House Unsuccessful in Override Attempt of Kids’ Health Veto
The House on Wednesday voted 260-152 to override President Bush's veto of legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (HR 3963), falling 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority required, the New York Times reports (Pear, New York Times, 1/24).
The legislation would have expanded the program to cover 10 million children and increased spending on the program by $35 billion over five years, funded with a 61-cent-per-pack increase of the federal cigarette tax. It also would have limited coverage to children in families with annual incomes below 300% of the federal poverty level. Bush vetoed another version of the bill in October 2007 (California Healthline, 1/23).
The vote marks the second failure in three months by House Democrats to override a Bush veto of legislation to expand the program (AP/USA Today, 1/24). In the latest attempt, 42 Republicans voted to override the veto, two fewer than in the first override vote (Lee, Washington Post, 1/24). Only one Democrat voted to sustain the veto, Rep. Jim Marshall (Ga.) (Miller, Washington Times, 1/24).
Democrats had been pushing the legislation as a "plan to jump-start the flagging economy," but their attempts failed to garner more support from Republicans, CQ Today reports (Wayne, CQ Today, 1/23). House Democrats said they expect to revisit SCHIP this year, possibly in legislation that would reverse a new HHS rule requiring states to cover 95% of low-income children before expanding coverage to higher-income families (Johnson, CongressDaily, 1/23). According to CQ Today, "Democrats consider SCHIP's expansion a powerful political issue and may seek to force Republicans to vote on it again before the November elections" (CQ Today, 1/23).
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said, "Worsening economic conditions will increase demand for [SCHIP] and Medicaid. A million more children a year may need public health insurance" (New York Times, 1/24). House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said, "With the economy taking a sour turn, now is not the time to deny the most innocent and helpless Americans -- children whose parents can't afford health insurance -- what they so desperately need."
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said, "There is no child currently on SCHIP that is going to lose coverage, regardless of the vote" because Congress last month approved legislation to fund the program through March 2009 (Washington Post, 1/24). Barton said, "Republicans' position is: Continue the existing program, perhaps expand coverage somewhat for families above 200% of poverty and cover every child in the country under 200% of poverty" (CQ Today, 1/23).