House Democrats Pledge New Kids’ Health Bill if Veto Override Fails
Republican leaders say they are confident President Bush's veto of legislation that would have reauthorized and expanded the State Children's Health Insurance Program will be sustained, and House Democratic leaders on Sunday said they will pass another version of SCHIP legislation if the House fails to override the veto, the Los Angeles Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 10/15).
Bush last week vetoed the SCHIP compromise measure, which 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 Thursday (California Healthline, 10/12).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on "Fox News Sunday" that SCHIP is "not going to die." If the House fails to override the veto, Congress is "going to go back, and we're going to pass another bill," Hoyer said (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/15).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday also spoke about SCHIP on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," saying, "We'll try very hard to override" the veto, but "one thing's for sure: We won't rest until those 10 million children have health care" (Washington Times, 10/15). Pelosi did not offer details on how a new bill would differ from the vetoed compromise measure, but criticized Bush for being unwilling to negotiate a solution (Los Angeles Times, 10/15). Democrats will "talk to the president at the right time, when he makes an overture to do so, but not an overture that says, 'This is the only thing I'm going to sign,'" Pelosi said (Yen, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/14).
Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in the Democrats' weekly radio address said, "Every Republican must decide whether they will stand with the president and his veto, or stand with our children and their right to a healthy future" (Jalonick, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/13).
White House spokesperson Tony Fratto said that Bush has said he is "willing to work with members of both parties from both houses" on SCHIP.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) on "Fox News Sunday" said that he hopes Democrats negotiate with Republicans after the veto override fails so that the program can be reauthorized. Boehner said, "We will have the votes to sustain the president's veto," adding that Republicans are "standing on our principle that poor kids ought to come first" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/14). Boehner said Republicans are open to compromise (Russell Chaddock, Christian Science Monitor, 10/15).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday on "This Week" said that he doubted that the SCHIP debate would have any negative effects on Republicans' election campaigns. McConnell said, "This is going to be like a pebble in the ocean, a short-term controversy, a big partisan struggle, and then it's going to be over" (Washington Times, 10/15).
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) criticized Democrats for delaying the override vote, saying, "I would have much rather spent the time working to come up with a bill which is financially sound and guarantees poor American children are the first in line to receive benefits." He added, "By the time we vote ... we will have wasted two important weeks and have less than a month to come up with a plan" (Hay Brown/Nitkin, Baltimore Sun, 10/15).
In the days remaining before Thursday's override vote, Democrats and other SCHIP supporters "are hitting the airwaves, staging rallies and making a blizzard of phone calls as they try to pressure Republican House members" to support the measure, the New York Times reports.
The "intensity" of lobbying efforts "underscores the Democrats' growing confidence that some Republicans could be imperiling their re-election prospects next year by choosing to back" Bush, according to the Times (Hernandez/Pear, New York Times, 10/13).
Administration officials have asked House Republicans to remain positive and ride out the negative press. Bush senior adviser Ed Gillespie said that if Republicans had sided with Democrats, they would be in a more difficult position because they would be subject to criticism from conservatives. However, Gillespie's advice "was small solace to congressional Republicans who worry that the White House does not fully appreciate their political difficulties" and that Bush "has put them in harm's way with his opposition" to SCHIP, the New York Times reports.
Rep. John Kuhl (R-N.Y.) said, "The president has let the debate on health care down by not offering an alternative" (Hulse, New York Times, 10/14). However, Kevin Smith, spokesperson for Boehner said, "The Democrats' efforts to pressure members to switch their votes has been a complete and total failure" (New York Times, 10/13). Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said, "Renewing SCHIP should have been a simple process because the concept of providing health coverage to low-income families has broad bipartisan support," but Democrats "made changes that would expand the program dramatically, increase taxes and open the door for a European-style socialized medicine system" (Chandler, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 10/12).
Catholics United will air radio advertisements Monday through Wednesday targeting lawmakers who have taken positions against abortion who voted against SCHIP, CongressDaily reports.
The ads, which will run on Christian and talk radio stations, feature a mother saying that a vote against SCHIP contradicts "pro-life" and "pro-family" principles.
The ads will target Reps. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Thelma Drake (R-Va.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and John Peterson (R-Penn.) (Wegner/Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/12).
Summaries of other newspaper coverage of the SCHIP debate appear below.
- New York Times: "New Jersey has long been one of the most aggressive states in the nation in throwing a wide safety net out" to lower-income residents through its "ambitious" SCHIP, which covers children in families with annual incomes of up to 350% of the federal poverty level, the Times reports. Under recent eligibility rules created by the Bush administration, about 11,000 children would lose coverage under SCHIP and "[s]till more would be cut from the program ... as increases in health care costs deplete the children's health insurance coffers," according to state health officials (Kershaw, New York Times, 10/14).
- New York Times: Rep. Roscoe Barlett (R-Md.), the only representative from the state to vote against the SCHIP bill, is "coming under intense pressure to switch sides as the House moves toward" the veto override vote, the Times reports. Bartlett "is confident" that his vote against the bill "reflect[s] the views of his conservative" district, but "some of his constituents are not so sure," according to the Times (Pear, New York Times, 10/15).
- USA Today: USA Today on Monday examined how Knollenberg -- one of the approximately 20 Republicans who have been targeted to switch their votes against SCHIP -- "steadfastly refuses to endorse giving government health insurance to families of four" with annual incomes of more than about $40,000 (Wolf, USA Today, 10/15).
- Wall Street Journal: Republicans "are taking a stand" on SCHIP because the debate over the program "foreshadows a bigger showdown expected after a new president takes office in 2009" and because "[l]osing the veto fight would also badly undermine the president," the Wall Street Journal reports. If Democrats cannot override Bush's veto, they might still "win a big political victory by dragging out the fight and forcing Republicans to vote repeatedly against the program, which could make an already uphill battle even steeper for Republicans seeking re-election in close contests next fall," according to the Journal (Timiraos, Wall Street Journal, 10/13).
- Washington Post: "For families on the edge -- neither comfortably middle class nor truly low income -- Thursday's" override "vote is not just one of the most dramatic political skirmishes of the year but also a referendum on whether people like them deserve the government's help in making sure that their kids have health coverage," the Post reports. Of the 9.4 million uninsured U.S. children younger than age 19, 1.4 million are in families with annual incomes between 200% and 300% of the poverty level, according to researcher Genevieve Kenney of the Urban Institute (Lee, Washington Post, 10/14).
Video of Pelosi's appearance on "This Week" is available online (Stephanopoulos, "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," ABC, 10/14).
Video of Hoyer's appearance on "Fox News Sunday" is available online. A transcript also is available online (Hume , "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace," Fox News, 10/14).
Video of Boehner's appearance on "Fox News Sunday" is available online. A transcript also is available online (Hume , "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace," Fox News, 10/14).