House OKs Revised Children’s Health Insurance Legislation
The House on Thursday voted 265-142 to approve a modified bill that would reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, again falling short of the two-thirds necessary to override a veto, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 10/26).
The revised legislation -- 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, 10/25).
Forty-three Republicans and 222 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Only one Democrat, Rep. Jim Marshall (Ga.), opposed the measure (Pugh, McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/26). None of the Republicans who voted against the previous bill voted in favor of the revised version, and one Republican who voted in favor of the previous bill, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (Mich.), voted against the new version. Ehlers said that the bill had not received enough input from Republicans and that it was rushed to a vote.
Democrats said the revised bill "addressed all the major concerns that prompted Republicans to oppose the earlier version," according to the Times.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the restriction on coverage of adults, undocumented immigrants and higher-income families were clear in the original bill and "are even clearer in the second bill" (New York Times, 10/26).
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) met with about 20 moderate Republicans on Thursday morning to go "point by point down their list of complaints" to convince them that their concerns had been addressed, according to the Washington Post.
However, the Democrats instead "got an earful from Republicans, angry that consultations had come only after the bill was filed," the Post reports (Weisman, Washington Post, 10/26). Republicans said that "some changes Democrats touted in the current version are cosmetic," which is one reason they did not vote for the revised bill, according to CQ Today (Wayne, CQ Today, 10/25).
Pelosi after the vote "tried to put a positive face on the setback," but "Thursday's vote was an obvious disappointment and left the majority leadership vulnerable to criticism that their strategy of hastily crafting the legislation and then pushing for an immediate vote was flawed," according to McClatchy/Miami Herald (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/26).
In addition, the way in which the bill was negotiated with moderate House Republicans "created a situation where Democrats and Republicans weren't really working side by side until the bill was rushed to the floor," and at the "same time, Republican moderates felt uncomfortable being pushed at the expense of their leadership," the Wall Street Journal reports (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/26).
Senate Democrats said they expect to pass the new bill next week (New York Times, 10/26).
According to Hoyer, it is possible that additional changes could be made to the bill before it is sent to the president. But he added that he doesn't "want to be strung along" by Republicans who are not truly interested in a bipartisan compromise (Espo, AP/Houston Chronicle, 10/26).
Bush has threatened to veto the modified legislation (Alonso-Zaldivar, Los Angeles Times, 10/26).
The White House on Thursday in a Statement of Administrative Policy said that the revised bill "has not addressed in a meaningful way the objections that caused the president to veto" the previous version of the legislation (CQ Today, 10/25).
The administration said that the revised bill still does not ensure that low-income children will be covered first and does not provide sufficient guarantees that undocumented immigrants will not be able to enroll (Lengell, Washington Times, 10/26).
Bush reiterated his strong support for the reauthorization of SCHIP "in a way that puts poor people first" (Kaplan, The Hill, 10/26).
In addition, the Office of Management and Budget on Thursday issued a policy statement urging Bush to veto the bill (Yachnin, Roll Call, 10/25).
Moderate Republicans who support the SCHIP bill said that holding the vote so quickly after its drafting "made it impossible for opponents to change their minds," CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/25). In addition, several Republican members asked Democrats to postpone the vote because seven House lawmakers are in their home districts in California to help constituents affected by the wildfires.
Pelosi defended her decision, adding, "We all understand how important it is for members to be home with their constituents," but "that doesn't mean that we don't continue with the work of the government."
Republicans said Pelosi's decision was "a scheme to take advantage of GOP absences," according to MediaNews/Contra Costa Times. However, Pelosi said she spoke with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), who urged her to vote on the bill (MediaNews/Contra Costa Times, 10/26).
Pelosi also said she had no choice but to move quickly in order to send the bill to Bush next week (New York Times, 10/26). The temporary extension of SCHIP expires Nov. 18 (CQ Today, 10/25).
Pelosi said, "If Republicans believe in SCHIP as they say their do ... then they won't be looking for an excuse to vote against the bill" (New York Times, 10/26).
Thursday's vote "almost certainly represents the last set of changes sponsors will make to the proposal before going to a continuing resolution that could last until the fall of next year," CongressDaily reports (Johnson, CongressDaily, 10/26).
Democrats in September or Oct. 2008 could "then schedule a vote on the issue ... in hopes of inflicting maximum political damage on Republicans just before the 2008 election," according to the Times (New York Times, 10/26).
CongressDaily reports that Republican leaders said that they "are prepared for the long haul," and although they expect to take a political hit in the short term, they also "are expecting the extra time will give them plenty of chances to state their case." A Republican aide said, "Sure the attacks hurt, but the children will be funded, which takes away a lot of ... (Democrats') bite" (CongressDaily, 10/26).
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-Mich.) said, "This is not a perfect bill," but it "is an excellent bipartisan compromise" (Roll Call, 10/25).
Hoyer said, "These are significant, concrete changes -- changes that neither affect nor undermine our principal objective and commitment to insure more than 10 million American children" (Washington Times, 10/26).
Emanuel said, "It's unfortunate that even after a week of meetings and adjustments to the bill at the Republicans' request they would still apparently prefer to play politics instead of reauthorizing a program the vast majority of the country supports" (McClatchy/Miami Herald, 10/26).
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) said, "I used to think [Democrats] cared about the policy. Now I think they care more about the politics" (Washington Post, 10/26).
Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said, "The new bill puts lipstick on a sow," adding, "Today is raw politics -- trotting out a vote just for the sake of a vote" (New York Times, 10/26).
PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Thursday reported on House efforts to reauthorize and expand SCHIP. The segment features comments from Dingell, Hoyer and Pelosi, and Reps. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Jim McCrery (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) Audio of the segment is available online (Holman, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," PBS, 10/25).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.