House Democrats, Republicans Discuss Kids’ Health Revisions
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) on Monday met with a group of Republican lawmakers to discuss whether a new compromise can be reached on revised legislation that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/30).
The House last week failed to pass the revised bill with a veto-proof majority (Wayne , CQ Today, 10/29). If lawmakers can agree to compromise measures, an amendment can be added to the bill when it is brought to a vote in the Senate, which could occur this week. The bill then would be sent back to the House for another vote (CongressDaily, 10/30).
The revised legislation (HR 3963) -- which is similar to the bill vetoed by President Bush earlier this month -- would expand SCHIP to cover 10 million children and increase spending on the program to $35 billion over five years, funded with a 61-cent-per-pack increase in the federal cigarette tax. The bill would limit coverage to children in families with annual incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level (California Healthline, 10/30).
Reps. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) and Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.) attended the meeting with Hoyer and Emanuel. Lawmakers did not disclose details but said that the tone was positive and that additional meetings would occur (CongressDaily, 10/30). However, some Republicans said it appears unlikely that Democrats will agree to enough changes to win the 12 Republican votes necessary to override a veto, citing large differences in views on proof-of-citizenship guidelines, income limits and mandatory targets for enrolling children in families with annual incomes less than 200% of the poverty level, according to CongressDaily (Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/29).
Some Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, have said they will cease to support the bill if significant changes are made as concessions to Republicans, CQ Today reports.
In addition to the efforts by Hoyer and Emanuel, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is working with House Republicans, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) to draft an amendment to address Republican concerns. A spokesperson said Grassley is "hopeful that the Senate can make further changes that will enable legislation to become law, renewing and reforming this important program" (Wayne , CQ Today, 10/29).
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday at a health center in Liberty City, Fla., met with physicians and other medical professionals who support the revised SCHIP bill, the Miami Herald reports.
Pelosi was joined by Reps. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). The lawmakers hoped to persuade Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Lincoln Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) and Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) to drop their opposition to the SCHIP bill. Wasserman Schultz said, "We're trying to win them over" (Valencia, Miami Herald, 10/30).
In addition, while Bush was visiting the Philadelphia area for a political fundraising luncheon, five Democratic lawmakers asked him not to veto the bill, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Reps. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), Chris Carney (D-Pa.), Bob Brady (D-Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) spoke in West Philadelphia to articulate their support of the bill. Schwartz said that SCHIP has "been working, and we want to extend it to another four million children," and "the president is the only one standing in the way" (Eichel, Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/30).
In related news, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced a week-long radio advertising campaign aimed at seven Republicans who have not supported any version of the SCHIP bill. The ads will target Reps. Richard Baker (R-La.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.), Ric Keller (R-Fla.), Knollenberg, Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and John Shadegg (R-Ariz.).
However, it is "unclear whether the ad campaign will change any minds, and some supporters of the SCHIP bill believe it will make it harder to win more Republican votes" because lawmakers might not want to give the impression that they are yielding to pressure, according to CongressDaily (CongressDaily, 10/30).
While congressional Democrats for "most of the year" have been "uncompromising" on issues such as SCHIP, the "dynamic may be changing," although neither Republican nor Democratic leadership aides are "ready to hail a new era of cross-party cooperation," the Washington Post reports. For Democratic leaders, "the need to show they can govern may now be overwhelming the fear that too much compromise will anger their liberal base," according to the Post (Weisman, Washington Post, 10/30).
In related news, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday examined efforts to reach a compromise on several provisions of the SCHIP bill (Freking, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/30).