House Appears Unlikely To Override Bush’s Veto of Kids’ Health Bill
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday asked Republicans to vote to override President Bush's veto of the State Children's Health Insurance Program legislation, adding that her goal in the several hours before the vote is to "dispel myths and misconceptions" about the bill, The Hill reports. "We're still in the fight," Pelosi said (Kaplan, The Hill, 10/17).
Bush earlier this month vetoed legislation that 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. An override vote in the House is scheduled for Thursday (California Healthline, 10/17).
At least five of the eight House Democrats who initially voted against the bill said they will vote to override the veto, including Reps. Kathy Castor (Fla.), Dan Boren (Okla.), Baron Hill (Ind.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Bob Etheridge (N.C.), according to McClatchy Newspapers. Reps. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) and Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) said they will not change their vote (Abdullah, McClatchy Newspapers, 10/17). In addition, two other Democrats who were absent or voted present will vote to override the veto (AP/Baltimore Sun, 10/18). The House needs 12 to 15 more votes to override the veto (Panaritis, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/18).
No Republican who voted against the bill "has publicly acknowledged a change in position," although Republicans "who have decided to change their vote might have decided not to announce it ahead of time to avoid angering party leaders," according to CQ Today. However, it is "not yet clear how Democrats will proceed after the expected failure of an override," CQ Today reports. (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/17).
Bush on Wednesday said that he will use his veto of the SCHIP bill to weigh in on the future of the program and has assigned HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, National Economic Council Director Al Hubbard and White House Budget Director Jim Nussle to negotiate with Congress, the AP/San Francisco Chronicle reports (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/18).
Bush said he is "confident we can work out our differences" to reach a "common ground" on SCHIP. Neither Bush "nor his three emissaries offered any changes to the administration's standing position that eligibility" for SCHIP must not be increased, but instead "reiterated that the president is willing to add more money to help those who are eligible for the program but" not enrolled, according to CongressDaily (Koffler, CongressDaily, 10/17).
However, what "seems unclear" in Bush's strategy "is whether Bush wants compromise or confrontation," the Washington Post reports. While aides "have talked enthusiastically about vetoing spending bills to re-establish his credentials as a fiscal conservative," some senior Senate Republicans "have complained that the White House showed no genuine interest in finding accord on the children's health care bill that he vetoed," according to the Post (Baker, Washington Post, 10/18).
In an attempt to give Republicans "much-needed cover for the 2008 election campaign," Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) on Thursday is expected to introduce SCHIP legislation written with input from the Bush administration that would increase funding for the program by $11.5 billion and includes a $1,400 tax credit per child for families with incomes too high to qualify for the program, the Wall Street Journal reports (Lueck/McKinnon, Wall Street Journal, 10/18).
If the House is unable to override Bush's veto, Democrats will not allow SCHIP to expire, but they will approve multiple extensions of the current program and revotes on the compromise legislation "to keep the issue hanging over the GOP's head between now and the 2008 elections," Roll Call reports. Democrats see the override vote as "a political victory either way -- accomplishing a major expansion of health insurance for children or having an issue to caricature the Republicans as blind to the needs of the country's working-class kids," according to Roll Call (Dennis/Pierce, Roll Call, 10/16).
Meanwhile, Republicans are "talking about how to salvage themselves politically," Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) said, adding, "The president has already dropped his bluster about socialized medicine. If they try to find a way to thread this needle so that they can save face, we need to accommodate them, but only to a very limited extent that does not weaken coverage" (Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 10/18).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he might be willing to "tweak something" in the SCHIP bill to help Bush "save face" but said he was unwilling to negotiate any further (Pear, New York Times, 10/18).
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is skeptical of this approach because when he asked House Republicans what changes would need to be made to the bill to gain their support, "most of the people didn't even want to talk about changing their vote because they're afraid of the White House" (Johnson/Wegener, CongressDaily, 10/17). Democrats have said that if Bush vetoes a second version of the bill, they will send him a third version just before Election Day 2008 (New York Times, 10/18).
NPR on Wednesday and Thursday continued a series of 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. Summaries of the coverage appear below.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The poll found "the public supports an expansion [of SCHIP] even if it means some people would drop their private health insurance," "All Things Considered" reports. Analysts "expect that some parents would switch their children from regular insurance to an expanded government program because it's available to children with pre-existing conditions, it covers almost everything and it's cheaper," according to the program. The segment includes comments from Linda Blumberg, an economist at the Urban Institute, and parents (Silberner, "All Things Considered," NPR, 10/17). Audio and a partial transcript of the segment are available online.
- NPR's "Day to Day": The segment includes a discussion with NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea about Bush's comments on the vote. According to "Day to Day," Bush is "swimming really against the tide of public opinion" on SCHIP. Gonyea said Bush "insists that he is standing on principle, that the bill that was sent to him is just too big." Bush at a press conference emphasized that Congress "wasn't open to his reaching out to them and the signal he sent," Gonyea said (Brand, "Day to Day," NPR, 10/17). Audio of the segment is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": Supporters of the bill maintain Bush is "misrepresenting" the legislation, particularly on claims that the measure would lead to socialized medicine and would allow enrollment of children in families with annual incomes of $83,000, "Morning Edition" reports. Bush maintains that the bill does not focus enough on low-income children. The segment includes comments from Bush, Rangel, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Castor (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 10/18). Audio of the segment is available online.
The complete poll is available online.
In other SCHIP news, CBS' "Evening News" on Wednesday reported on a new CBS News poll that found eight in 10 U.S. residents -- including a majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents -- support an expansion of the program. The poll surveyed 1,282 randomly selected U.S. adults by telephone from Oct. 12 through Oct. 16 (Couric, "Evening News," CBS, 10/17). The complete poll and video of a commentary on SCHIP by "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric are available online. This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.