19).
White House spokesperson Dana Perino said that Bush is pleased with the outcome of the override vote and would like to move forward with negotiations on the program. "As it is clear that this legislation lacks sufficient support to become law, now is the time for Congress to stop playing politics and to join the president in finding common ground," Perino said in a statement (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 10/19).
Perino on Thursday said, "If enrolling these children requires more than the 20% funding increase proposed by the president, we will work with Congress to find the money" (Kucinich et al., The Hill, 10/19).
Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto said, "This isn't the last fight we're going to have where Democrats will try to put forth legislation that is populist or will tug at the heart strings." Fratto continued, "Is it a good day? No. A good day will be the day that we pass legislation that the president can sign. But it is gratifying to know that we've got Republicans with sufficient backbone who are willing to stand tall and fight on principle in order to get the policy right" (New York Times, 10/19).
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who has been appointed by Bush as an administration negotiator for SCHIP, said that the administration "offers an open door" and that he looks forward to "helping craft legislation that we can all support" (Pugh, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/19). However, Leavitt said, "If they send the same bill down, they'll get the same result" (USA Today, 10/19).
Democrats "may not need to revise their proposal by much," considering how close Thursday's vote was, according to CQ Today (Armstrong , CQ Today, 10/18). The new version of the bill "will probably give Republicans some face-saving alternative but no substantive change," the Washington Post reports (Weisman/Lee, Washington Post, 10/19).
The "goal for Democrats -- at least for the short term -- is not to compromise on the $35 billion increase in the program or the number of children covered, but tweak the bill so that just enough politically vulnerable Republicans feel comfortable changing their votes," according to The Politico (Kady, The Politico, 10/18).
Republican Reps. Michael Castle (Del.), Charles Dent (Pa.), Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Heather Wilson (N.M.) sent a letter to Pelosi listing changes that could increase Republican support for the bill, including tightening requirements that SCHIP and Medicaid beneficiaries prove their citizenship and provisions that would phase in any changes to the program to save money (Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/19). The lawmakers also wrote that the bill should eliminate adult coverage and cap income eligibility at 300% of the federal poverty level. Wilson said, "Some relatively small changes can be made to reach a compromise" (The Hill, 10/19).
A separate group of Republicans, including Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) and Bob Corker (Tenn.), on Thursday sent a letter signed by the 18 Republicans who voted for the SCHIP bill asking House and Senate leaders to remain amenable to compromise (CongressDaily, 10/19). A third group of Republicans in a letter to Bush outlined six general principles that should be present in future SCHIP bills, "but Democrats argued that those principles, such as not covering illegal immigrants and limiting coverage to poor children, are in the current bill," according to The Hill.
In addition, a fourth group of Republicans sent a separate letter to Bush outlining suggestions for reaching a compromise, which included support for an alternative Republican SCHIP bill (The Hill, 10/19).
The Democratic strategy sets "up the possibility that Bush could veto the measure again if it were not changed significantly to meet his objections," which "could turn the effort to reauthorize" SCHIP "into a major political football," according to the Chicago Tribune (Neikirk, Chicago Tribune, 10/19). Until legislation is approved, Democrats plan to fund SCHIP at current levels through continuing resolutions, and Republicans "are bracing for several short-term extensions of the program that could require several politically volatile votes on SCHIP leading up to the 2008 elections," CongressDaily reports (CongressDaily, 10/19).
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) on Thursday after the override vote introduced legislation (S 2193) that would reauthorize the program and increase spending by $11.5 billion over five years, which could fund coverage for an additional 1.5 million lower-income children. The plan would offer tax credits to families with annual incomes between 200% and 300% of the federal poverty level. The tax credits would be worth as much as $1,400 annually per child and would allow families to purchase private coverage, according to Martinez (Matthews, Orlando Sentinel, 10/19).
Martinez said, "We are now at an impasse. It is time for us to think of solutions, not posturing, not political points to be scored, but helping the children have the insurance that they need" (Orlando Sentinel, 10/19).
Democrats "wasted no time in releasing another round of advertisements targeting vulnerable Republicans," The Politico reports.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on Thursday sent releases to 33 Republican districts criticizing the vote against the override (The Politico, 10/18).
MoveOn.org Political Action and USAction on Thursday announced that they will launch a television ad campaign against six Republicans who voted to sustain the veto. The ad campaign, which will begin next week, targets Reps. Sam Graves (Mo.), Feeney, Ric Keller (Fla.), Randy Kuhl (N.Y.), Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.) and Tim Walberg (Mich.) (CongressDaily, 10/19).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Friday continued a series of NPR reports building off the results of a new NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health poll that looks at the public's views and opinions of SCHIP and the pending legislation surrounding its reauthorization. The segment includes comments from Altman, Leavitt and Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa), Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/19). Audio of the segment is available online. Expanded NPR coverage also is available online.
C-SPAN video of a press conference on SCHIP by Pelosi and other Democratic leaders is available online.
Several other broadcast programs reported on the SCHIP vote. Summaries appear below.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment examines Pelosi's efforts on the SCHIP override attempt and other legislation. The segment includes comments from Pelosi, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) (Elliot, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/19). Audio of the segment is available online.
- CNN's "American Morning": The segment includes a discussion with Emanuel about SCHIP and other issues (Chetry, "American Morning," CNN, 10/19). Video of the segment is available online. A transcript of the segment also is available online.
- CNN's "The Situation Room": The segment includes comments from Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) (Yellin, "The Situation Room," CNN, 10/19). Video of the segment is available online. Thursday's program also included a discussion with Reps. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Putnam about next steps in the SCHIP debate (Chetry, "The Situation Room," CNN, 10/19). Video of the segment is available online. A transcript of both segments is available online.
- PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer": The segment includes comments from Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Wally Herger (R-Calif.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Gene Green (D-Texas) and Kevin Brady (R-Texas) (Holman, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 10/18). Audio of the segment is available online. Video and a transcript will be available Friday afternoon.
- KQED's "The California Report": The segment reports on Healthy Families, California's version of SCHIP. The segment includes comments from Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.); Lesley Cummings, director of Healthy Families; and a parent of children enrolled in the program (Goldberg, "The California Report," KQED, 10/18). Audio of the complete program is available online.